Homeowners increasingly take climate change seriously

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By Terri Williams
For business

Homeownwers are adding solar panels as a way to fight climate change.

According to NASA, the evidence for rapid climate change is compelling and includes a global rise in temperatures, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, decreased snow cover, a global sea level rise, declining Arctic sea ice, extreme events, and ocean acidification.

Many homeowners are taking global warming seriously, according to a new survey/study by Porch, a home services platform that connects homeowners with home improvement and repair professionals. These are some of the things that they’re doing to lower their energy consumption, and in the process, lower their energy bills.

Steps taken at home to combat climate change

“Installing energy-efficient appliances is the most popular way that homeowners are trying to make a difference,” according to Hannah Smith, the study’s project manager and creative consultant for Porch. “Over 70% of respondents are willing to make this change.”

The second and third most popular steps are to monitor energy consumption (65%) and water usage (57%).

“In addition to just monitoring their consumption, homeowners are also purchasing smart devices to be more efficient in their usage,” Smith says. For example, 45% purchased a smart device to control the temperature when they’re away, and one-third purchased a smart device to turn off the lights when they’re not home.

A much smaller percentage of survey respondents (17%) are also putting in drought-resistant landscaping.

Home renovations completed to alleviate effects of natural disasters

Homeowners are also making various changes to their homes to protect against natural disasters triggered by existing climate change.

“For example, 64% percent of those surveyed renovated their home to include new insulation for extreme temperatures,” Smith says. “Over 60% installed new windows to guard against extreme temperatures, and almost 53% eliminated flammable debris in case of wildfires.”

Almost half of the surveyed homeowners also built a basement or cellar to provide shelter and safety from tornadoes. And that’s a particularly good idea for homeowners in the South. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, through the beginning of May, Mississippi had 83 tornadoes, Alabama had 71, Texas had 62, and Georgia had 53.

A smaller number of homeowners (30%) raised their foundation to prevent flooding, and 27% braced unreinforced chimneys, masonry, or foundation concrete walls in case of earthquakes.

New homebuying priorities

When looking for a home, survey respondents said the top priority was finding a place in proximity to their job. “Almost 92 percent thought this was the most important feature, followed closely by selecting homes with energy-efficient appliances,” Smith says.

Proximity to work means they’ll spend less time driving or stuck in traffic. “Fewer miles driven means fewer emissions,” Smith explains.  And depending on how close they are, it could mean the ability to bike or walk to work.

Also, while some people believe that appliances should be a minor consideration when buying a home, these items can be expensive. For a homeowner who wants all energy-efficient appliances, this means a refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, washing machine and clothes dryer, which can add up to thousands of dollars.

More than 80% of respondents want hardwood floors, which are eco-friendlier than carpet, tile, and linoleum.

Homeowners are also trying to avoid Mother Nature’s wrath whenever possible. “Almost 70% want to move to areas less known for natural disasters,” Smith says. And they’re also trying to avoid temperature extremes. “While 60% want to live in an area with milder winters, almost the same number of respondents want to live in an area with milder summers.”

Over half of homeowners also think the following features are important:

  • Easy access to public transportation
  • An area known for being “green” or eco-friendly
  • Proximity to a farmers’ market
  • Drought-resistant landscaping
  • Recycled building materials

Meanwhile, a little less than half of homeowners in the survey think the distance from a coast is important so they can avoid rising sea levels. A little less than half also want homes with solar panels.

“While solar power currently accounts for just 1 percent of the world’s electricity, studies show solar energy could grow by 6,500% by 2050,” Smith says. And solar is particularly important to millennials, “According to our survey, 54 percent of millennials identified solar panels as a priority when shopping for a new home.”

(Image credit/Shutterstock)

Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.