Last week, we included the white roof recommendation in our list if five summertime energy savings tips. It was advice straight from U.S. Energy Secretary Chu, but because Chu initially spoke of the value of white roofs on The Daily Show last year, some people did not take him seriously.
Last week, Chu made clear how serious he was when he directed all Energy Department offices to install white roofs during new construction. Many news sites reporting on the development could not resist the headline, White is the new green. The New York Times noted that the benefits of white roofs go beyond simply reducing cooling costs. They actually can help keep entire cities cooler, by mitigating the “heat island effect,” in which large concentrations of dark, heat absorbent surfaces like asphalt serve to make urban areas hotter than surrounding regions. (No, you weren’t imagining that!)
And if constructing buildings with light roofs seems too simple a solution, or one that should have been considered more seriously years ago, that’s true. It is a simple solution, but it also works. By promoting this kind of low-tech, common sense approach to saving power, Chu is underscoring the importance of the individual steps that we can all take. Yes, many of our future energy savings will come from advanced scientific breakthroughs. Nuy that will not discount the value of the simpler approaches that have been around for centuries.
At times in the past some of those simple energy conservation approaches – such as wearing heavy sweaters indoors during wintertime or keeping car tires properly inflated – have been received with ridicule, as if they were not sufficient to make a meaningful difference. By promoting the decidedly low-tech approach of white roofing, Chu is making clear that every little bit counts, and collectively can make a big difference.