Consumers have several factors to consider when building a high-performance home, including which type of energy source, or fuel type, they want to select. This factor may be predetermined based on what’s available within their jurisdiction. Consumer preferences may also differ based upon the intended use for the energy source.
According to NAHB's What Home Buyers Really Want, 2021 Edition, consumers generally prefer electricity (51%) to gas (33%) for their air heating and cooling systems, but prefer gas (51%) to electricity (39%) for cooking. In comparison, consumers were split on electricity (45%) versus gas (40%) for water heating systems, with 15% indicating no preference.
However, these preferences vary significantly between geographic regions. The East South Central (75%), West South Central (65%) and South Atlantic (61%), for example, are significantly weighted toward electricity for air heating and cooling, while preferences in New England, Middle Atlantic and East North Central are more evenly split between the two. (New England also has the highest percentage of respondents with no preference at 30%.)
In the East South Central (59%), South Atlantic (49%) and West South Central (48%) regions, the majority of consumers prefer electricity for cooking, while the Middle Atlantic (68%), Mountain (62%) and New England (59%) regions are more heavily weighted toward gas.
The same holds true for water heating systems, in which the majority of respondents in the East South Central (58%), West South Central (53%) and South Atlantic (53%) prefer electricity, while respondents in the Mountain (57%), Middle Atlantic (55%) and East North Central (52%) regions prefer gas.
The biggest factors contributing to respondents' preferences, regardless of region or system (air heating/cooling versus water heating), are money savings and reliability, which may be important topics of discussion for builders to have with prospective buyers.
Other important factors contributing to energy-source preference include: availability of sources where they live, as well as how the fuel type impacts safety and air quality in the home.
To learn more about how to connect the factors influencing buyers' preferences with important features in a high-performance home, visit Home Performance Counts — a joint education initiative between NAHB and the National Association of Realtors. Home Performance Counts also hosts a monthly green virtual home tour, featuring a Q&A with a builder and real-estate agent.
To stay current on the high-performance residential building sector, with tips on water efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor air quality and other building science strategies, follow NAHB’s Sustainability and Green Building efforts on Twitter.