Air-source heat pumps are becoming an increasingly common way for Americans to heat and cool their homes, and with the growing focus on decarbonization and the added impact of federal and state-level incentives for purchasing a heat pump, this trend is likely to accelerate in the years ahead.
The Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) recently conducted a nationally representative online survey with 1,500 respondents to assess Americans’ awareness, interests and concerns related to electrifying space heating, cooking, water heating and transportation, and this study revealed several important takeaways on how Americans view heat pumps.
Here are three notable findings about heat pumps from the report:
1. Many consumers aren’t aware of them as an electric alternative.
In the online survey, we asked respondents whether they had heard of several different electric alternatives for water heating, space heating and cooking prior to taking the survey, and we found that while most consumers have heard of heat pumps, there is still plenty of room for improvement when compared to other electric alternatives.
Eighty-two percent of respondents stated that they were familiar with electric water heaters, including 86 percent of the Green Pioneers and 84 percent of the Simply Sustainable, two consumer segments with strong environmental values. Three-quarters of the Connected Pragmatists, a younger, tech-savvy segment, were also familiar with electric water heaters.
In comparison, heat pumps still have a way to go. About two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) were familiar with them prior to taking the survey. However, just under half (49 percent) of the Connected Pragmatists – a group that could have considerable implications on the future of the energy transition – say that they have heard of heat pumps.
2. Few have heard about incentives for heat pumps over the past year.
With the electrification and energy efficiency rebates and credits in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – not to mention any incentives offered by electricity providers or state governments – we also asked respondents whether they had heard of any financial incentives for the purchase of electric alternatives over the past 12 months.
We found consumers were generally unaware of any incentives for any of the electric options presented, heat pumps or otherwise. In fact, 70 percent of all respondents said they have not heard of any financial incentives, including 63 percent of the Green Pioneers, a segment that could be considered the ideal potential adopters of electrification technologies.
However, if there is a silver lining here, it’s that heat pumps were near the top of the list of awareness, with 14 percent of respondents saying that they had heard of incentives for them. This is tied with electric water heaters and trailing only solar water heaters (20 percent). As IRA incentives are still in the early stages of implementation, these numbers may rise later this year.
3. Consumers that don’t own a heat pump aren’t that interested in using one.
Finally, respondents that do not currently have heat pumps installed in their homes were asked about their openness to installing one, and we found that only one-quarter of respondents were open, a surprisingly low figure compared to the other technologies. In comparison, 31 percent of survey respondents were open to an electric water heater and 30 percent were open to an induction cooktop.
However, the Comfort Seekers, a consumer segment that's not concerned about saving energy and is unlikely to enroll in utility programs, noticeably brings down the mean as only 13 percent of these consumers are open to a heat pump. The Green Pioneers (37 percent) and Connected Pragmatists (29 percent) are much more open, but these relatively low figures suggest consumers may not fully understand the benefits heat pumps can provide.
Heat pumps can provide many benefits to consumers, including improved comfort, energy savings and fewer climate change-related emissions. However, our recent research shows that many Americans – even those with strong environmental benefits – aren’t really thinking about heat pumps as a way to decarbonize. As IRA rebates and tax credits become available, electricity providers are in a great position to provide unbiased education, personalized recommendations and other services to help consumers benefit from heat pumps.
To learn more about what Americans think about electrifying their homes and driving EVs, download our latest consumer research report here.