Air Conditioning Systems
Every year, the US Census Bureau publishes information on characteristics of new homes started in its Survey of Construction (SOC), including air conditioning and heating systems. In 2016, 93.5 percent of new single-family homes started included a central air conditioning system (Figure 1). The share of new homes with central AC rose steadily between 2000 and 2004, but remained essentially flat between 2005 and 2011. After 2011, the share continued on an upward trajectory.
The share of new single-family homes started with central AC differs by Census Division (Figure 2). One hundred percent of homes started in the West South Central, East South Central, and South Atlantic divisions had central AC installed, followed by 99 percent of homes in the West North Central division. Ninety-two percent of new single-family homes started in the East North Central and the Middle Atlantic included central AC, as well as 86 percent of homes in the Mountain division.
The New England and the Pacific divisions had the smallest shares of new single-family homes with central AC installed: 77 and 72 percent, respectively. However, from 2015 to 2016, these two divisions experienced the largest percentage point increases: up 5.3 and 4.5 percentage points, respectively.
The majority of new single-family homes started in 2016 had either a forced air system, or an air or ground source heat pump system. The share with a forced air system steadily declined from 71 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2015, however it edged up slightly to 57 percent in 2016. The opposite is true for air or ground heat pump systems: it grew from 23 percent in 2000 to 42 percent in 2015, but leveled off to 41 percent in 2016.
The share of new homes with an air or ground source heat pump varies significantly by Census Division (Figure 3). In warmer regions of the country, these systems are more prevalent: 72 percent in the South Atlantic, 69 percent in the East South Central, and 46 percent in the West South Central. In colder regions, air or ground heat pumps are not as common: 29 percent in the West North Central, 13 percent in the Mountain division, 9 percent each in the East North Central and the Middle Atlantic, and only 4 percent of new homes in New England.
Approximately 55 percent of new single-family homes started in 2016 use natural gas as the primary heating fuel, compared to 40 percent powered by electricity. The primary heating fuel source varies significantly by Census Division. The divisions with the most expensive average residential electricity prices in 2016 also have the smallest shares of new homes using it as the primary heating fuel source: 13 percent in the Pacific, 10 percent in Middle Atlantic, and only 6 percent in New England. Electricity as a heating source is much more common in the South Atlantic (72 percent), East South Central (62 percent) and the West South Central divisions (41 percent).