Why, in survey after survey, do consumers indicate they would pay a little extra for better comfort or energy savings but still continue to purchase the basic, minimum efficiency and lightly featured systems? This past year, AC & Heating Connect worked with Triple Pundit (a new-media company for highly conscious business leaders focused on the triple bottom line – people, planet and profit) to survey their readers on issues related to purchasing patterns of HVAC consumers. Industry data indicates that 70 percent of consumers consistently purchase minimum efficiency and minimum featured HVAC systems and only 30 percent buy the higher featured and more efficient models. This is all true despite Emerson Climate Technologies’ sponsored research, which indicates that almost 70 percent of homeowners surveyed prefer systems that offer superior energy savings and comfort or created less impact on the environment.
According to a 2013 survey of more than 500 Triple Pundit readers, we found some indications about what might be going on with HVAC consumer buying behavior. First, we asked if consumers would pay 20-30 percent more for a system that provided certain benefits.
85 percent would pay for better efficiency and reduced energy consumption
68 percent would pay for a lower overall impact on the environment
67 percent would pay for greater monthly energy savings
56 percent would pay for better overall comfort and indoor air quality
6 percent would just buy the lowest cost system no matter what
When asked to rank various HVAC features in order of importance, the respondents indicated the following priorities, in order:
1 – Improved energy efficiency for reduced operating costs
2 – Reliability
3 – Reduction in monthly operating costs
4 – Lowest environmental impact
5 – Improvements in comfort or air quality
6 – Low sound or operating noise
7 – Lowest initial cost to purchase
Again, in line with prior survey findings, the lowest initial consumer cost is ranked lowest by the respondents.
Next, we asked why they thought more people don’t choose to buy higher efficiency systems.
66 percent just don’t want to be uncomfortable (a pretty low threshold)
54 percent are too busy to do the research
45 percent think the terms and technology are too confusing
23 percent have no interest in efficiency or comfort – just want cold air when it is hot
Although the results are not conclusive, we believe these responses give some indication of what’s going on. Confusion about what features are available in new systems and having the time and energy to research all the tradeoffs before making an HVAC investment decision are common problems for both consumers and contractors trying to satisfy their needs. One of the goals of AC & Heating Connect is to clear up this confusion in an easy to access web site which reduces the time and effort required to make smart, informed decisions and help consumers get what they want and not just what they need to get by. We are hoping our readers can take a few minutes to consider satisfying their comfort, efficiency or environmental needs before making another, large HVAC investment.