Many American consumers declared new motivation for the purchase of energy-efficient products. According to a quarterly telephone survey done by The Shelton Group, 71 percent of the 500 respondents cited saving money as their prime motivator. This motivation shift is a change from the results of the group’s 2006 and 2007 surveys that revealed protecting the environment as the prime motivating factor.

“Americans are concerned about their jobs, their homes, and their bank accounts,” said Suzanne Shelton, president of The Shelton Group. “They’re now more focused on saving money than saving the Amazon.”

Not only did the respondents want to save money, but they also wanted to see actual money-saving results. The survey cites 53.3 percent who actually witnessed the reduction expected in their utility bill. Almost a third of the respondents, approximately 32 percent, did not see a reduction in their utility bills as a result of purchasing energy-efficient products.

The Shelton Group offered three theories as to why this occurs. The first was the rising cost of utilities as the price of energy rates continue upward. The second was the increasing amount of items that the average American has to plug in - cell phones, laptops, PDAs, etc. The third theory was one examining customer behavior.

“Consumers will say, ‘I just got a high-efficiency air conditioner, I can lower the temp and make my home even cooler in the summer,’ then they get frustrated that the new air conditioner isn’t reducing their utility bills,” said Shelton. “That’s why it’s important that utilities and energy-efficient product manufacturers make sure consumers understand what they’re getting and promote behavior change alongside product purchases. A high-efficiency heater doesn’t mean we can turn our home into a sauna in the winter.”

Beyond saving money and seeing the results, the survey showed that consumers are investing in multiple types of energy-efficient measures.

When it came to programmable thermostats, 32 percent had already purchased one, and 44 percent said they were likely to purchase one in the future. As for insulation, 26 percent had already installed insulation in their homes and 43 percent said they were likely to do the same. High-efficiency water heaters made the list as well, with 42 percent saying they were likely to install one and 26 percent saying that they already had.

“Now more than ever, Americans have a deep desire to be in charge of their lives,” pointed out Shelton. “And seeing utility bills go down $10 to $20 a month brings a lot of peace of mind. It’s a huge motivator.”

The following are other top energy-saving activities and percentages of consumers taking the action:

• 73 percent always turn off lights, unplug things, turn off power strips;

• 71 percent adjust the thermostat and/or hot water heater setting to save energy;

• 57 percent replaced most incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs;

• 57 percent purchased Energy Star® brand appliances, water heaters, air conditioners, or furnaces;

• 52 percent completed energy-efficient home renovations such as adding insulation, replacing windows, or caulking;

• 9 percent are participating in a utility’s green power program.

Publication date: 04/06/2009