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Getting the word out on energy savings

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When it comes to educating customers about the many “unseen” benefits of awnings and shade structures, such as energy savings, fabricators have often had to speak in generalities, lacking hard data to show customers how to save actual dollars in energy costs.
The Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA) released its first energy study in 2007, with John Carmody, director of the Center for Sustainable Building Research at the University of Minnesota. In the summer of 2012, PAMA released its second energy study, entitled “PAMA Energy Study: The Impact of Energy and Peak Demand of Awnings and Roller Shades in Residential Buildings,” authored by Yu Joe Huang, White Box Technologies, Moraga, Calif.

PAMA has been actively publicizing the study, seeking to educate consumers around the country. “We have promoted it through a number of news releases, indicating that the data is available for customers to use to identify the potential energy savings they could get by installing awnings or exterior roller shades on their homes,” says Michelle Sahlin, managing director of PAMA. The study looks at 50 metropolitan areas across the U.S., meaning that most people can find a city that is nearby and represents their climatic area. Customers simply visit the PAMA website, select the city in which they live or are closest to, and then receive a five-page report on the potential energy savings that they could achieve.

In addition to news releases, PAMA has promoted the study with e-letters to targeted influencers, including state energy agencies and associations and relevant media outlets. One target audience has been utility companies, which often provide educational information to their customers. “For example, they may send fliers to their customers explaining steps they can take to reduce their energy bills,” says Sahlin. “They may also include this information on their websites.”

Individual manufacturers may also use the study to market directly to their own customers and prospects. “We certainly do promote the study as an industry awareness piece,” says Ed Keough, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Futureguard Building Products Inc., Auburn, Maine. “We put it on our blog, and we notify our dealers about it, since we are a dealer-based manufacturer. We encourage our dealers to use this information when they are on sales calls to inform customers that there really is quantifiable data showing how much energy they can save, as well as how comfort can be improved.”

The study focuses on shade to windows and the cooling effect inside a home. “However, the bigger part of our industry from a residential point of view is patio awnings, both fixed and retractable,” says Keough. He has found that the idea of feeling cooler in the shade under an awning, although it is not a direct part of the study, relates enough so dealers can use it as an awareness and marketing tool. “In addition, if people have the patio awning open a few feet, that shading will also provide direct energy savings inside the house,” he adds. “In sum, having the study is an excellent way to at least get customers to begin to associate the two—the actual energy savings, as well as the ‘feeling cooler’ outside.”

William Atkinson is a freelance writer and editor based in Carterville, Ill.

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