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Looking Into Environment Friendly Lighting

Home Equity Builders hosts "Green Luncheon" to educate remodelers about energy efficient lighting options.

When Mark Scott mentions fluorescent lighting to his clients, it usually elicits the same response.

"My clients generally haven't been that receptive to fluorescent," said Scott, owner of Bethesda-based remodeling company Mark IV Builders.

Despite its energy saving qualities, fluorescent lighting is typically met with limited enthusiasm from homeowners — primarily because they tend to associate it with the ghastly flickering illumination so often found in corporate office buildings. But technological advances in lighting are changing the face of fluorescent bulbs, and as Walter Leisersohn, a representative for Juno Lighting, Forecast, Troy Lighting, Tech Lighting and Emerson Fans said, "today's fluorescent lighting is not your grandmother's fluorescent lighting."

Leisersohn was one of several lighting experts to speak at a special luncheon held on Thursday, March 8 at the Old Brogue in Great Falls. The "Green Luncheon" was arranged and organized by Great Falls resident Jeff Rainey, owner of local remodeling company Home Equity Builders. Since Rainey regularly oversees complete lighting system overhauls in his remodeling projects, he thought it might be useful for he and other local remodelers to learn more about the latest developments in energy efficient lighting.

PAUL VRABEL, president of Energy Star, discussed the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star program which allows lighting products that have met certain government standards of energy efficiency to bear the Energy Star logo. In many states, builders and developers are offered various financial incentives when they use Energy Star products. However, Virginia does not currently employ any such incentives or rebates.

Rainey and several other local remodelers pointed out that such incentives are of little use to them anyway, since they are not builders. Rainey suggested that Vrabel and his organization look into including remodeling companies, particularly since it is a business that is on the rise.

"I'd say the vast majority of us are building additions the size of houses," said Rainey.

According to Vrabel, fluorescent lighting is the most effective in terms of energy efficiency.

"There is a 75 percent savings to be had when we go from incandescent lighting fixtures to fluorescent lighting," said Vrabel.

In addition, Energy Star qualified fixtures typically last six to 10 times longer than traditional incandescent lighting. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if every household in the U.S. changed just one light to an Energy Star version, it would save enough energy to light seven million homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to one million cars.

BURGESS LIGHTING president Tom Early also spoke at last week's "Green Luncheon" and said that there are additional ways to save on energy costs.

"I think we're going to see a transition in the next few years where we see more and more Energy Star compatible products, but any application right now is blended," said Early. "I'm advocating using Energy Star products wherever you can, but dimming is also a major, major energy saver."

Several remodelers pointed out that lighting systems with dimming capabilities are extremely popular with homeowners, but energy efficient dimmers are lacking.

"Unfortunately, the demand isn't there at the current price point being offered," said Vrabel of dimmers.

Tom Early agreed that energy efficient dimmers should be high on the priority list.

"Dimming is a way of life now," said Early. "It creates mood and atmosphere."

Early admitted to being less than proactive in the past in terms of pushing energy efficient lighting when his clients did not ask for it. However, he said that it is important for all builders and remodelers to start utilizing the energy efficient products because they will create the demand and the market.

"We've just started a new initiative to get all of our show rooms to talk about how good lighting can be energy efficient," said Early. "Today, energy efficiency has to be a part of good lighting design."