Air Conditioning and Heating Systems in New Homes


Air Conditioning Systems

The Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction (SOC) provides valuable information on the characteristics of new homes started, such as air conditioning and heating system installations.

In 2017, 93.5 percent of new single-family homes started had a central AC system, the same share as in 2016. The trend, going back to 2000, shows a steady rise in the share of new homes with central AC, going from 85.5 percent in 2000 to 93.5 percent in both 2016 and 2017 (Figure 1).

The share of new single-family homes started with central AC differs across the country’s 9 Census divisions (Figure 2).  One hundred percent of homes started in the West South Central, East South Central, West North Central and South Atlantic divisions had central AC installed, followed by 91 percent in the East North Central and 87 percent in the Mountain division. The divisions with the lowest shares of new homes with central AC are New England (82 percent), the Middle Atlantic (81 percent), and the Pacific (75 percent).

Heating Systems

Almost all of new single-family homes started use either an air/ground source heat pump or a forced air system for the primary heating equipment (97 percent in 2017). Over a quarter of the homes also use a secondary type of heating equipment.  In general, the share of new homes using an air or ground source heat pump as the primary means of providing heat has increased, going from 23 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, the share relying on a forced air system has slipped, going from 71 percent to 57 percent in the same time frame.

The type of heating system installed varies significantly by Census Division. Figure 3 displays the share of new homes with an air or ground heat pump in 2017. In warmer regions of the country, these systems are more common: 72 percent in the South Atlantic, 71 percent in the East South Central, and 44 percent in West South Central. In colder regions, very few homes have air or ground heat pumps: only 7 percent of new homes started in New England and 11 percent in the Middle Atlantic.  In colder climates, air source heat pumps (traditionally the most common type) become less efficient and rely more heavily on a back-up heating system during the winter.

The SOC also provides data on the primary fuel used to heat new single-family homes. Approximately 56 percent of new homes started in 2017 use natural gas as the primary heating fuel, compared to 39 percent powered by electricity.  The shares of new homes with electricity and natural gas as the primary heating fuel have been stable since 2012. Like heating and AC systems, the primary heating fuel source varies significantly by region of the country. For example, in New England and the Middle Atlantic only 10 and 11 percent of new homes, respectively, use electricity as the primary heating source. In contrast, 70 percent of new homes started in the South Atlantic and 68 percent in the East South Atlantic use it.  These are the same two divisions where heat pumps, which run on electricity, are most common.

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