More New Homes Built with Air Conditioning

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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.

Air Conditioning

In 2020, 95.4 percent of new single-family homes started had a central AC system, slightly higher than 95.0 percent in 2019. 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 95 percent in 2019 (Figure 1).

Though the share of new single-family homes started with central AC differs across the country’s nine Census divisions (Figure 2), the highest share is concentrated in the Midwest and South region.  One hundred percent of homes started in the West South Central, South Atlantic and West North Central divisions had central AC installed, followed by 99 percent in the East South Central as well as 96 percent in the East North Central. The divisions with the lowest shares of new homes with central AC are New England (83 percent) and the Pacific (80 percent), albeit both shares increased from 2019.

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 (99 percent in 2020). Twenty-one percent of the homes also used 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 38 percent in 2020. Meanwhile, the share relying on a forced air system has slipped, going from 71 percent to 59 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 2020. In warmer regions of the country, these systems are more common: 77 percent in the East South Central,75 percent in the South Atlantic, and 20 percent in West South Central. In colder regions, very few homes have air or ground heat pumps: only 5 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 50 percent of new homes started in 2019 use natural gas as the primary heating fuel, compared to 45 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, only 5 percent of new homes use electricity as the primary heating source. In contrast, 77 percent and 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. This is also in line with findings from NAHB’s What Home Buyers Really Want, 2021 Edition, which consumers in South region generally prefer electricity for their heating and cooling system.



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