Are We Wrong about Households and Energy Efficiency?

Oct. 1, 2013
Households and energy efficiency just don’t go together, right? A new report by the Consumer Electronics Association disagrees. It says that consumers do like energy savings gadgets installed in their homes, even more than security and entertainment home tech.

We’ve been hearing for a long time that households aren’t interested in energy efficiency gadgets. Give consumers the choice between an electronic toy for the home and a smart thermostat, and they take the toy, right?

Turns out, we may not give consumers enough credit.

Automated devices that save energy (and money) are now the most popular electronic devices for home installation. So says a new study by the Consumer Electronics Association.

In fact, the energy efficient thermostat beat out security systems and home theater in the expanding home tech market.

“The rise in housing starts in 2013 has contributed to a steady increase in the overall outlook for home technology,” said Kevin Tillmann, a CEA senior research analyst. “Products that can offer energy efficiency are leading the home automation technology market, with the ability to save money serving as a key motivator for purchases.”

This defies conventional thinking in the industry about households and energy efficiency. The belief is that energy gadgets don’t reduce utility bills enough to engage consumers.

CEA found that almost half (47 percent) of US households that are online now have either a programmable or smart thermostat. Meanwhile, 31 percent of these households own security technologies; 25 percent home theater systems.

And it looks like even better days may be ahead for energy efficient home tech. A sizable percentage of households plan to buy automated energy efficient products in the future, according to CEA.

Credit: CEA

Installers take note: Consumers prefer to have the devices professionally installed, especially if they are energy-related, according to the study.

The bad news? While energy efficient thermostats are selling, lighting controls and home energy management systems  still aren’t making it into many homes — although sales are trending upward.  See the CEA graphic below.

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Additional graphic from CEA

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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