Appliance giant Whirlpool Corp. recently released survey results concluding that most consumer respondents—84%—consider energy efficiency to be the most important factor in their appliance purchases, beating out water and time savings.

The survey also found that 72% of respondents actively look for the Energy Star label when making their appliance purchasing decisions, the Benton Harbor, Mich.-based company says.

"With savings—on energy, water, and money—top-of-mind for today's consumer, Whirlpool Corp. took a closer look at what really drives consumer appliance purchases today," the company says. To that end, Whirlpool used Harris Interactive's QuickQuerySM online omnibus service, polling 2,042 U.S. adults about energy efficiency and other issues associated with appliances. The company says the results were weighted as needed for region, age within gender, education, household income, and race/ethnicity.

Whirlpool says the survey illuminates and dispels long-held myths about green awareness. In the survey, respondents say that when planning their dream kitchen, energy-efficient appliances would top the list of the items they would want. But the company says that even though demand for eco-friendly products is high, understanding of the benefits varies among male and female, married and single.

"The survey reveals married or previously married consumers appear to understand the benefits of using eco-efficient products more so than their single counterparts," the company says. "In fact, 77% of married consumers said they look for the Energy Star label when purchasing appliances versus only 59% of unmarried consumers."

Additionally, 61% of married and 64% of previously married consumers understood what HE means in terms of washers and dryers compared to only 51% of unmarried consumers.

The finding about married vs. single individuals proves that there is a need to communicate the benefits of energy-efficient appliances to more demographics, the company concludes. "This survey points to several gaps—be they marital, gender, or generational—in energy-efficiency awareness," said Michael Todman, president of Whirlpool North America.

The survey also seems to shatter the long-held belief among eco-industry insiders that women are greener than men. It concludes that "71% of males aged 35-44 surveyed are more attuned to high efficiency (HE) laundry products as compared to their female counterparts in the same age group (54%)." 
According to the survey, the majority of consumers age 18-44 would have a HE washer in their dream laundry room, but respondents age 45 or older prefer washers and dryers that are more ergonomically friendly.

Lastly, the survey found that 44% of consumers said they did not know if top-load washers use more energy than front-loaders and 38% believe that they do. This proves that the message about the benefits of HE machines to appliance shoppers needs to be clearer, the company says.

Though energy may be foremost on consumers' minds, Whirlpool and other appliance manufacturers agree that water efficiency is still a vitally important part of the category. "Energy, water, and time efficiency are equally important," says Lonna Dayhoff, associate brand manager at Bosch Home Appliances in Huntington Beach, Calif. "Families demand a lot from their appliances, so Bosch is committed to delivering in all three efficiency areas with no compromises."

Nigel F. Maynard is senior editor for BUILDER magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.