Energy savings version 2.0

BY Ken Ryan

Ron Jarvis, VP environmental innovation for The Home Depot, said he is “extremely impressed” with how consumers are not just asking for, but demanding, energy-efficient products for their homes — this despite an unsteady economy. 

But thanks to strong marketing programs and ongoing education about the long-term cost-effectiveness of energy-efficient products — and 20 years of Energy Star promotions — customers are opting for products that will save them energy and money.

“Many products are now carrying labels that educate the consumer on how the product has energy-efficiency improvements,” Jarvis said. “This is creating an expectation for continual improvement and transparency in energy-consuming products.”

Hot products 

From water heater jackets to programmable thermostats and LED lighting, the number of home improvement products that fall under the energy-efficient umbrella is ever expanding. Many dealers and manufacturers say that lighting products have amplified this movement.

“The light bulb legislation is certainly driving a lot of the interest, but I think folks are realizing the amount of energy they can save by switching to more efficient technologies, such as halogen, CFLs or LEDs,” said Bruce Frank, global product merchant-electrical, True Value.

Frank said that in his area, there are many inquiries about alternative sources of light that are more energy efficient. “There is also a good deal of interest in converting linear fluorescent fixtures from the old, inefficient T-12s to the more efficient T-8s, but this is mostly coming from commercial and retail outlets,” he said.

Jarvis said Home Depot is looking for continued growth in compact fluorescent and LED bulbs, “as American consumers learn of their tremendous savings (75% to 85%, he estimated) over incandescent bulbs.”

LED bulbs, for example, save energy, eliminate maintenance and last for years, and are longer-lasting than fluorescent, halogen and incandescent lighting combined, Frank said. “There is a lot of curiosity and interest in LEDs, but I think the cost is a bit of a barrier to purchase for most consumers,” he said. “It is difficult for them to understand the need to go from light bulbs for under $2 for a four-pack to something that is $20 to $40. They understand there is a benefit, but I don’t think they see the value just yet.”

Other home energy offerings that are resonating in the marketplace include:

• Energy meters with LCD display: These meters allow users to find out how much energy their electronics and appliances are using, and how to minimize the use.

• Solar-powered motion sensor outdoor lights: With these efficient lights, homeowners can harness the power of the sun to keep their rechargeable batteries up and running every day. Hanging lanterns, driveway reflectors and other systems are also charged by day so they light up at night.

• Programmable thermostats are rated as the No. 1 energy-saving purchase a homeowner can make, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute. One popular product is the Energy Star-rated Honeywell RTH7500D Conventional 7-Day Programmable Thermostat, which features weeklong programming and four programmable periods per day, allowing users to zone each room of the home to the exact degree. 

Projects that have short-term paybacks like water heater jackets, programmable thermostats and re-insulate/seal will be implemented in many households in 2012, according to retailers. “As the economy improves, we will see larger projects like replacing windows, doors and HVACs gain momentum,” Jarvis said.

Evolution of home-energy products 

Advancements in computing and mobile technology have allowed for many more products to enter the market, said Ann Bailey, director of Energy Star Product Labeling for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At the same time, Bailey said, this advancement also requires more devices to be plugged in and charged.

“Battery capacity and efficiency is a greater priority than it has been before, and Energy Star is working to revise the battery charger specification to include more kinds of chargers,” she said. “Also, connectivity is seen as the future of consumer products. Computers, lights and even appliances may be able to be controlled remotely through a mobile phone or tablet. This would provide an opportunity for devices to be powered down when not in use or put in use during non-peak hours." 

With lighting advancements, there is greater focus on making the upfront costs a little more palatable for users seeking higher-end, energy-efficient light bulbs, Frank said, adding, “Consumers see the benefits of the products, but the costs need to be more reasonable for them to see them as a value.”

Light bulb manufacturers have worked to improve the performance of their products to address these concerns, Frank said. Shortening the warm-up time of CFLs to where they are at 80% or better brightness within a very short period of time is just one example.

GE has incorporated a halogen capsule inside some of their CFLs, Frank said. “The halogen comes on at full brightness immediately, then turns off after the CFL has warmed up. Manufacturers have also worked to improve the dimmability, reduce the mercury content and develop covered bulbs that look like regular incandescents,” he added.

Marketing clout 

In the past, federal and state rebate or credit programs have had a positive impact on consumer purchases of energy-efficient products. However, the 2010 ARRA stimulus program is almost completely depleted, and no additional federal or state programs of this magnitude are on the horizon.

Industry leaders said that many consumers were turned off by earlier versions of so-called energy-efficient products because of their deficiencies. Over time, however, there has been a concerted effort among manufacturers and retailers — buttressed by Energy Star — to make consumers and other users aware that the newer products perform better, and many of the faults have been rectified.

“We are constantly trying to convince consumers to put aside their objections, either real or imagined, and to try the new products out,” True Value’s Frank said. “There has been a renewed emphasis on the earth-friendliness of the products, but there is still a lot of focus on the value that it represents.

“I think that you can convince consumers more so if you can show them there is a value to the product. It might cost 50 cents for an incandescent bulb and about $4 for a CFL, but over the life of that CFL, the incandescent will cost you $5 in replacements and an additional $50 in energy costs.”


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M.Wallbergg says:
May-16-2012 12:31 pm

The halogen comes on at full
The halogen comes on at full brightness immediately, then turns off after the CFL has warmed up. Manufacturers have also worked to improve the dimmability, reduce the mercury content and develop covered bulbs that look like regular incandescents mallorca

M.Wallbergg says:
May-16-2012 11:12 am

Light bulb manufacturers have
Light bulb manufacturers have worked to improve the performance of their products to address these concerns marmaris yachts

S.Agrawal says:
May-14-2012 04:03 pm

“It is difficult for them to
“It is difficult for them to understand the need to go from light bulbs for under $2 for a four-pack to something that is $20 to $40"...... At first impression it might look costly but besides saving energy LEDs are more cost effective in the long run because they way longer than a traditional bulb. The life of an LED is around 12 times that of a bulb. I hope this will help and encourage people to go for LED bulbs rather than high electricity consuming typical bulbs. cost effective tablet pc



What impact will the South Dakota vs. Wayfair ruling have on brick-and-mortar retailing?

Walking the aisles


During the Internationale Eisenwarenmesse in Cologne, Germany, a steady stream of taxis shuttled visitors from the convention center, across the railroad tracks and to a home center at 20 Istanbul Strasse. That’s where one of the biggest, latest, modern Bauhaus home center attracts customers from this ancient city on the Rhine.

Coming out of a cab, one visitor from China asked a reporter: “Did they allow you to take photos?”

Answer: Well, nobody said we couldn’t.

The store is a high-profile location of the chain launched in 1960 by Heinz Baus in Mannheim. The company doesn’t have the distinction of being Germany’s largest chain (that would be OBI.) But Bauhaus stores are the biggest. The Colossus of German retailing measures about 25,000 square meters — a whopping 260,000 sq. ft. — and lays out like a double-dog leg par 5, anchored at one end by the Stadtgarten garden center and the other by the drive-through lumberyard called the “Drive-In Arena.”

The first sign that you’re not in Kansas anymore: no blacktop in the parking lot. Instead, it’s a see of red paving stones. Another foreign accent is the bakeshop attached to the entry — the Bauhaus Bistro.

Once inside, things begin to look more familiar for the American visitor — right down to the orange signage and orange metal racking. (A visitor would perhaps find it curious to have an orange color scheme inside, but a red color scheme outside the store.) Some of the brands will make the visitor feel at home, too: For instance, an Energizer Battery Center endcap, Shop Vac, Skil power tools and a dominant display of Bosch power tools, which makes sense, given Bosch’s German roots.

Displays of Dremmel and the Fein Multi-Master are familiar as well. Metabo and Toolson by Bauhaus, not so much.

The 30-ft. ceiling throughout the home center allows for some aerial creativity, such as strung-from-the ceiling boats in the marine aisle and a double-decker display of doors. The ceiling also sets the stage for energy-saving skylights, extremely common among German retailers.

The sheer length of the store’s main arteries gives the appearance of endless home improvement options — certainly a strength of the store but also a weakness. Nothing this big can be an easy in and out for a time-pressed customer.

But it would be hard to improve on the organization of the store, which offers the feeling of different “neighborhoods” from aisle to aisle — from Der Stadtgarten to the Tischlerei (woodworking). If you have the time — and several attendees of the Internationale Eisenwarenmesse made the time — there’s plenty to see, and it’s often interesting and attractive.


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What impact will the South Dakota vs. Wayfair ruling have on brick-and-mortar retailing?

Reporter’s notebook: Eisenwarenmesse means business

BY Ken Clark

Cologne, Germany — In the hallway connecting the multiple levels of show floors here at the sprawling Koelnmesse exhibition center, Manfred Maus, the famous pioneer of German home center retailing and founder of OBI, is pacing while talking on his cell phone. He later tells a reporter that home centers maybe should rethink their model.

On an escalator going up, John Herbert, the secretary of the European DIY-Retail Association, is promoting European retailing in a general way to a reporter going down. Stores on the continent are getting better, he said, but they still can learn a lot from U.S. retailers’ commitment to customer service.

And elsewhere on the show floor, Frank Blake is spotted. Not in person, but on a magazine cover, proclaiming in German: “Den Turnaround Geschafft.” Translated: “The turnaround is finished.” It’s not something that Blake or anyone else in Atlanta would say, but we’re not in Atlanta. We’re in Cologne, Germany.

This ancient city on the Rhine hosted some 53,500 trade visitors from 130 countries for the 2012 Internationale Eisenwarenmesse, or International Hardware Fair. The four-day event also attracted 2,665 suppliers from 50 countries.

Those numbers are up from 2010 but down from 2008, when the every-other-year-show co-located with a DIY-focused Practical World event. And even with an occasional language barrier, there is no shortage of notebook entries for the English-speaking reporter.

• Maus is easy to identify with his mane of white hair, especially as he gestures while speaking on his cell phone between halls. When he hangs up, he is ambushed for an interview.

On the need for a new business model: “My children and my grandchildren will buy completely different than we buy. After 40 years of a retail concept, somebody has to sit down and find out what has to be done. “

On store size: “The question is, do we need a 15,000-square-meter or 25,000-square-meter store. I think it’s just too much.”

On the shifting power of retail merchandising: “Years ago I was always impressed about retail merchandising in the U.S. Today, I feel we in Europe have more know-how in presenting the merchandise in specialty stores.”

• There were 83 companies on the show floor here promoting their products. One of them is M.K. Morse, based in Canton, Ohio, with warehouses here in Europe. “The European market puts a lot of weight on ‘Made in the USA,’ ” said Alan Peterson, general product manager. “They like to see it and they like to promote it.”

• American companies aren’t the only ones with product pride. At the DeWit booth, a Dutch manufacturer of wooden handled-garden tools and shovels, S. de Wit explained, “Germans like tools made in Holland.”

What about made-in-the-USA products? “They’re OK,” he said. “I drive a Cadillac and a Buick.”

• Also at the DeWit booth, and a handful of other booths, attendees openly smoke cigarettes with no fear of rebuke or stigma. You don’t see that  at trade shows in the United States.

• The Eisenwarenmesse encourages its reputation as a showcase of product innovation. To that end, three products were celebrated at a reception during the show.

From Gedore, the Dremaster DMK 200, the adjustable tubular torque wrench with square box profile and integrated ratchet for controlled right and left tightening, has a selectable scale for torque units — in both English and metric.

From Knipex, the Twin Force power-side cutter tool uses a double joint that pushes the fulcrum closer to the cut, generating more mechanical advantage for the user.

From Rhodius, the diamond-coated triple blades of the Braintools All-in-one, cuts a groove through cement and removes the rubble, making a quick job out of laying a drain or conduit through a hard material.

• At the Arrow Fastener Co. booth, there’s a feeling that Europe is the next frontier of expansion. Roberto Izaguirre, VP international sales, told Home Channel News that international growth is one of Arrow’s priorities.

“What Americans are very good at is understanding the consumer better than the European companies,” Izaguirre said.

On display were some of the new products in the Arrow quiver, including a Forward Action stapler and products designed with the female user in mind — smaller, more user-friendly staple guns.



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What impact will the South Dakota vs. Wayfair ruling have on brick-and-mortar retailing?