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With the dog days of summer approaching, temperatures will continue to rise, and so will the tempers of homeowners when they pluck that first hot-weather electricity bill from the mailbox. The sticker shock may spur many American homeowners to take action to conserve energy and save money on utilities– even if it means baring their skivvies to stay cool and keep the bills low.
The second annual Lennox Home Energy Report Card survey found that most homeowners attempt to conserve energy but need to do more to graduate with honors in energy efficiency. The research, commissioned by Lennox Industries, a leading manufacturer of heating and cooling equipment, and conducted by GfK Roper, found that 98 percent of homeowners are trying to conserve energy in some fashion to help save money and/or protect the environment. In fact, 33 percent of homeowners said they are willing to walk around in undergarments rather than spend additional money to cool their home during the summer.
Slightly more than half (51 percent) of survey respondents gave their household a "B" when rating their energy conservation efforts, while more than a quarter lag even further behind with a "C" or below (26 percent).
"Most people recognize that they can, and should, improve the energy efficiency of their household. Summer energy costs often hit homeowners hard in the bank account, especially as energy costs continue to rise, so there is no better time than right now to take some action," said Bobby DiFulgentiz, energy efficiency expert with Lennox. "Cooling a home can account for more than half of total energy costs during the summer, but fortunately, there are a few simple steps that can make a big impact on controlling costs, conserving energy, and beating the heat this summer."
Studying to Make the Grade: Ways to Save Energy
Energy conservation is on the mind of nearly every homeowner, with almost all (98 percent) taking some kind of action to reduce energy consumption.
Homeowners indicated a few of their top methods of energy conservation, which include changing the air filter in their heating and cooling system as recommended (86 percent), turning down the temperature setting on the hot water heater (64 percent), programming the thermostat so the temperature automatically adjusts when away from the home (63 percent), and unplugging electronics when not in use (44 percent). Replacing old, inefficient air conditioning units with a more efficient model (50 percent) and using solar energy to power appliances (20 percent) are also considered valuable investments for some homeowners.
However, many people (30 percent) also make a big mistake by turning their air conditioning off completely when at work or on vacation.
"Most homeowners understand the importance of energy efficiency, but some of their actions are misguided," said DiFulgentiz. "Turning off an air conditioning unit can actually decrease energy efficiency and counteract any potential savings because the system has to work so much harder and run longer to cool back to a comfortable level. Installing a 'smart' programmable thermostat – one that allows users to adjust the temperature in a home from anywhere through a website or app, such as the Lennox icomfort Wi-Fi – is a good solution to help balance comfort and efficiency while maximizing savings."
Chasing a Gold Star: Incentives for Homeowners to be More Energy Efficient
Saving money never goes out of style, but homeowners are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their actions.
When asked which best describes their personal reason for conserving energy, it appears as though saving money continues to be the main driver (57 percent, down 7 from 2011), but the desire to do their part to protect the environment is gaining ground (38 percent, up 4).
Class Discussion: Most Would Rather Stay Cool Than Connected
Power outages can sometimes occur during the summer months, especially when the demand for electricity increases as homeowners crank up the air conditioning to cool down. If the energy grid became strained and the utility companies requested additional energy conservation measures, the Lennox Home Energy Report Card survey found that homeowners are more likely to turn off their TV (23 percent), computer (16 percent), and not charge their cell phone (16 percent) rather than shut off their air conditioner (14 percent).
"In most homes, comfort trumps almost everything else when homeowners consider what they can't live without," said DiFulgentiz. "A comfortable home is so important to family happiness that they are willing to make sacrifices in other areas just to make sure the A/C doesn't stop running."
Pop Quiz: Why Do Homeowners Adjust the Thermostat?
To keep their cool, almost three quarters (73 percent) of homeowners adjust the air conditioning during the summer when performing various activities, which is a rise from 2011.
Homeowners indicated adjusting their home temperature when sleeping (59 percent, up 10 from 2011), entertaining (47 percent), cooking (25 percent, up 6), exercising (24 percent, up 10), and when making love (16 percent, up 4).
Therefore, while homeowners desire energy efficiency to save money and protect the environment, personal comfort often wins control of the thermostat.
Tough Subject: The Battle of Cost vs. Comfort
When asked how much they would be willing to turn the thermostat up to save 50 dollars a month on their utility bill, more than a quarter of homeowners (27 percent) said they would not be willing to increase the temperature even one degree, while one in 10 would be willing to raise the temperature a whopping 10 degrees or more.
Although a select few show extreme dedication to financial savings, the vast majority of homeowners are unwilling to raise the temperature setting more than two degrees (48 percent). Almost a third (32 percent) would be willing to raise the temperature three to six degrees.
Although personal comfort dictates the actions of many, DiFulgentiz says Lennox recommends raising the temperature five to seven degrees while away from home for maximum energy conservation. In order to offset the increased temperature, ceiling fans can circulate the air and provide the feeling of a lower temperature setting – at very minimal cost to the homeowner.
A Chance to Move to the Head of the Class
"Making changes to improve energy efficiency is a lot like eating your fruits and vegetables – most people know it's the right thing to do but turning good intentions into actions is sometimes easier said than done," says DiFulgentiz. "Since the Lennox Home Energy Report Card survey found that only about half of Americans have replaced their aging, inefficient air conditioners, Lennox wants to give their fellow classmates the opportunity to do the same and improve their score for the next Home Energy Report Card."
Between July 1 and Aug. 31, Lennox invites homeowners to enter the "Energy Savings Superstar" contest on the Lennox website or Facebook page, by submitting unique and innovative home energy savings tips and photos of how they beat the heat during the summer. The grand prize winner will receive a new XC25 air conditioner, the most efficient residential cooling system on the market, or up to $10,000 in energy-efficient Lennox heating and air conditioning products, along with other "cool" prizes.
About the Lennox Home Energy Report Card Survey
The results of the Lennox Home Energy Report Card survey are based on a telephone survey that was conducted by GfK Roper on behalf of Lennox Industries among 707 homeowners (ages 18 and over) within the U.S. during April 2013. Entire survey results are available upon request by calling Drew Wilson at (214) 379-3709.