My colleague passed along a Greentech Media article about a survey that was conducted to assess residential awareness of the phaseout of incandescent lightbulbs. The article states that 29 percent of US households are no longer using incandescent bulbs in their homes and reports a “slow but steady shift when it comes to consumer attitudes toward lighting” with an uptick in the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Because the survey was conducted on a small scale, with more variability around a given percentage, I was curious about energy-efficient lighting trends when looking through a more comprehensive lens. Given that I love to “play” with data, and I just happen to have one of the most robust datasets on US household energy use available at my fingertips, I immediately began analyzing our data on compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) and LED saturation.
So, what’s the scoop? According to our survey data, the proportion of US households using at least one CFL or LED lightbulb in their homes is on the rise, as is the percentage of households using multiple CFLs and LEDs. In fact, our data show that 87 percent of households are using at least one CFL or LED bulb in their homes, and 77 percent are using three or more of these energy-efficient bulbs, up from 86 percent and 75 percent, respectively, in 2011.
For the past four years, we’ve partnered with The Nielsen Company on its annual Energy Audit survey of about 32,000 US households. Based on this robust dataset, I have some interesting findings around lighting that I’d like to share. If, after reading my insights, you find yourself wanting to know more, don’t fret. This wealth of survey data isn’t just available for my own personal entertainment, it’s also available to members of the E Source Residential Market Service via our new tool, the E Source Residential Customer Insights Center.
Who’s More Likely to Use CFLs and LEDs?
Now that I’ve introduced some top-level results, I bet you’re asking yourself, “Which residents are more likely to use CFLs and LEDs?” I know I did, so let’s take a look.
- Older adults are more likely than younger adults to use multiple CFLs in the home, but LEDs are more popular among younger residents.
- Annual household income also plays a role. The percentage of US households using multiple CFLs and LEDs increases as annual household income increases, which makes me wonder what the saturation levels would look like if these energy-efficient bulbs—particularly LEDs—were more affordable.
Based on the age and income findings, of course I wanted to investigate what saturation looks like by household characteristics such as type of home (single family versus multifamily) and housing tenure (own versus rent). As you may have guessed, homeowners are more likely than renters to use multiple CFLs and LEDs, with similar results when looking at housing type. Does this indicate a necessity for more outreach to property managers to help increase the saturation of CFLs and LEDs in rental properties?
Obviously, house size impacts the actual number of light sockets; therefore, those living in smaller homes are more likely to use fewer CFLs or LEDs. What you may not have expected is that those living in larger homes (5,000 square feet or more) aren’t necessarily the power users of CFLs and LEDs. These larger homes are less likely to use 11 or more CFLs or LEDs when compared to slightly smaller homes (between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet), despite the fact that they likely have more light sockets and an increased opportunity to use 11 or more energy-efficient bulbs.
Interestingly, the percentage of households with 11 or more CFLs and LEDs increases as the number of household members increases, perhaps indicating that households using more energy are more likely to replace incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs and LEDs. But is the motivation to save on costs or to improve the environment?
What’s Motivating Residents to Use CFLs and LEDs?
According to the awareness survey results that got me going on this analysis rampage in the first place, “although people say they are more concerned about energy use than cost, less than half of the respondents say they care if there is an Energy Star label on the product they select.” So, of course, I cross-referenced this finding with our Energy Audit survey data, and what did I find?
In general, saving money is the clear winner when residents are asked to indicate their primary motivation for conserving energy. However, those who say that improving the environment is their primary motivation to conserve energy are slightly more likely to use multiple CFLs or LEDs in their homes when compared with those who are motivated by saving money. Given that the difference is slight, it seems that effective marketing efforts would be most successful by focusing on both messages.
So there you have it—just a few tidbits on CFL and LED saturation in US households. But you have the opportunity to dive deeper into the data by comparing more residential demographics, household characteristics, and energy-efficiency attitudes and behaviors to CFL and LED saturation with the E Source Residential Customer Insights Center. If you need help using the tool, please send me an e-mail.
Also, check out my colleague Alexandra Behringer’s blog post Keeping Up with Exciting Changes in Residential Lighting Programs to learn more about socket saturation and what’s happening in current lighting programs.