Even though new housing starts in the United States remain at historically low levels, the market for replacement HVAC systems is now recovering from recessionary lows and is showing signs of sustained growth. The increased demand for replacement systems has also driven a higher mix of systems that provide energy savings, in part due to various government incentives and tax credits. However, in a survey of more than 1,500 homeowners conducted by Emerson Climate Technologies Inc. late last year, a high percentage of consumers showed continued interest in potential energy savings as a major purchase criterion when replacing an existing HVAC system.
SURVEYING HOMEOWNERSContrary to common industry perceptions, 57 percent of the consumers surveyed indicated that “energy savings” was the most important feature they would consider when buying a new system, and only 30 percent of homeowners were focused mainly on the initial purchase price. The remaining 13 percent of the participants indicated they were mostly concerned with comfort factors, such as achieving consistent temperature and humidity control within their home, and were less concerned about either energy costs or the initial purchase costs. Even the 30 percent who were focused on purchase price listed energy savings as the second most important factor in their decision. Clearly, the study suggests consumers are willing to pay a premium for higher efficiency systems.
Taking a closer look at the homeowners (57 percent) who were focused on energy reveals further insight as to the various reasons for their concerns. Emerson research suggests that the largest subgroup (22 percent of total) is focused on achieving superior energy savings, but this is followed closely by similar concerns about comfort in the home. If you combine this group with the 13 percent who are only focused on comfort (but wouldn’t mind having additional energy savings), you would see that roughly 35 percent of the market desires both superior comfort and energy savings and is much less concerned about the initial price points of premium systems. This would indicate a continuation of the trend toward growth of higher efficiency, modulated systems that also provide improved temperature and humidity control.
Another subgroup of surveyed homeowners (19 percent of total) was not only focused on energy savings but also the economic payback involved. They wanted assurance that they would be getting the savings they were paying for. This theme has shown up in similar studies over the past few years, which indicates a significant group of HVAC consumers are skeptical of efficiency claims made by the industry and may not totally understand terms like SEER and HSPF. This group appears to accept longer payback periods, but they want some proof to show up in their energy bills.
The remaining subgroup (16 percent of total) is an interesting group. Energy savings are a high priority for them, but the second most important criteria are the safety and environmental aspects of the system they are purchasing. They appear to be very concerned about the environment - both their own domestic environment in the form of a clean, healthy living space and the global environment, which they would like to do their part to sustain.
MEETING HOMEOWNER NEEDSConsumer concerns about energy costs and environmental concerns have been reflected in Emerson’s research for many years, and that trend appears to be continuing. There is a general sense that homeowners believe their energy costs are not going to go down any time soon and will likely go up in the near future. Most consumers want to invest in efficient systems that will lower their energy bills in the long term, and some consumers also want to use less energy due to either environmental concerns or concerns related to national energy policies.
One of the best ways to deliver superior system energy efficiency is through the modulation of the compressor. Emerson has historically provided the HVAC industry with a very broad array of modulated products, which feature both stepped modulation methods like the Copeland Scroll UltraTech™ compressor, and continuous modulation methods like Copeland Scroll Digital™ compressors. In addition, Emerson has recently launched its new Copeland Scroll® variable-speed compressor, which offers year-round energy savings along with comfort benefits. This technology is designed to address the comfort and energy cost savings needs of U.S. homeowners who are looking for something more than just the government-mandated, minimum-efficiency offerings when they are replacing their HVAC system.