October 9, 2008
As Energy Costs Rise, Survey Finds Iowa Homeowners Are Concerned About Home Energy Efficiency – and Many Are Taking Action to Reduce Heating and Cooling Bills
93 Percent of Iowa Homeowners Are Interested in Home Energy Efficiency, but Many Remain Unaware of Largest Sources of Energy Consumption and How Their Home Contributes to Climate Change
Linhart Public Relations
Kim Sporrer, 303-951-2562
October is Energy Awareness Month, and today, Johns Manville (JM), a global building products manufacturer, released the results of its annual Energy Awareness Month Survey. The new survey shows that while an overwhelming majority of Iowans are interested in increasing their homes' energy efficiency (93 percent) and expect their home heating bills to increase this winter (81.4 percent), many lack understanding of how their homes consume energy, and most aren't entirely clear on which home improvement projects yield the largest energy-saving benefits.
Almost three-fourths of respondents (72.7 percent) said they're more interested in home energy efficiency compared to a year ago, and 64.8 percent said reducing their home heating and cooling costs is the best reason for making home energy efficiency upgrades. As a result, homeowners are starting to take action. More than half (57.1 percent) said they are planning to make an energy-efficient home upgrade before the peak 2008 winter heating season.
Nationally, the survey found that 91.8 percent of homeowners are interested in their homes' energy efficiency, and more than three- fourths (76.5 percent) expect their heating bills to increase this winter.
However, when asked how much they expect to save from projects such as adding insulation, caulking and air sealing their homes, more than three-fourths got it wrong, estimating utility bill savings of 10 percent or less. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) lists the heating and cooling system as the largest user of energy in the average home, accounting for 43 percent of consumption, and estimates the average homeowner can save up to 30 percent on heating and cooling bills through proper insulation and air sealing techniques.
"For the average homeowner, the best step they can take to improve their home's energy efficiency is to add insulation to their attic," said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit group that promotes energy efficiency.
"A simple way for a homeowner to check if their home is properly insulated is to use a ruler to measure the depth of their attic insulation," said Kevin Kinzler, president of Kinzler Construction Services in Ames, Iowa. "Many climates may need up to 19 inches of attic insulation to ensure maximum energy efficiency."
Other key findings from Iowa homeowners included:
-- Only 19.6 percent of respondents said reducing their home's contribution to global climate change is the best reason to increase home energy efficiency; even fewer (8.5 percent) cited comfort as the top factor
-- The most popular upgrade homeowners have made was installing energy-efficient light bulbs, at 78 percent, followed by installing a programmable thermostat at 42.4 percent and caulking and sealing, at 39.6 percent
-- When asked about U.S. energy consumption, 28.4 percent of respondents incorrectly said road transportation ranks as the largest U.S. consumer of energy; only 19.5 percent responded correctly that residential buildings are the single largest U.S. energy consumer
"When you consider rising energy prices and the amount of energy homes use for heating, cooling, lighting, appliances and entertainment, it's easy to see why so many homeowners are growing more concerned with energy efficiency," said Callahan. "Energy efficiency is the quickest, cheapest and cleanest way to extend our world's energy supplies, so it's reassuring to see more homeowners taking action to improve home energy efficiency, whether they care about climate change or a lower winter heating bill."
The Energy Awareness Month Survey was an online survey of 1,002 U.S. homeowners and was conducted on behalf of Johns Manville, the global building products manufacturer, by Forrest W. Anderson Research, an independent public opinion research company. The survey had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points and was conducted July 21-23, 2008. A representative sample of 397 homeowners living in Iowa was also surveyed regarding their opinions about energy efficiency and awareness.
"Residential energy efficiency is a topic that's relevant to all of us," said Mike Lawrence, vice president and general manager of JM's Insulations Systems business. "Johns Manville conducts the Energy Awareness Month Survey each year to understand Americans' awareness and behavior as it relates to energy use. By highlighting these topics, we hope to do our part to increase our country's energy IQ."
Energy Costs Hurting Homeowners' Budgets
The Energy Awareness Month Survey found most homeowners are concerned about saving money, with 64.8 percent of respondents citing reducing heating and cooling bills as the top concern when considering an energy efficiency upgrade. Respondents were less concerned with reducing their homes' contribution to climate change (19.6 percent) or making their family more comfortable (8.5 percent).
The findings suggest that amid a slowing U.S. economy, more Americans are considering energy-related home improvement, mostly to save money. Even after a sharp decline from its peak in mid-July, the price of natural gas is still above where it was last winter, and reports from the Energy Information Institute estimate the cost of home heating oil is 36 percent higher compared to last year. According to the DOE, households use about one-fifth of the total energy consumed in the United States each year, and the typical U.S. family spends about $1,500 a year on utility bills.
According to JM's Energy Awareness Month Survey, relatively few Iowa homeowners, only 5.5 percent, considered increasing the resale value of their home as the best reason for making their home more energy efficient. In addition to the immediate return from reduced energy costs, efficiency upgrades, such as adding insulation, also increase a home's resale value. Data from the Appraisal Institute shows that for every dollar saved in annual utility costs, homeowners can expect to add about $20 to the market value of their home. For example, a homeowner who saves $300 on annual heating and cooling costs by properly insulating the home could add $6,000 to its value.
Homeowners Taking Action But Don't Fully Understand Consumption
More than half of Iowa survey respondents (61.3 percent) have recently attempted to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The most popular upgrade was installing energy-efficient light bulbs at 78 percent, followed by installing a programmable thermostat at 42.4 percent and caulking and sealing, at 39.6 percent. Installing a new furnace (19.6 percent), installing attic insulation (18.4 percent) and installing solar panels (1.2 percent) ranked lowest in the survey.
These statistics suggest that many homeowners do not fully understand the largest sources of energy consumption in their homes and don't know what types of projects could save the most energy. The DOE states that 43 percent of the average home's energy use is spent on heating and cooling, compared to 13 percent for appliances (refrigeration, clothes washer and dryers) and only 12 percent for lighting.
Kinzler provided an additional tip for homeowners interested in insulation upgrades.
"As homeowners tighten up their homes and add insulation to improve energy efficiency, they should consider using products that are free of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds. This will avoid trapping formaldehyde in the air of more tightly-sealed homes, which can lead to poor indoor air quality."
Homeowner Knowledge of U.S. Energy Economy Lacking
In addition to individual home energy consumption, the Energy Awareness Month Report found that many Americans lack complete understanding of the U.S. energy economy. Only 19.5 percent of Iowa homeowners correctly indicated the residential sector is the single largest consumer of energy in the United States. The other 80.5 percent incorrectly thought the largest consuming sector was road transportation, manufacturing, commercial buildings, air transportation or something else.
To gauge understanding of U.S. energy consumption, survey respondents also were asked a series of questions about energy use and greenhouse gas emissions related to the top six energy- consuming sectors or industries: road transportation, air transportation, chemical/petrochemical industry, iron and steel industry, commercial buildings and residential buildings.
The largest number of Iowa respondents, 28.4 percent, said road transportation is the largest consumer of energy in the United States. The reality is the U.S. residential sector ranks as the single largest energy consumer in the world, and homes worldwide account for 25 percent of total energy use, according to a 2007 report from the McKinsey Global Institute titled "Curbing Global Energy Demand Growth: The Energy Productivity Opportunity."
"Residential buildings contribute significantly to climate change," added Callahan. "The average home emits twice as much carbon dioxide as the average car, in large part because energy used to power our homes is derived by burning fuels such as coal, heating oil and natural gas. The survey findings show that most Americans aren't fully aware of the dynamics of America's energy consumption."
About the Survey
The 2008 Energy Awareness Month Survey was conducted by Forrest W. Anderson Research for global building products manufacturer Johns Manville. The survey was conducted online using Zoomerang between July 21-23, 2008. The results are based on a national representative sample of 1,002 homeowners age 18 years and older, living in the United States, and 397 homeowners living in Iowa. The survey had a sampling error of 3.1 percentage points.
About Johns Manville
Johns Manville, a Berkshire Hathaway company (NYSE: BRK.A) (NYSE: BRK.B), is a leading manufacturer and marketer of premium-quality building and specialty products. In business since 1858, the Denver- based company has annual sales in excess of $2 billion and holds leadership positions in all of the key markets that it serves. Johns Manville employs approximately 7,800 people and operates 41 manufacturing facilities in North America, Europe and China. Additional information can be found at www.jmhomeowner.com.
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