More visible, exciting home improvement projects are on consumer wish lists, says Suzanne Shelton, whose firm conducted the study. “Anyone selling energy-efficient products must either focus heavily on the aesthetic or comfort aspects of their products or play up their environmental benefits in a big way.”
The survey polled 504 Americans by telephone in September and asked: "Assuming you were suddenly given $10,000 to make home improvements, which two of the following would you choose?" The top answers were:
- Refinish the kitchen or bathroom (37%)
- Replace carpet or add hardwood or tile (33%)
- Replace windows (31%)
- Replace HVAC/furnace (23%)
- Replace windows (35%)
- Replace HVAC/furnace (27%)
- Remodel kitchen or bathroom (26%)
- Replace carpet or add hardwood or tile (25%)
Shelton described this phenomenon as the “Apathy Gap,” or the price people are willing to pay to do nothing. "Here consumers are willing to waste more than $1,500 a year, or more than $4 a day, before they take action. For that same amount, a homeowner could install insulation or purchase one or two new Energy Star appliances to start seeing immediate savings."
Nearly 28% said they would be likely or very likely to buy such a system. Fewer than 1% reported they already had such a system.
This indicates a great potential market for solar, Shelton said. "Consumers have been waiting for solar to become more accessible and more affordable. Now, with prices projected to fall even further, and with new federal tax incentive greater than they've ever been, solar power will be on the rise."
Shelton refers to home energy audits as the “colonoscopy” of energy efficiency. "Everyone knows they should get one, but too few actually do,” she says.
Learn more about the Shelton Group annual surveys at www.sheltongroupinc.com.