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John Henson on his white roof in Bloomingdale.

If Energy Secretary Steven Chu had his way, Americans would be painting their roofs white as often as homeowners in the Greek isles.

While speaking in London in late May, he extolled the virtues of white roofs as one of the easiest, simplest ways to lower energy costs.

“If that building is air-conditioned, it’s going to be a lot cooler, it can use 10 or 15 percent less electricity,” he said.

The sentiment was not lost on Bloomingdale resident John Henson.

He bought his Bryant Street brick town house in Bloomingdale in 2002. Five years ago, he painted his roof white.

“It’s sort of common sense when you think of the colors that reflect heat the best. Most of the homes in Florida have a white roof coating,” he says.

As far as the tangible benefits, Henson says it’s hard to detect changes on his energy bill because he doesn’t have central air-conditioning. But he can feel the difference in temperature, especially on the top level of his house.

So when he spotted an article mentioning Chu’s comments, he quickly sent a note out to the local Listserv encouraging his neighbors to follow his lead, noting: “You can take a TAX CREDIT in 2009 as part of the President’s stimulus initiative.”

The idea’s not a new one brought to us by the Obama administration. When Washington City Paper contacted the Department of Energy for more information, spokesperson Jen Stutsman forwarded a nine-year-old DOE Web page outlining white roof coatings.

But they’ve yet to catch on here. Henson says he knows of one other District resident with a white roof—a friend of his who put on a protective coating that just happened to be white. It wasn’t a statement, but he says his buddy is reaping lower A/C bills as a result.

“It turns out, it saved him $20 a month,” says Henson.

Image by Darrow Montgomery