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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

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Who Are Your Competitors’ Customers?


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Residential Energy Consumption Survey offers fuel dealers revealing insights

Residential energy marketers know their customers better than anyone. After all, personalized service is at the heart of the industry’s business model. But how well do you know your competitors’ customers? What about customers of competing fuels like natural gas and electricity?

The home energy market and more specifically the liquid heating fuels industry — collectively, all the heating oil, Bioheat® fuel, and propane delivery companies doing business today — face an uncertain future. You know who and where your customers are right now, but what about tomorrow?

Every year in March, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) publishes its Annual Energy Outlook (AEO), with broad projections on things like crude oil production, and each year Oil & Energy presents select highlights from this report in our March issue. Less often but perhaps more important, EIA also publishes a Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) including detailed information on the kinds of energy used by homes across the U.S. and the kinds of homes using that energy. RECS data underlie AEO projections.

In May 2022, EIA published data from the 2020 RECS, with estimates on fuels used, space heating, air conditioning, and water heating. The last RECS, with data for 2015, was released in 2017. Per EIA, “The 2020 RECS provides household characteristics and energy usage indicators for the estimated 123.5 million homes in the U.S.” In other words, it shows energy marketers who their competitors’ customers are.

In this article, Oil & Energy presents select findings of the 2020 RECS. For readers’ convenience and consideration, we have included several side bars highlighting what could be some of the EIA survey’s most important data points along with possible interpretations of those data.

The information contained in this article comes from the 2020 RECS housing characteristics data on fuel use, space heating, air conditioning, and water heating — nationally and in the Northeast region (New England and Middle Atlantic). Information on other housing characteristics such as housing unit type, owner/renter status, year of construction, and household income is available at the national level. The complete 2020 RECS, including all the aforementioned data sets, can be accessed online at eia.gov/recs.

Notes: Because of rounding, data may not sum to totals.
a Total U.S. includes all primary occupied housing units in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Vacant housing units, seasonal units, second homes, military houses, and group quarters are excluded.
b Households that use propane only for outdoor grilling are excluded from the RECS estimate of households using propane.
c Cooking includes fuels used by major cooking equipment (ovens, cooktops, and ranges).
Q = Data withheld because either the relative standard error (RSE) was greater than 50% or fewer than 10 households were in the reporting sample.

Number of housing units (millions)
  Total U.S.a Total Northeast New England Middle Atlantic
All homes 123.53 21.92 5.88 16.04
Fuels used and end uses in homes in the Northeast
Fuels used for any use (more than one may apply)
Electricity 123.53 21.92 5.88 16.04
Natural gas 74.65 14.52 3.03 11.50
Propaneb 11.68 2.68 0.95 1.74
Wood 10.83 2.25 0.96 1.29
Fuel oil or kerosene 5.72 4.47 2.06 2.42
Electricity end uses (more than one may apply)
Space heating 69.25 9.63 2.38 7.25
  Main 48.89 4.64 1.00 3.64
  Secondary 31.50 5.96 1.59 4.37
Electricity Is Secondary
Note that in the Northeast, electricity, like wood, is more often a secondary heat source than a primary heat source. This holds true not only for portable electric heaters, but also ductless heat pumps (see figures under "Main heating fuel and equipment" and "Secondary heating fuel and equipment").
Air conditioning 108.92 19.41 4.95 14.46
Water heating 58.82 7.51 2.02 5.49
Cookingc 84.01 11.99 3.95 8.05
Natural gas end uses (more than one may apply)
Space heating 58.44 11.81 2.44 9.37
  Main 56.25 11.61 2.40 9.21
  Secondary 7.55 0.93 0.15 0.78
Water heating 58.09 11.09 2.34 5.49
Cookingc 47.26 10.82 1.87 8.94
Outdoor grilling 4.75 0.81 0.16 0.65
Propane end uses (more than one may apply)
Space heating 7.71 1.35 0.47 0.88
  Main 5.05 0.95 0.33 0.62
  Secondary 3.08 0.50 0.16 0.35
Water heating 4.32 0.88 0.35 0.53
Cookingc 5.82 1.59 0.58 1.00
Outdoor grillingb 42.05 8.48 2.84 5.63
Wood end uses (more than one may apply)
Space heating 10.79 2.24 0.95 1.28
  Main 2.22 0.46 0.19 0.27
  Secondary 8.61 1.78 0.77 1.02
Water heating 0.15 0.06 0.03 Q
Space heating in homes in the Northeast
  Total U.S.a Total Northeast New England Middle Atlantic
Uses space heating equipment 117.43 21.78 5.86 15.92
Does not use heating equipment 6.10 0.14 Q 0.13
Main heating fuel and equipment
Natural gas 56.25 11.61 2.40 9.21
  Central warm-air furnace 47.37 7.08 1.53 5.55
  Steam or hot water system 6.37 4.13 0.78 3.36
  Built-in room heater 2.33 0.35 0.08 0.27
Electricity 48.89 4.64 1.00 3.64
  Central warm-air furnace 17.51 0.91 0.16 0.75
  Heat pump 17.75 0.88 0.11 0.77
  Ductless heat pump (mini-split) 1.12 0.26 0.09 0.17
1.14 Million Electric Heat Pumps
According to the 2020 RECS, about 1.14 million homes in the Northeast already use electric heat pumps for space heating. The vast majority of these homes are in the Mid-Atlantic states (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania).
  Built-in electric units 8.25 2.10 0.56 1.55
  Portable electric heaters 3.24 0.21 Q 0.19
  Some other equipment 1.01 0.29 0.07 0.22
Fuel oil or kerosene 4.96 4.07 1.94 2.13
  Central warm-air furnace 3.07 2.49 1.28 1.21
  Steam or hot water system 1.67 1.46 0.60 0.86
  Some other equipment 0.22 0.12 0.06 Q
Propane 5.05 0.95 0.33 0.62
  Central warm-air furnace 3.87 0.70 0.18 0.52
  Some other equipment 1.18 0.26 0.15 0.11
Wood heating stove 1.98 0.41 0.17 0.24
Main heating equipment age
Less than 2 years old 13.29 1.52 0.57 0.95
2 to 4 years old 17.19 2.47 0.61 1.86
5 to 9 years old 26.62 4.00 1.05 2.95
10 to 14 years old 22.28 4.17 1.13 3.04
15 to 19 years old 14.66 2.85 0.71 2.14
20 or more years old 23.40 6.77 1.80 4.97
Heating Systems Remain the Prototypical Deferred Purchase
Across the Northeast, the most popular age for a home heating system is 20 years old or older. Nationwide, only heating systems that are 10 to 14 years old are more common.
Has thermostat
Yes 109.35 18.53 5.38 13.15
  Smart or internet-connected thermostat 12.78 1.78 0.53 1.25
  Programmable thermostat 52.49 8.26 2.09 6.17
  Non-programmable thermostat 44.08 8.49 2.76 5.73
No 12.73 3.34 0.48 2.86
Main heating equipment control
Sets one temperature and leaves it there most of the time 50.49 8.24 2.25 6.00
Set It and Forget It
This remains the most common heating temperature strategy across the Northeast and the country, despite the increasing popularity of smart thermostats.
Manually adjusts the temperature 30.93 5.95 1.91 4.04
Programmable or smart thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature 19.79 3.86 1.12 2.74
Turns equipment on or off as needed 12.06 1.84 0.39 1.45
Household does not have control over the equipment 3.91 1.84 0.17 1.66
Secondary heating fuel and equipment
Uses Secondary heating equipment 51.25 9.41 2.73 6.68
Natural Gas Fireplace 6.94 0.80 0.12 0.68
Electricity 31.50 5.96 1.59 4.37
  Portable electric heaters 25.02 4.45 1.09 3.36
  Ductless heat pump (mini-split) 0.94 0.41 0.18 0.22
  Built-in electric units 3.17 0.86 0.24 0.62
  Fireplace 1.79 0.20 0.06 0.14
Wood 8.61 1.78 0.77 1.02
  Heating stove 3.12 1.05 0.50 0.55
  Fireplace 5.47 0.72 0.26 0.46
Some other fueld 3.59 0.74 0.23 0.51
Secondary heating usage
Uses all or almost all of the time 10.91 2.39 0.72 1.67
Uses at least once a week 9.41 1.74 0.61 1.12
Uses a few times per month 4.71 0.89 0.30 0.59
Uses only when it is very cold 19.64 3.23 0.79 2.44
Uses only in rare situations, such as when a guest is visiting 6.59 1.16 0.30 0.86
Does not use secondary heating equipment 66.18 12.37 3.13 9.24
Heated basement
Yes 24.93 5.99 1.53 4.46
No 11.71 5.18 1.76 3.42
Heated attic
Yes 3.48 0.81 0.14 0.67
No 51.56 7.65 2.30 5.35
Heated attached garage
Yes 3.87 0.55 0.15 0.40
No 46.07 6.30 1.62 4.68
Air conditioning in homes in the Northeast
  Total U.S.a Total Northeast New England Middle Atlantic
Uses air-conditioning equipment 108.92 19.41 4.95 14.46
Does not use air-conditioning 14.61 2.51 0.93 1.58
Main type of air-conditioning equipment used
Central air-conditioning (including central heat pump) 82.12 8.51 1.64 6.86
Ductless heat pump (mini-split) 1.76 0.77 0.32 0.45
Window or wall air conditioner 21.40 9.12 2.65 6.48
Portable air conditioner 2.68 1.01 0.34 0.67
Main air-conditioning equipment age
Less than 2 years old 15.63 2.86 0.78 2.08
2 to 4 years old 21.76 4.72 1.34 3.38
5 to 9 years old 29.49 5.49 1.45 4.04
10 to 14 years old 20.49 3.16 0.72 2.44
15 to 19 years old 11.01 1.47 0.36 1.12
20 or more years old 10.55 1.71 0.31 1.40
Secondary type of air-conditioning equipment used
No other equipment used 99.58 17.67 4.48 13.20
Central air-conditioning (including central heat pump) 0.86 0.13 Q 0.11
Ductless heat pump (mini-split) 0.81 0.16 0.06 0.10
Window or wall air conditioner 4.62 0.90 0.23 0.67
Portable air conditioner 2.64 0.53 0.17 0.36
Number of ductless heat pump indoor units
One 1.21 0.28 0.14 0.14
Two 0.64 0.30 0.12 0.17
Three 0.32 0.16 0.05 0.10
Four or more 0.41 0.19 0.05 0.14
Never Enough
These figures speak to the notion among HVAC techs that one ductless unit is rarely capable of bringing a whole home to the desired temperature. While some 280,000 homes in the Northeast have one ductless heat pump, about 650,000 homes in the region have two or more.
Does not use a ductless heat pump 106.35 18.49 4.58 13.91
Number of window or wall air conditioners used
One 11.89 3.44 1.07 2.37
Two 8.24 3.67 0.95 2.72
Three 3.72 1.80 0.52 1.28
Four or more 2.18 1.12 0.34 0.79
Does not use window or wall air conditioners 82.89 9.38 2.07 7.31
Air-conditioning equipment control
Sets one temperature and leaves it there most of the time 45.50 5.66 1.18 4.48
Manually adjusts the temperature 25.20 4.11 1.12 2.99
Programmable or smart thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature 16.59 2.42 0.56 1.86
Turns equipment on or off as needed 18.56 5.95 1.83 4.12
Household does not have control over the air-conditioning equipment 3.04 1.26 0.26 1.00
Air-conditioned basement
Yes 17.18 2.57 0.39 2.17
No 16.26 7.45 2.50 4.95
Air-conditioned attic
Yes 2.22 0.46 0.08 0.39
No 49.78 7.22 2.11 5.11
Air-conditioned attached garage
Yes 1.64 0.17 0.04 0.14
No 45.97 6.20 1.57 4.63
Water heating in homes in the Northeast
Fuel used by main water heater
Natural gas 57.96 11.07 2.32 8.75
Electricity 58.24 7.45 2.01 5.44
Propane 4.28 0.88 0.35 0.53
Fuel oil or kerosene 2.64 2.40 1.15 1.25
Some other fuel 0.41 0.12 0.05 Q
Size of main water heater
Small (30 gallons or less) 13.28 2.08 0.56 1.52
Medium (31 to 49 gallons) 55.37 9.99 2.52 7.47
Large (50 gallons or more) 46.83 7.85 1.90 5.95
Tankless 8.05 2.00 0.89 1.10
Age of main water heater
Less than 2 years old 17.65 3.01 0.83 2.18
2 to 4 years old 22.49 3.70 1.12 2.58
5 to 9 years old 38.96 7.10 1.84 5.27
10 to 14 years old 25.10 4.07 1.08 2.99
15 to 19 years old 10.35 1.88 0.50 1.38
20 years or more 8.98 2.15 0.50 1.64
Fuel used by secondary water heater
Natural gas 2.35 0.41 0.07 0.33
Electricity 2.91 0.23 0.05 0.17
Some other fuel 0.47 0.10 0.04 Q
Does not have a secondary water heater 117.80 21.18 5.71 15.47

Notes: Because of rounding, data may not sum to totals.
a Total U.S. includes all primary occupied housing units in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Vacant housing units, seasonal units, second homes, military houses, and group quarters are excluded.
b Households that use propane only for outdoor grilling are excluded from the RECS estimate of households using propane.
c Cooking includes fuels used by major cooking equipment (ovens, cooktops, and ranges).
Q = Data withheld because either the relative standard error (RSE) was greater than 50% or fewer than 10 households were in the reporting sample.


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