U.S. homeowners may swoon over solar, but it’s energy efficiency products they buy, according to national survey results issued today by Clean Edge and SolarCity.
Energy efficiency products account for the top five clean energy purchases households made in the past. That’s the world from a poll of 1,400 randomly selected households, which was conducted in January by Zogby Analytics.
Households also listed energy efficiency products as their top purchases planned for this year. Four energy efficiency products led the list.
LED light bulbs were number one for both past (56 percent) and future (27 percent) purchases.
Other clean energy products households expect to buy this year are: smart thermostat, 12 percent; Energy Star hot water heater, 9 percent; triple pane windows, 8 percent; hybrid car, 7 percent; home battery back-up power, 7 percent; home energy audit, 7 percent; efficient furnace, 7 percent; home solar energy system, 6 percent; electric vehicle, 4 percent and heat pump, 4 percent.
Solar may have rated low among purchases, but it ranks high in prestige — far more than energy efficiency. Nearly three quarters of those polled favor continuing federal tax incentives to support solar (as well as wind). Solar also was chosen by half of the households as the most important energy resource for America’s future.
Interestingly, politics seemed to have little impact on solar’s popularilty. Solar ranked high across all major demographics, including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; urban and rural dwellers; youth and the elderly.
“There’s a misconception that the nation is divided on its attitudes toward clean energy, but our research shows this to be false,” said Ron Pernick, Clean Edge managing director and report lead author. “There is broad support for renewables across the political spectrum. Opposition to solar fees charged by utilities, for example, is higher among Republicans (66 percent) than Democrats (59 percent).”
Energy efficiency didn’t even make the top three most important resources, but came in a lowly fourth with 25 percent, behind wind energy at 42 percent and natural gas at 33 percent.
A contradiction? Maybe. But it seems more likely that homeowners find it easy to buy the less expensive and necessary gadgets (light bulbs) over larger capital investments that are optional (solar.) As the report points out, LED bulbs only cost about $10 now, compared with about $70 five years ago.
Indeed money — or the desire to save it — played a big role in the findings. Eighty-two percent said that saving money motivates them to buy clean energy products; only 34 percent namedthe environment as the reason.
In other good news for energy efficiency, the report found green building continues to expand, at least in terms of LEED construction. More than 5,800 buildings in the U.S. became LEED-certified in 2013, resulting in an 11-year compound annual growth rate of 56 percent. Green building has been on an upward trend since 2003.
The Energy Star program, however, saw a dip. Commercial and industrial Energy Star certifications fell to 6,960 from more than 8,300 the prevous year. However, over the past 11 years the Energy Star program grew 25 percent.
Overall, the report found dramatic growth for many of the clean energy products it tracked, levels akin to the smart phone and Internet industries and not typical of the energy sector, the report said.