Green or Not? How the Majority of Consumers Perceive Their Homes

By Tom Halford, Whirlpool Corporation

The push for consumers to make their homes more energy efficient has created a “green-home” movement and with good reason.  The benefits of green homes are plentiful; they improve the air quality both inside and outside homes, they save homeowners money on utility bills, and reduce the overall carbon footprint left by fossil fuels. This movement has paved the way for a more sustainable future.

However, as highlighted in our last guest post in February, there can be disparity between the reality of green homes and the way that consumers perceive them, underscoring a need to educate the public further on why making homes greener is such an important endeavor and how it can be affordable to all.

Whirlpool Corporation and Habitat for Humanity International, a nonprofit organization that builds, rehabilitates and builds simple, decent and affordable houses, partnered with the NAHB Research Center, an independent subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), to survey consumers and builders on various topics related to green home building in order to better understand their level of awareness about the movement.

The latest survey findings – the focus of this post – show how consumers and builders perceive green homes.

Perhaps the most intriguing finding from the latest results of the survey is how green consumers feel their homes really are. It turns out the majority of consumers in the survey feel their homes are not very green. In fact, 74 percent believe that less than a quarter of homes can be categorized as “green.”  Fifteen percent of consumers indicated there were no green qualities about their homes, while only one percent indicated their homes were 100 percent green.

A related survey question showed that 34 percent of consumers felt the most common definition of a green home is that it reduces energy and/or water consumption by a significant percentage. Additionally, 23 percent felt that a home can be considered green only when the entire home is “green”.

Another crucial part of the continued development of green homes is the building community.  Their responses to the survey were very similar to the consumer responses: 35 percent of builder respondents considered a home green if it had reduced energy and/or water consumption. However, an additional 35 percent defined homes as green if they were built to specific certification standards.

Energy star qualification and the National Green Building Standard are two major national rating systems builders use to certify homes. With regard to these green certification programs, 78 percent of consumers in the survey overwhelmingly responded that it is important for residential builds to have Energy Star qualification and 44 percent responded that the National Green Building Standard was critical.

The builder portion of the survey found that 75 percent of respondents felt that Energy Star qualification was important for residential builds, while 57 percent responded that the National Green Building Standard was important.

Building to minimum Energy star standards by 2013 is a goal Habitat for Humanity has set for new-house construction in the United States , in recognition that a house can be both affordable and energy efficient. Habitat’s sustainable building efforts seek to reduce each house’s monthly costs and increase efficiency and durability while providing healthy environments. In support of these goals, Whirlpool Corporation, a Habitat partner for 11 years, donates Energy star qualified refrigerators to new Habitat houses built in the United States and Canada.

It is clear from this survey that consumers recognize their homes can be more environmentally sound, and they are looking for ways to accomplish this. The place to start this conversation is the Internet.  The web has proven to be a very useful way for consumers to understand green initiatives. Sixty percent of consumers answered that they get their green information from the Internet. Consumers also consider TV/radio (54 percent) and magazines/periodicals (42 percent) as their primary sources for green news and information.

Whirlpool believes it is the responsibility of organizations involved in green building to educate the public and explain the positive impact their awareness can create on this green-home movement.

[Image credit/mallix/Flickr Creative commons]

Tom Halford is General Manager,Contract Sales and Marketing, Whirlpool Corporation.

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One response

  1. Really interesting finding that most people don’t think they’re house is very green. From our experience, the reason people make their homes more energy efficient is the cost savings more so than the environmental benefits. A little social pressure (seeing others making changes around them) doesn’t hurt either.

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