Companies that want to sell themselves as “green” and environmentally friendly must address product cost concerns as well as put their own money where their mouth is - or else face rising skepticism with a cost-conscious and more discerning U.S. consumer, according to a national study that evaluates the consumer mindset on energy use and conservation.

The third annual Shelton Group Energy Pulse study indicates that the current economy and housing market decline may be driving a decreased consumer enthusiasm for energy-efficient homes and other green home products.

The 2007 Energy Pulse documents that purchase intention for every energy-efficient home product evaluated is down from the study’s 2006 results. For example, only 69 percent of consumers would choose one home over another based on energy-efficiency, down from 86 percent who said they would do so in 2006.

“Even with all the talk today about consumers seeking to save energy costs and help the environment, the shaky housing market and other recent economic uncertainties prove that wallets are still driving many Americans’ green purchase decisions,” said Shelton Group CEO Suzanne Shelton, who independently sponsors the Energy Pulse study. “As it stands, ‘energy-efficient’ is consistently equated to ‘more expensive’ in the minds of consumers for products across the board.

“But saying ‘save money’ when advertising an energy-efficient product isn’t necessarily good enough,” she noted. “Our research shows that consumers want proof. Messages also need to offer other subtle suggestions such as happiness, safety, peace of mind and security in order to resonate with what consumers desire.”

On the home front, in both new construction and home renovation, aesthetic features register as a high priority alongside energy efficiency, according to the survey. When asked, “Given an extra $10,000 in your construction budget for discretionary items, which of the following would you choose?” the top answers were:

  • Granite counter tops (26 percent)
  • Higher efficiency HVAC unit (24 percent)
  • Upgraded or additional energy-efficient kitchen appliances (21 percent)
  • Additional tile or hardwood (21 percent)
  • Indoor air purification system (18 percent)

    When asked, “If you were given $10,000 to make home renovations, which one or two things would you do?” the top answers were:

  • Replace carpet or add hardwood or tile (31 percent)
  • Refinish kitchen or bathroom (29 percent)
  • Repaint interior or exterior (27 percent
  • Replace windows (23 percent)

    The entire Energy Pulse study will be released Oct. 8, 2007; to purchase a copy, go to