Where green homebuilding meets the greenback

Sluggish economy spurs homeowners to invest in energy efficiency

February 12, 2009

Times may be tough, but spending constraints have sharpened homeowners’ interest in investing to make their homes more energy efficient. This was one of the key findings of a recent survey sponsored by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation.
Energy efficiency was a top priority for homeowners surveyed, with 80 percent reporting they are “concerned” about the energy efficiency of their homes. Their concern is as pragmatic as it is altruistic, with 70 percent of those concerned citing equal consideration for saving money and helping or protecting the environment.
In fact, fewer than two in ten homeowners (17 percent) said the energy efficiency of their homes has become less important in today’s economy because they can’t afford to make changes. Almost four in ten (39 percent) said that the energy efficiency of their homes has become more important due to long-term opportunities to save energy costs.
Impact of the economy on energy decisions
While construction professionals and appliance dealers might assume that homeowners with tighter belts are less interested in home improvement and new appliances, the reverse is true, according to this survey; more than half the homeowners surveyed (57 percent) said they are likely to invest in new home appliances or home improvements in the next year or two.
Among those planning upgrades, most (61 percent) said they are likely to do so to save on monthly energy bills, while only 17 percent said they are likely to do so because it is the right thing to do for the environment. Just 13 percent cited improving the resale value of the home.
Among the energy-efficient updates survey respondents said they would like to make to their homes in the next five years, tankless water heaters garnered the greatest interest. Tankless water heaters became more appealing on January 1, 2009, when they qualified for the Energy Star rating. Energy Star is a government-backed program that helps builders and consumers identify the most energy-efficient products.
After tankless water heaters, homeowners reported interest in appliances that simultaneously use and generate energy get the most interest from homeowners, according to the study. The freewatt system, which was featured in the PERC booth during the International Builders Show, is the first system available that heats the home while it generates electricity.
What “living green” means to homeowners
The idea of living green is ubiquitous in the home industry today, but homeowners surveyed said green means many things in home energy use. Using energy from renewable resources was a definition cited by 83 percent of homeowners surveyed, with 77 percent defining green as reduced carbon dioxide emissions, and 69 percent citing reduced total energy usage or using appliances that simultaneously use and generate energy.
Homeowners also placed high priority on green home expertise. Eight in ten respondents said that if they were to build a new home or make improvements to their current home, they would work with professionals who have expertise in green building or green appliances.
Propane offers alternatives for energy efficiency
“Homeowners who want to help save energy and protect the environment are choosing propane, a highly energy-efficient, clean fuel that’s available right now,” stated Tracy Burleson, PERC director of residential trade outreach and partnerships. When construction professionals build with propane, she added, they can earn up to 199 points toward green building certification from the National Association of Home builders — putting the project halfway to Gold certification simply by choosing propane as the energy source.
For more information about building with propane and the latest energy-efficient appliances, visit www.buildwithpropane.com.
About PERC
The Propane Education & Research Council was authorized by the U.S. Congress with the passage of Public Law 104-284, the Propane Education and Research Act (PERA), signed into law on October 11, 1996. The mission of the Propane Education & Research Council is to promote the safe, efficient use of odorized propane gas as a preferred energy source.

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