They Like It, They'll Pay, and It Works
In Rochester, New York, two side-by-side townhouses were put on display to the public during the Homearama 1994 home show. Both houses were designer decorated, and they were from the same line of homes, with base prices (before customization) of $119,000. But there was a difference: the builder, Gerber Homes of Ontario, New York, had installed its standard lighting package in one home. In the other, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center (LRC) had installed a custom energy-efficient lighting package. Both the builder and the LRC researchers wanted to know whether customers would appreciate a home with good lighting design that was efficiently lit by full-size fluorescent, compact fluorescent, and halogen reflector lamps.
These two photos show the dining rooms in the conventional (top) and energy-efficient (bottom) homes used in the Homearama lighting project. Surveys of house-hunters found that overall, the energy-efficient lighting was more popular than the more traditional design.
The results were surprising: of 706 people who looked at the two homes, 79% liked the appearance of the efficient lighting as much as or more than the traditional lighting. There were even higher levels of acceptance or preference for efficient lighting in kitchens and bathrooms.
This doesn't mean that efficient lighting alone can appeal to the masses. But it does show that well thought-out design can make fluorescent lamps an appropriate technology for the home. LRC's Rita Koltai carefully designed the efficient lighting in accordance with the LRC's Lighting Pattern Book for Homes (see Lighting Makeovers: The Best Is Not Always the Brightest, HE Nov/Dec '94, p. 20). Lamps and ballasts were selected for their warm color temperature, lack of flicker, and appropriate brightness; fixtures were placed to make tasks more comfortable. The conventional lighting package was relatively poorly designed, with less task lighting, too much glare, and visually unpleasant fluorescent lamps.
Fully 97% of the prospective customers said they would be willing to pay more--half said they would be willing to spend upwards of $825 more--for efficient lighting. However, this alone would not cover the $1,300 difference in cost between the conventional and efficient lighting systems.
The efficiently lit home sold, while the other home did not. However, this cannot be entirely attributed to the lighting, as other custom features also distinguished it from the other house. A year after the home show and survey, the traditionally lit home remained on the market, while the efficiently lit home was operating just fine--the occupants had neither added nor removed any lights, were very satisfied with the lighting, and had low energy bills.