Americans try using less energy, find bills still high

Knoxville, Tenn., November 10, 2010 – More Americans are buying energy efficient appliances, installing insulation, replacing their lightbulbs with CFLs and adjusting their thermostats – yet according to a recent survey, they say their utility bills are still increasing.

The poll, the sixth annual Energy Pulse survey conducted by Shelton Group, found over three-quarters (77 percent) of homeowners say they’ve replaced their incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient CFL or LED bulbs. 

In addition, about half (49 percent) say they’ve replaced their windows with more energy-efficient models, and similar numbers report having replaced their HVAC or furnace (51 percent), added insulation (49 percent) and replaced appliances with higher efficiency units (59 percent).

Yet despite the high number of energy efficient measures Americans have completed, 64 percent say their bills have gone up.

“That means most Americans – despite their efforts to conserve energy and control costs – are seeing their energy bills rise,” said Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of Shelton Group. “That’s not exactly a great incentive to take further energy-saving steps.”

This is due to three factors: 1) Utilities are raising electricity rates; 2) With iPods, smart phones, flat-screen TVs, and computers, we’re plugging in more devices than ever before and 3) Consumers can get lulled into thinking that because they installed CFLs, they can leave their lights on all the time, or because they bought a high-efficiency water heater, they indulge themselves with longer, hotter showers.

“These energy-efficient products aren’t magic,” Shelton said. “Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free lunch, or a free hot shower.”

Fortunately, more Americans seem to be getting the message. The survey, which polled 502 consumers, found that energy-saving habits are on the rise. Those who say they’ve changed their behavior to save energy at home (like lowering/raising thermostat settings, washing clothes in cold water, etc.) increased dramatically from 60 percent last year to 91 percent this year. And those who now unplug chargers and other electronics when not in use increased from 33 percent last year to 56 percent this year.

Why are more Americans now conserving energy? When asked the primary reason to save energy or buy an energy-efficient product, the top answer was “to save money (32 percent), followed by “to protect our environment” (17 percent) “to preserve the quality of life for future generations” (15 percent) and “to be responsible and not waste resources” (10 percent).

The survey also asked: “Which of these things is the easiest to do that you think would help reduce your utility bill the most – in other words, the easiest thing with the biggest impact?” The No. 1 answer was “raise/lower thermostat settings” (18 percent), followed by “install extra insulation” (15 percent) and “unplug chargers, appliances, and electronics when not in use” (13 percent).

What’s the most difficult thing to do? The top answer was “purchase an Energy Star appliance” (24 percent), followed by “install extra insulation” (18 percent) and “unplug chargers, appliances, and electronics when not in use” (12 percent).

In other words, roughly the same number believe buying an Energy Star appliance and unplugging devices are the hardest things to do as those who think they’re the easiest things to do.

“Which side you fall on is probably determined by whether or not you’re a do-it-yourselfer, or whether or not you think you have time to do these things,” Shelton said. “Yes, conserving energy either takes time or money. But doing something is far better than doing nothing.”

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