Consumer Acceptance Of New Light Bulbs Bodes Well For The Metal Roofing Industry
By Scott Kriner, Green Metal Consulting
What can we learn from the lightbulb? The development of the lightbulb dates back to 1835 when James Bowman Lindsay reportedly demonstrated the concept. Although his claims are not well documented, he is often referred to as being the inventor of the incandescent light bulb. Thomas Edison began serious research in 1878 to develop a practical incandescent lamp and acquired many patents on the technology.
For over 100 years since those early demonstrations the incandescent light bulb has been used for residential and commercial lighting fixtures, with little change. Of course the incandescent bulb gives off heat, with 90% of the energy they use being given off as heat. As our society has grown more sensitive to energy efficiency, incandescent light bulbs were targeted by Congress and were swept up into efficiency standards enacted in 2007. That legislation required higher efficiency standards for all lamps, including incandescent bulbs commencing on January 1, 2012. It’s interesting to note that the legislation did not actually ban the sale of incandescent bulbs as many believe. One of the dirty little secret s in Washington, DC that was recently revealed points out that in the omnibus federal appropriations bill that Congress passed in December 2011 to keep the government running, a provision was added banning the DOE from enforcing the law on higher lighting efficiency, at least until October 2012. So in reality, there is a nine-month grace period on inefficient light bulbs.
According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll taken in February 2011, two-thirds of Americans support the lighting standard (61% call it a good law), and five-sixths (84%) are satisfied or very satisfied with the alternative bulbs on the market.
Many believe that they have no choice but to purchase alternatives to the incandescent lamps. Halogen, compact fluorescent, and LED are the main options. And this is where the metal roofing industry can learn from what is taking place. Consumers have already noticed that the alternative light bulbs are much more expensive than the conventional incandescents. But the marketing of these bulbs educates the consumer that the newer bulbs outlast the incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs last 1000 - 2500 hours; halogens 3000-6000 hours; CFLs 8,000-15,000 hours and LEDs over 50,000 hours.
So consumers now recognize the benefit of life cycle cost comparisons. They understand that a higher cost lamp will often result in fewer replacements over time and less maintenance. They equate fewer replacements with cost savings and less waste. They also recognize the longer lasting lamps are also more energy efficient and can allow a homeowner to save on utility bills. Today’s consumers see all of these features as being components of a “greener” way of lighting space in their homes and buildings.
A recent Wall Street Journal article showed that lower maintenance costs are driving companies like Walmart, GNC, and Caesars Entertainment to retrofit their specialized lighting fixtures to LEDs. The building owners are finding that the maintenance cost for the longer lasting light fixture is dramatically decreased which acts to offset the higher initial cost.
It’s amazing how quickly consumers have accepted the higher up-front cost of the newer bulbs and embraced the benefit of longer life, better efficiency and sustainability. In a way, this is exactly what the metal construction industry needs to accomplish when promoting metal roofing. The analogies to light bulbs are worth noting. The industry recognizes that a metal roof will often be more expensive in its initial installed cost compared to conventional roofing types. The industry knows that metal is a very durable long-lasting product that requires little maintenance, infrequent replacement or repair. Building owners and designers recognize the energy efficiency of metal roofing and they are aware that the higher recycled content and recyclability helps the environment. But the connecting of all of the dots has not taken place in large fashion.
Sure there is a big difference between a light bulb possibly lasting 10,000 hours (about two years of service if left on for 15 hours per day) versus a roof on a building or home that may last more than 50 years. The size of the roof is different. The function of the roof is different. The impact that the roof makes on the value of the home/building is different. The initial cost is different. And the occupancy of the building or home relative to the life of the roof is different. But the mindset and thinking on the part of the owner should be no different for roofing than it is for light bulbs.
It is undoubtedly difficult to sell a building component as important as a roof based on life-cycle costs. Many building owners have a budget for initial construction, a budget for maintenance, and a budget for repair/renovation. And often neither the budgets nor the professionals responsible for those budgets are coordinated and aligned for long term considerations. As the default, then, the initial cost is often the only cost discussed at the point of sale.
But we can hope that as more consumers become comfortable with the concept of life cycle cost, even through the simple illustration of a light bulb purchase, they will become more open to the cost strategies, features and long term benefits of metal roofing. Even in the B2B world, the mindset can be changed to look beyond the initial cost of a roof and recognize significant savings and benefits of a long-lasting roof over the life of a building.
It’s a bright idea!
Scott Kriner is the president and founder of Green Metal Consulting Inc. He is a LEED Accredited Professional who began his career in the metal construction industry in 1981. His company is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the California Association of Building Energy Consultants and the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). Scott can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (610) 966-2430. You can also visit him on the web at www.greenmetalconsulting.com.
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