Which Heating and Cooling Systems are Most Common for New Homes?
Based on information from the Census Bureau's Survey of Construction (SOC), 95.4% of new single-family homes started in 2020 had a central air conditioning (AC) system — slightly higher than 95% in 2019 and a steady rise from 85.5% in 2000.
The share of new single-family homes started with central AC differs across the country’s nine Census divisions, however. All homes started in the West South Central, South Atlantic and West North Central divisions had central AC installed, followed by 99% in the East South Central and 96% in the East North Central. New England (83%) and the Pacific (80%) had the lowest shares of homes started with central AC, albeit both shares increased from 2019.
Almost all (99% in 2020) of new single-family homes started use either an air or ground source heat pump or a forced air system for the primary heating equipment. The share using an air or ground source heat pump has increased from 23% in 2000 to 38% in 2020. Meanwhile, the share relying on a forced air system has slipped from 71% to 59% over the same time frame.
The type of heating system installed varies significantly by Census division. Air or ground heat pumps are more common in warmer regions of the country, such as East South Central (77%), South Atlantic (75%), and West South Central (20%). Very few homes in colder regions have air or ground heat pumps because air source heat pumps (traditionally the most common type) become less efficient and rely more heavily on a back-up heating system during the winter.
The SOC also provides data on the primary fuel used to heat new single-family homes. Approximately 50% of new homes started in 2019 use natural gas as the primary heating fuel, compared to 45% powered by electricity. Like heating and AC systems, the primary heating fuel source varies significantly by region of the country, comparable to findings from NAHB's What Home Buyers Really Want, 2021 Edition, on consumer preferences for heat sources.
NAHB Economist Fan-Yu Kuo provides more analysis in this Eye on Housing post.