Air Conditioning and Heating Systems in New Homes


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

In 2018, 93.7 percent of new single-family homes started had a central AC system, almost the same share as in 2017 (93.5 percent). 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 93.7 percent in 2018 (Figure 1).

Though the share of new single-family homes started with central AC differs across the country’s 9 Census divisions (Figure 2), the share is highly concentrated in the Midwest and South region.  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 in the West North Central and 92 percent in the East North Central. The divisions with the lowest shares of new homes with central AC are New England (79 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 (98 percent in 2018). 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 2018. 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 2018. In warmer regions of the country, these systems are more common: 76 percent in the South Atlantic, 73 percent in the East South Central, and 34 percent in West South Central. In colder regions, very few homes have air or ground heat pumps: only 6 percent of new homes started in New England and 10 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 (Figure 4). Approximately 54 percent of new homes started in 2018 use natural gas as the primary heating fuel, compared to 40 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 6 and 13 percent of new homes, respectively, use electricity as the primary heating source. In contrast, 74 percent of new homes started in the South Atlantic and 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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7 replies

  1. Thanks for this resourceful article. I have just bookmarked this page so I don’t miss any more of these.

  2. Really great information & article. We have linked to the page as a resource for others wanting industry facts.

  3. Here we get to know about air conditioning and heating systems in new homes-4 information in detail. It helps us to decide that which one is best among its types. I enjoyed reading this article and would suggest others it as well. Thank you for this article! This is really very informative for us.

  4. A really insightful and important article.

  5. I never took into account the fact that there are differences in the central air conditioning systems in various single-family homes across the country. I guess that means that finding the right system for your home is going to be important for it to be effective. With that in mind, I need to look for a professional in furnace services to give me an idea of what I should get when my house gets constructed next year.

  6. The usability of heat pumps definitely makes me want to try it for myself. With how often we need to manage the temperatures around here, it would be for the best if we can get something that’s much more efficient than a regular furnace. I’ll go and ask an HVAC contractor to help me out with this so it’s easier to get a heat pump installed.

  7. I appreciate it when you explained that the type of heating system used in a home depends on the census division or the location they are in. I can imagine how we should also be aware of those things so that we purchase the right unit for our new home once it is built. So we should ask HVAC contractors in Rock Hill, South Carolina what they can recommend for the property before making a decision.

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