Most Americans Improving Energy Efficiency at Home

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – March 22, 2011 – While oil prices rise in response to unrest in oil producing nations and increased demand from growing nations, Americans continue to discuss and consider alternative energy options and lifestyle changes amidst a slow economic recovery. Six in ten (61%) Americans describe themselves as knowledgeable about energy issues, including sources of electrical power and energy efficiency. This is relatively unchanged since 2009 when 59% of Americans described themselves as knowledgeable about energy issues.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 3,171 adults surveyed online between February 14 and 21, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

    Energy knowledge varies by region and age with Americans in the East (67%) and West (64%) and those over the age of 65 (65%) most knowledgeable. Three-quarters of men (75%) say they are knowledgeable about energy issues while less than half (47%) of women say the same.

    Sources of Energy for Electric Power Production

    When it comes to sources of energy, the public indicates that the benefits outweigh the risks for wind (75%) and solar power (77%). Natural gas (64%) and geothermal (52%) resonate as beneficial while there is less certainty about the benefits of nuclear (42%) and coal (38%). These views compare to 2009 when at least two-thirds of Americans said that when used, the benefits of solar (82%), wind (78%) and natural gas (66%) outweighed any associated risks.

    In 2009, two in five Americans (42%) said the risks of using coal outweighed the benefits while 36% believed the benefits outweighed the risks. Further, almost one-quarter of Americans (22%) said they were not at all sure. Today, that view has not changed very much as 38% say benefits outweigh risks, but 43% believe the risks outweigh the benefits; those unsure has dropped to 19%.

    Nuclear power plant proposals, after a U.S. hiatus on new plant construction, have been surging. Less than half of Americans (42%) say the benefits outweigh the risks of nuclear energy while 21% are not at all sure and 37% say the risks outweigh the benefits. In 2009, the view was similar – 44% of Americans said the benefits outweighed the risks and 34% believed the risks outweighed the benefits. When asked about nuclear power plant waste, 69% of Americans agree that it is a national issue. Two in ten (22%) are not at all sure.

    When asked if renewable energy and climate change are issues states should manage as opposed to the federal government, Americans are split – 36% agree these are issues for individual states to handle, 43% disagree and 21% are not at all sure.

    Improving Energy Efficiency at Home

    Eight in ten Americans (84%) say they turn off lights and appliances when not in use to conserve energy. Americans are also replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs (60%), using power strips (60%), using low-wattage bulbs (56%), purchasing Energy Star™ appliances (53%), and reducing hot water usage (51%). When it comes to more complex tasks such as weather stripping, sealing gaps and installation of products, the responses drop to between 29% and 38% for each behavior. Even fewer (11%) conduct home energy evaluations or audits and 5% say they engage in none of these activities.

    Smart Grid

    More than half of all Americans (56%) have not heard the term smart grid, with more than six in ten women unfamiliar with it (66%, compared to 46% of men).

    When asked whether or not smart grid will increase the use of solar, wind and other renewable sources, only 38% agree that it will while 55% are not at all sure. Likewise, six in ten Americans (60%) are not at all sure if smart grid will increase the cost of electricity-24% agree that it will.

    So What?

    Over the past few years, there have been coal mine rescues; state legislation to prohibit mountain top mining of coal; and, increasing Environmental Protection Agency regulatory actions on coal plants. Coal provides approximately half (49%) of electrical power production in the United States, is the most heavily used source of energy and is being subjected to a high degree of regulatory scrutiny. It is estimated that 16% of the existing U.S. coal plant will be shut down over the next five years because of the cost of regulatory compliance. The question is – what will replace coal, especially in the eastern U.S.?

    , This survey fielded prior to the recent Japanese earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear power plant issues. U.S. nuclear power plants are similar in design and function to those in Japan so it is unclear what effect the Japanese incident will have on American perceptions of nuclear power. But, this poll makes clear that Americans believe nuclear waste is a national issue to resolve.

    , However, there remains limited knowledge of many alternative energy sources, as new debates over national security and foreign oil dependence, gas prices at the pump and the correlation between energy costs and economic recovery rage on. Significant room still exists to educate the public on the pros and cons of each source of energy including factors such as: current and future use of each source, reliability, cost, environmental impacts, safety, security and ways to become more energy efficient.

     

    TABLE 1

    KNOWLEDGE ABOUT ENERGY ISSUES AND ELECTRICAL POWER

    Thinking of something else, how knowledgeable would you say you are about energy issues including sources of electrical power and energy efficiency?

    Base: All adults

    Total 2009

    Total

    2011

    Region

    Gender

    East

    Midwest

    South

    West

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Knowledgeable (NET)

    59

    61

    67

    57

    57

    64

    75

    47

    Very knowledgeable

    9

    12

    20

    9

    8

    13

    21

    4

    Somewhat knowledgeable

    50

    49

    47

    48

    49

    51

    55

    44

    Not knowledgeable (NET)

    41

    39

    33

    43

    43

    36

    25

    53

    Not very knowledgeable

    32

    31

    27

    34

    34

    27

    20

    41

    Not at all knowledgeable

    8

    9

    7

    9

    9

    10

    5

    12

    Age

    18-24

    25-29

    30-39

    40-49

    50-64

    65+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Knowledgeable (NET)

    55

    54

    63

    61

    61

    65

    Very knowledgeable

    10

    9

    23

    9

    10

    9

    Somewhat knowledgeable

    44

    44

    40

    52

    52

    57

    Not knowledgeable (NET)

    45

    46

    37

    39

    39

    35

    Not very knowledgeable

    37

    36

    28

    29

    30

    29

    Not at all knowledgeable

    8

    11

    9

    10

    8

    6

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

     

    TABLE 2

    BENEFITS VERSUS RISKS FOR VARIOUS ENERGY SOURCES

    There are many sources of electric power used in the U.S. To the best of your knowledge, would you say the benefits of each source outweigh the risks or do you believe the risks outweigh the benefits?

    Base: All adults

     

    BENEFITS OUTWEIGH RISKS (NET)

    Benefits strongly outweigh risks

    Benefits somewhat outweigh risks

    RISKS OUTWEIGH BENEFITS (NET)

    Risks somewhat outweigh benefits

    Risks strongly outweigh benefits

    Not at all sure

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Solar

    2011

    77

    64

    13

    8

    3

    6

    14

    2009

    82

    68

    14

    5

    3

    2

    13

    Wind

    2011

    75

    61

    14

    10

    3

    7

    15

    2009

    78

    62

    17

    7

    4

    2

    15

    Natural gas

    2011

    64

    31

    34

    17

    11

    6

    18

    2009

    66

    30

    36

    14

    11

    3

    20

    Geothermal

    2011

    52

    33

    18

    10

    5

    5

    38

    2009

    52

    32

    20

    7

    5

    2

    40

    Nuclear

    2011

    42

    20

    22

    37

    18

    19

    21

    2009

    44

    21

    23

    34

    17

    17

    22

    Coal

    2011

    38

    15

    23

    43

    24

    18

    19

    2009

    36

    13

    23

    42

    22

    20

    22

    Biomass

    2011

    30

    14

    17

    12

    7

    6

    57

    2009

    28

    12

    16

    12

    8

    4

    60

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3

    AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH VARIOUS ENERGY-RELATED STATEMENTS AND ISSUES

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: All adults

     

    AGREE (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    DISAGREE (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    Not at all sure

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Nuclear power plant waste is a national issue

    69

    47

    22

    9

    5

    4

    22

    Smart Grid will increase the use of solar, wind and other sources of renewable electricity

    38

    18

    20

    7

    4

    3

    55

    Renewable energy and climate change are issues for individual states, rather than the federal government, to manage

    36

    17

    18

    43

    19

    24

    21

    Smart grid will increase the cost of electricity

    24

    10

    13

    16

    11

    6

    60

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 4

    DONE ACTIVITIES TO IMPROVE ENERGY EFFICIENCY AT HOME

    Which of the following have you done to improve energy efficiency in your place of living?

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    %

    Turn off lights, televisions or other appliances when not in use

    84

    Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs

    60

    Use power strips for home electronics

    60

    Use low-watt bulbs where lighting is not critical

    56

    Look for the ENERGY STAR™ label when replacing large or small appliances

    53

    Reduce hot water usage by taking shorter showers or using cold water for the rinse cycle in your washer

    51

    Weather stripping around windows or doors to stop air leaks

    38

    Change air filters monthly

    35

    Seal gaps in floors, walls, around pipes or electrical wiring

    33

    Install low-flow faucets or showerheads

    29

    Add insulation to your attic, crawl space or any accessible exterior walls

    25

    Conducted a home energy evaluation or audit

    11

    None of these

    5

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 5

    HEARD OF THE TERM ‘SMART GRID’

    Have you ever heard of the term ‘Smart Grid’?

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Gender

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    44

    54

    34

    No

    56

    46

    66

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between February 14 to 21, 2011 among 3,171 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

     

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    J39370

    Q830, 835, 840, 845, 850

    The Harris Poll® #39, March 22, 2011

    By Jeanne Bonds, Sr. Director, Energy and Utilities, Harris Interactive