More wealthy Americans are seeing their homes as a key component of retirement savings.

Researchers at Phoenix Companies Inc., Hartford, have published that finding in a summary of results from a recent survey of 1,700 U.S. residents with at least $1 million in net worth.

About 14% of those survey participants said they see the equity in their primary residence as a major part of their retirement savings, up from 10% in 2008 and 12% in 2007.

The finding appears to suggest a greater role for home equity products such as reverse mortgages in high-net-worth individuals’ retirement plans, says Walter Zultowski, a senior vice president at Phoenix.

Usually, home equity-linked products have been used mainly by less affluent households, Zultowski says. The decline in the economy may be forcing more affluent Americans to think of their homes as a potential source of cash for maintaining their post-retirement standard of living, he says.

But demand for the large homes that wealthy families typically own started falling even before the current economic crisis hit, and many high-net-worth families already are tapping their home equity, Zultowski says.

The percentage of survey participants with a home equity loan or line of credit has increased to 41% this year, from 34% last year, Zultowski reports.

The percentage of participants with lines of home equity credit that have not yet been used has increased to 21%, from 8%.

Some of those participants may be hoping to use their home equity to protect against the effects of the economic downturn, Zultowski says.