Are You Part of the 31% of Americans Planning to Invest in This Green Technology in 2014?

A new poll by SolarCity shows that more Americans are going green by changing their lightbulbs to LEDs.

Mar 16, 2014 at 12:30PM

SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) recently partnered on a nationwide poll of American homeowners to determine their thoughts on going green. The poll found that overall, 88% of respondents supported renewable energy. Even better, at least in terms of SolarCity's future business, was that 62% of respondents would be interested in adding solar to their homes. That represents a significant potential market for SolarCity, considering that there are 75 million owner-occupied housing units in the U.S., while just 500,000 solar systems have been installed nationwide.

Where the green dollars are being spent
That said, in the near term, most homeowners were planning smaller-scale clean-energy-related upgrades to their home over the next year. What was interesting was that the planned purchase that was most popular with homeowners was LED lightbulbs. Overall, 31% of respondents were planning to buy LED lightbulbs in the next year. Also popular were smart thermostats such as Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Learning Thermostat, better insulated windows, hybrid cars, and a more efficient water heater.


Source: General Electric News Center.

One of the reasons many consumers will be making the switch to LEDs is that they don't really have much choice. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandates that all 60 W and 40 W light bulbs sold this year must be 25% more efficient, which effectively bans the production of traditional incandescent bulbs. Since these sizes happen to be the most popular ones in America, many Americans will be replacing them with either CFLs or LEDs. While LEDs cost more, the energy savings are substantial, making it the bulb of choice for many Americans.

General Electric (NYSE:GE) has a great energy savings calculator that shows just how much money can be saved by switching. For example, by replacing just one 60 W bulb with a GE energy smart LED 11 W bulb, an average consumer would save $5.90 per year in energy costs. That puts the payback period at less than three years. Add the fact that one GE LED bulb lasts 25,000 hours, or the life span of 25 incandescent bulbs, and the return on investment is pretty compelling.

Nest Thermostat With Airwave

Photo: Google Learning Thermostat.

Two other great options
Each of the other green options that homeowners are considering has a varying degree of financial payoff. For example, the 11% of homeowners who are planning to purchase a smart thermostat such as Google's $249 Learning Thermostat will save hundreds of dollars each year on their utility bills. Using the Learning Thermostat as an example, on average homeowners installing the Google thermostat will save 20% on their utility bills each year, or an average of about $173 per year. That makes for a less than two-year payback period. For a consumer who either doesn't have a programmable thermostat yet or just hasn't programmed it, the Google Learning Thermostat is a great green investment. 

Another popular green option is an Energy Star-rated water heater, which 9% of those polled plan to have installed in their home this year. Given that the water heater is the second-largest energy expense for a homeowner, or 14%-18% of utility costs, consumers can gain substantial savings from this upgrade. In fact, homeowners can save anywhere from 7% on their utility bills to up to 50%, depending on which model is selected. In most cases, a homeowner can see a payback in just a few years by replacing the water heater.

Final thoughts
For a homeowner, going green can be a solid investment. An investment of a few hundred dollars will allow a homeowner to swap out incandescent lightbulbs with LED bulbs from a company like GE or buy a Google Learning Thermostat and earn a payback in as little as two years. Meanwhile, more intensive investments like a highly efficient water heater or even a solar system from SolarCity also have a pretty compelling return on investment. All told, it makes a lot of sense to invest in greener solutions, as it's better for our environment as well as for your wallet.

Invest your energy savings in this top stock
There's a huge difference between a good stock and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it's one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

Matt DiLallo owns shares of SolarCity. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Google and SolarCity and also owns shares of General Electric. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers