There's a new clutch of surveys indicating that new home buyers and renters are hungry for energy efficient housing and investors are backing new businesses to give them what they want.
The news comes as sustainability advocates make a new push to electrify everything in homes as a way to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels that cause global warming.
Advocates are urging consumers to exchange methane gas heaters with heat pumps, gas stoves with induction ovens, and boilers with electric hot water heaters. Recent studies show that these moves not only make homes more sustainable, they also reduce exposure to noxious gases that come with a whole host of health problems.
The most significant health risks happen when the stove is lit, according to an October study published in Environmental Science and Technology, because the process creates nitrogen dioxide as a byproduct. In a small kitchen, that can mean stoves generate emissions levels above national health standards. For children that live in homes with gas stoves, that can mean a 42% higher chance of experiencing asthmatic symptoms and a 24% higher risk of being diagnosed with lifetime asthma.
Beyond the health hazards, the environmental benefits mean that consumers just want these efficient homes.
A report out of London from the German-based utility E.on indicates that 81% of Gen Z buyers and 74% of Millennials would pay more for a property that came with a heat pump or electric vehicle charger.
A vast majority of these same (European) buyers surveyed would reject properties that didn't meet minimum energy efficiency standards. Gen X is falling behind on its renewable bona fides, according to the study, which a meager 26% responding that they'd speak to their landlords about upgrades.
The new research mirrors other studies suggesting that across the Western world younger homeowners and renters are looking for a the sustainable green options -- and are willing to pay more to get it.
These studies are creating incentives for a range of new services that homeowners can use to upgrade their homes to prep for a potential sale, that single-family rental property owners can use to make their homes more attractive, and that multi-tenant building owners can roll out for their own buildings.
New York-based companies like the FootPrint Coalition-backed startup, Sealed, which focuses on homeowners, or BlocPower, which targets multi-tenant buildings, and the single-family rental property-focused business, Elevation.
Between them, these startups have raised tens of millions of dollars to give a new generation of homeowners and renters the tools they need to live more sustainably.
And each takes a slightly different approach. Sealed provides home owners with energy efficient upgrades at no cost to make houses fossil fuel free and ensure that they're not leaking heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. That means no more cold toes or additional space heaters in winter and no more fans in the summer.
At BlocPower, energy efficient upgrades and workforce training initiatives go hand in hand to bring energy efficient and internet-enabled infrastructure to multi-tenant properties which sorely need them.
Meanwhile, Elevation, which just raised funding from an investment firm called Bernhard Capital Management to grow its business, is focused on the property owners that have multiple rental locations.
"The single-family rental market is growing exponentially, and when that kind of scale is coupled with sustainable energy solutions, the impact is incredible," said Greg Fasullo, CEO of Elevation, in a statement. "With the implementation of our energy solution on just 1,000 homes, more than 8,400 metric tons of CO2 can be avoided. When that is scaled across tens of thousands of homes, entire coal-burning power plants can be replaced."
By leveraging its proprietary Curb energy management technology along with renewable solar energy, Elevation brings low-cost renewable energy to renters through institutional single-family rental home operators, the company said.
It can also potentially bundle those projects and become an independent power provider to utilities around the country.
Over in Europe, the chief executive of E.on's UK energy efficiency operations is encouraged by the rising consumer demand.
"Everyone, whatever their age group, wants a comfortable home that's easy to heat and we know improving a home's energy efficiency is the most effective way to help lower energy use and bills, and help the country take action for the climate," said Michael Lewis, the chief executive of E.on UK. "Heat pumps and other sustainable technologies are crucial tools to help to reduce the emissions from heating our homes and to make sure we are less reliant on foreign gas supplies in the future."
As Sealed's chief executive Lauren Salz recently told Axios, these businesses are a way to bridge the messaging from climate advocates with effective action to get products in the hands of consumers
"I think many people looking at climate space have the perspective of, it's imperative to electrify homes," Salz told Axios in an interview. "They throw money at that problem to get results, but it won't get us where we need to be without a deep understanding of homeowners."