Top 10 MEP Industry Trends Driving Product Sales in 2024 2027

Top 10 MEP Industry Trends Driving Product Sales in 2024-2027

Apr 04, 2024

Mechan­i­cal, elec­tri­cal and plumb­ing (MEP) projects tend to hap­pen under the sur­face and behind the wall, but they’re crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing the func­tion­al­i­ty and com­fort of a home. With an aging hous­ing inven­to­ry, these types of projects will be as impor­tant as ever in the com­ing years. 

While MEP activ­i­ties mir­ror oth­er home improve­ment projects in sev­er­al ways — how and where mate­ri­als are pur­chased and who’s doing the shop­ping — there are a few notable dis­tinc­tions. For exam­ple, these projects require more spe­cial­ty work, which tends to moti­vate home­own­ers to seek out con­sul­ta­tion and assis­tance from pro­fes­sion­als rather than going the DIY route or rely­ing on ama­teur assis­tance from friends and family.

Tak­ing note of these types of trends and activ­i­ties with­in the MEP indus­try can help both man­u­fac­tur­ers and sup­pli­ers make strate­gic deci­sions around prod­uct devel­op­ment, mar­ket­ing, and pri­or­i­tiz­ing the chan­nels that home­own­ers and con­trac­tors uti­lize when select­ing and pur­chas­ing mechan­i­cal, elec­tri­cal and plumb­ing prod­ucts and materials.

What Trends are Affecting the Future of the MEP Industry?

The types of projects being com­plet­ed by own­ers is not the only fac­tor that dri­ves prod­uct sales for the MEP indus­try. They’re also influ­enced by the customer’s moti­va­tions for under­tak­ing the project, who’s doing the pur­chas­ing (home­own­ers ver­sus pros), and var­i­ous oth­er factors.

Here is a look at some trends that are dri­ving project deci­sions and prod­uct sales to help man­u­fac­tur­ers and sup­pli­ers strate­gize in the com­ing years:

1. The Market for Electrical and Plumbing Supplies is Back to Growing Steadily

After spik­ing in 2021 and 2022, the entire home improve­ment indus­try has returned to a much more steady rate of growth, and the MEP indus­try is no excep­tion. More specif­i­cal­ly, spend­ing for plumb­ing prod­ucts is pro­ject­ed to have slight­ly low­er growth over the next few years than oth­er prod­uct cat­e­gories, while the mar­ket for elec­tri­cal prod­ucts is expect­ed to grow 4.6% this year and anoth­er 2.9% between 2025 and 2028, accord­ing to our March 2024 edi­tion of the U.S. Size of the Home Improve­ment Prod­ucts Mar­ket Study.

There will be slow­er growth among home­own­ers and indi­vid­ual con­sumers through 2028, where­as both prod­uct cat­e­gories (elec­tri­cal and plumb­ing) are pro­ject­ed to have steadi­ly increas­ing growth rates — for the most part — among pro­fes­sion­al contractors. 

The aver­age amount home­own­ers spent on elec­tri­cal projects in 2023 was approx­i­mate­ly $6,622, putting them on the high­er end in terms of costs. Plumb­ing projects, on the oth­er hand, are on the low­er end, with the aver­age amount spent hov­er­ing around $713.

2. Plumbing is the Most Frequently Planned Project for the Whole Home

Accord­ing to our Home Improve­ment Project Activ­i­ty Track­er, about 39% of home­own­ers installed, repaired, or replaced plumb­ing or plumb­ing fix­tures in their mas­ter bath­room in the fourth quar­ter of 2023. This was an increase of 7% from the same quar­ter in 2022. About 37% did a plumb­ing project in their sec­ondary or guest bathroom.

In terms of whole home mechan­ics, installing, repair­ing, or replac­ing plumb­ing or plumb­ing fix­tures was the most fre­quent­ly com­plet­ed activ­i­ty dur­ing the fourth quar­ter of 2023, as well as the most fre­quent­ly planned activ­i­ty for the upcom­ing quar­ter. Addi­tion­al­ly, rough­ly 30% of home­own­ers were plan­ning to do elec­tri­cal work in their kitchen in the first part of 2024.

QoQ Planned Activities Related to Plumbing

3. Electrical and Plumbing Products Have a High Purchase Rate Among New Home Buyers

In recent years, more than 9 in 10 new home buy­ers made improve­ments to their new house to replace old mate­r­i­al, beau­ti­fy the space, or fresh­en it up, accord­ing to HIRI’s Recent Home Buy­er report in 2022.

Elec­tri­cal and light­ing prod­ucts were among the top-five mate­ri­als pur­chased. On the flip side, when it comes to home­own­ers who are mak­ing improve­ments to a house before sell­ing it, about 38% pur­chase some type of plumb­ing products. 

Their pri­ma­ry moti­va­tions for mak­ing improve­ments include increas­ing the val­ue and sell­ing the house faster. 

Among both groups, rough­ly 88% to 90% of home­own­ers list­ed phys­i­cal home cen­ters as a pri­ma­ry source for mate­ri­als, fol­lowed by phys­i­cal depart­ment and dis­count stores. 

We’ve also observed that when it comes to elec­tri­cal sys­tem rewiring projects, home­own­ers shop and pur­chase mate­ri­als at spe­cial­ty elec­tri­cal and light­ing stores at a high­er rate com­pared to the aver­age home improve­ment project, accord­ing to our 2023 Project Deci­sion Study on elec­tri­cal work.

4. Projects Involving Home Mechanics have Remained Steady

Between 2016 and 2022, there wasn’t much move­ment among new home­buy­ers to improve their home mechan­ics, includ­ing heating/​air con­di­tion­ing, plumb­ing, and elec­tric. About one in five home­buy­ers com­plet­ed a project with this focus. Mean­while, kitchens remain the most com­mon­ly improved area of the house, fol­lowed by bath­room ren­o­va­tions. That may be linked to the fact that the most rea­sons for pur­su­ing a project among this group involves beau­ti­fy­ing and fresh­en­ing up the space, while oth­er moti­va­tions — such as increas­ing val­ue, sav­ing on ener­gy costs, or address­ing healthy hous­ing con­cerns — are low­er on the list.

To stay cur­rent on pur­chas­ing behav­iors among new home­buy­ers, keep an eye out for our 2024 Recent Home­buy­er Study, which will become avail­able to HIRI mem­bers in 2024.

5. Homeowners are Motivated by Safety and Security Concerns

In 2023, a large por­tion of projects in the elec­tri­cal sys­tem rewiring realm focused on installing a home automa­tion sys­tem and secu­ri­ty prod­ucts. Research from our 2023 Project Deci­sion Study on elec­tri­cal work found that home safe­ty and secu­ri­ty issues were key, with 49% of home­own­ers cit­ing this as a rea­son for their project. Anoth­er 42% ref­er­enced their goal to update their home and add fea­tures, while 37% were inter­est­ed in inte­grat­ing more automa­tion and convenience. 

In par­tic­u­lar, secu­ri­ty cam­eras have become the most preva­lent prod­uct in this cat­e­go­ry, see­ing an instal­la­tion rate increase from 42% in 2015 to 73% in 2023 among home­own­ers who installed home safe­ty and secu­ri­ty rates. Alarm sys­tems and sen­sors are the next most pop­u­lar safe­ty and secu­ri­ty prod­uct installed, but with decreas­ing instal­la­tion inci­dence over the past decade. These num­bers pro­vide some indi­ca­tion that demand for these projects could be dri­ven in part by the resale of homes, which was up in 2021, but down in 2023.

6. Male Heads of Home are Most Likely to Initiate Electrical and Plumbing Projects

Where­as female heads of home (HOH) have a slight­ly high­er ini­ti­a­tion rate among all projects, elec­tri­cal sys­tem rewiring projects are one area where male HOHs are more than twice as like­ly to initiate. 

For plumb­ing projects, that num­ber is much clos­er to the aver­age, with male HOHs sur­fac­ing the idea to do 47% of the projects and female HOHs inde­pen­dent­ly ini­ti­at­ing 39%. The pri­ma­ry rea­son for both plumb­ing and elec­tri­cal work is updat­ing and repair­ing, and these projects are also less moti­vat­ed by weath­er and sea­son than the aver­age of all home improve­ment projects. 

Anoth­er find­ing of inter­est is that it takes near­ly twice as long for home­own­ers to pur­sue an elec­tri­cal project once the idea is seed­ed, com­pared to all home improve­ment projects. While the aver­age amount of time between hav­ing the idea for a home improve­ment project and then mak­ing a deci­sion to pur­sue it is rough­ly 9 months, it’s clos­er to 15 months for elec­tri­cal sys­tem projects. 

The oppo­site is true for the time it takes to get start­ed on plumb­ing projects. For plumb­ing work, it drops down to approx­i­mate­ly four months, accord­ing to data from our 2023 Project Deci­sion Study on Plumb­ing Repair/​Replacement.

7. Homeowners Lean on Contractors for Electrical and Plumbing Work

Where­as one-fifth of home­own­ers hire a con­trac­tor for all home improve­ment projects, that num­ber jumps to one-third for elec­tri­cal sys­tem activ­i­ties and also one-third for plumb­ing repairs and replace­ments. In gen­er­al, home­own­ers are less like­ly to do these types of projects with the help of fam­i­ly and friends and more like­ly to go with a pro. 

So, the ques­tion becomes, how many Pros are pur­chas­ing mate­ri­als for these projects in a giv­en year? Our 2023 Con­trac­tor Prod­uct Pur­chase Inci­dence report found that among pro­fes­sion­al con­trac­tors, elec­tri­cal wiring has the high­est prod­uct pur­chase inci­dence with 31% of all pro­fes­sion­als pur­chas­ing some­thing in that cat­e­go­ry in the past 12 months. The medi­an spend was approx­i­mate­ly $340 — low­er than big-bud­get items like portable elec­tri­cal gen­er­a­tors and home secu­ri­ty systems. 

Electrical / Lighting Products Annual Spend, Number of Purchases, and Loyalty to Preferred Brand

Most electrical/​lighting prod­ucts have a sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er pur­chase inci­dence among gen­er­al­ists than among spe­cial­ists, but there are a few prod­ucts for which spe­cial­ists spend more annu­al­ly, such as break­ers, con­duits, elec­tri­cal tools, and elec­tri­cal wiring, and exte­ri­or light­ing fix­tures. Pros tend to show the most brand loy­al­ty for indi­vid­ual prod­ucts when it comes to elec­tri­cal tools and testers; portable elec­tri­cal gen­er­a­tors; and cen­tral ven­ti­la­tion systems.

Updat­ed prod­uct pur­chase inci­dence infor­ma­tion will become avail­able to HIRI mem­bers in the upcom­ing 2024 Prod­uct Pur­chase Track­ing Study.

8. Household Heads Tend to Shop Independently for Plumbing Products

When it comes to plumb­ing projects, about a quar­ter includ­ed installing or replac­ing a toi­let in 2023 — sim­i­lar to the per­cent­age in 2015. One fea­ture that has dropped off over the past few years is installing or replac­ing pipes, which has seen a 12% decrease since 2015. 

When it comes to select­ing and pur­chas­ing mate­ri­als for plumb­ing projects, house­hold heads, both male and female, are more like­ly to make choic­es on their own. About two thirds did the shop­ping, pur­chas­ing and deliv­ery arrange­ments for their plumb­ing projects. 

The key cri­te­ria used in pick­ing out prod­ucts and mate­ri­als in this cat­e­go­ry were the dura­bil­i­ty, or being long-last­ing, and price. Anoth­er 29% of con­sumers men­tioned water usage reduc­tion as a cri­te­ri­on for plumb­ing products.

9. More Homeowners Undertake Plumbing Projects on Older Homes

The hous­es where plumb­ing projects are tak­ing place tend to have slight­ly less val­ue and be small­er and old­er com­pared to the total of all home improve­ment project res­i­dences. About 82%, a sig­nif­i­cant major­i­ty, were exist­ing homes when the cur­rent home­own­er moved in. 

About three-fifths of indi­vid­u­als under­tak­ing these projects tend to stay in their homes for­ev­er, com­pared to rough­ly 44% for total home improve­ment projects. The per­cent­age of projects that involve repairs (ver­sus replace­ments or addi­tions) increased 10% from 2015 to 2023, accord­ing to research from our 2023 Project Deci­sion Study on Plumb­ing Repair/​Replacement.

Plumbing Repair/ Replacement Residence Characteristics - Time in Residence

10. Customers Purchase PVC Piping More Often

Anoth­er trend that MEP man­u­fac­tur­ers and sup­pli­ers should be mind­ful of is that cus­tomer pref­er­ences relat­ed to mate­ri­als are chang­ing. For instance, in 2019, about half of cus­tomers used PVC pipe for a project; that num­ber increased to 70% in 2023. Mean­while, cop­per pipe was used for near­ly one-fifth of projects in 2015, but only 5% last year. Sim­i­lar­ly, PEX pip­ing was used by 23% in 2019, but only by 8% in 2023.

Keeping Up with Trends for MEP Products and Materials

Prod­uct inci­dence rate. Project home char­ac­ter­is­tics. Project moti­va­tors and spend­ing. Pur­chase behav­iors among pros and DIY home­own­ers. These are just a few of the fac­tors that change over time and will impact the deci­sions you make regard­ing your build­ing prod­ucts strategy. 

The Home Improve­ment Research Insti­tute (HIRI) has the data you need. Mem­bers have access to a wide vari­ety of research that digs deep into spe­cif­ic home improve­ment project types and prod­uct cat­e­gories to give you the infor­ma­tion you need to make informed deci­sions for your com­pa­ny. HIRI is a non-prof­it, and func­tions sim­i­lar­ly to a co-op, with mem­ber dues being pooled to fund approx­i­mate­ly $1M of research annu­al­ly, all for a nom­i­nal annu­al mem­ber­ship due.

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