The people have spoken – 2022 will be the year of the clean energy home
Climate change is no longer theoretical. The UN has called it a “code red for humanity”. This year Americans have experienced the impacts of extreme weather as a result of climate change including unprecedented heat waves, wildfires, and floods.
With winter heating costs rising due to increases in natural gas prices, homeowners are also feeling the impact in their wallets.
To understand how this volatile year has shifted consumer mindsets, we surveyed 1,100 American homeowners about their attitudes towards home energy consumption, and its impact on their families’ comfort and the planet.
The findings revealed that the majority of homeowners are concerned about the environmental impact of their houses and are interested in making clean energy upgrades. However, there are still major barriers to adoption, such as homeowner tendencies to prioritize kitchen or bathroom renovations than less visible energy related upgrades.
- For homeowners, it’s clean energy or bust: An overwhelming majority of homeowners (93%) say being comfortable in their home is more important than ever and 4 out of 5 (80%) report concern for their home’s environmental impact. To act on these concerns, about 3 in 4 homeowners (76%) want their next home to run on clean energy and two-thirds (68%) intend to make comfort-specific upgrades in the next 12 months.
- Parents are alarmed that their homes are killing the planet: The survey shows that most parents (91%) are concerned about the environmental impact of their home and 90% want their next home to be powered with clean energy.
- Millennials demand greener homes: The vast majority (92%) of millennials are concerned about the environmental impact of energy use in their households and most (94%) want their next home to be powered with clean energy. Millennials (86%) are more likely to make home upgrades than any other generation, with 40% planning to upgrade to solar power in the next 12 months.
Even though homeowners are interested in clean home projects, most don’t know where to begin. Instead, many prioritize upgrades that are not necessarily the most effective, or only decide to take action when no other options are available:
- No thanks, I’ll wait for it to break first: Two-thirds (66%) of respondents say they will decide to upgrade major appliances such as heating or cooling units only when their current system breaks. This is especially problematic since modern heat pump systems operate up to 3 times more efficiently than traditional HVAC systems and can be powered by clean electricity, which will ultimately help the residential sector reach sustainable carbon levels. Strong new incentives for homeowners are key to solving this problem and already we’re seeing progress. U.S. heat pump adoption has doubled in the last decade and the share of heat pump sales for newly constructed, single-family homes exceeds 40%.
- Wasting money on the wrong projects: The survey found that replacing windows is the most popular home upgrade (23%) – but it’s not actually the most effective way to prevent energy waste and keep heated or cooled air indoors. While many homeowners believe windows are the cause of climate control issues, most heat (about 30-50%) actually escapes through the attic. Instead of replacing windows, sealing windows and insulating attic spaces will better regulate temperatures and cost less.
We are at an inflection point in the energy transition. Our analysis shows that the financial interests of homeowners are more closely aligned with the need to transition away from fossil fuels than ever. However, there are still barriers stymieing adoption. Modernizing home heating and cooling systems is an expensive and time-consuming process.
To encourage homeowners to get their houses off fossil fuels, we have to create paths forward that are designed with consumer needs in mind — like new financing options, convenient service models, and price incentives.
This type of change is only possible through coordinated public and private efforts. Fortunately unprecedented new federal investments are coming to speed up access to energy friendly home retrofits through performance-based incentives, rebates, and tax credits. At the same time, businesses like Sealed are creating innovative financial and service models that make upgrades simple and affordable for homeowners. Together, we can make clean homes an easy decision for consumers and take houses off fossil fuels once and for all.