Here are photos and a review of one of Best Buy’s new Home Energy sections at its stores, which will sell gear to help home owners reduce energy consumption. While the section is waaay at the back, it’s designed to educate shoppers and promote interactivity.

Best Buy's Home Energy section

SAN CARLOS, Calif. — Retail giant Best Buy announced last week that it’s making a modest bet on selling home energy gear to consumers via a new web portal and new Home Energy sections at just three stores nationwide. The three store sections — in San Carlos, Calif; Chicago; and Willowbrook, Texas — were officially unveiled on Sunday, and I stopped by the San Carlos store to see what the experience was like. The reality is that home energy gear can be, well, kind of boring.

The Home Energy section in the San Carlos, Calif. store is placed waaaay at the back on the left side. It’s pretty much the furthest section from the front. The placement is understandable, because the store will likely sell far more video games, music hardware, and computer gear than tools to help home owners cut energy consumption.

The section’s layout did, however, seem to spark interest from shoppers with its interactive layout. Home Energy control panels are connected to refrigerators, lamps, lights, heating and cooling systems, showing shoppers how the digital energy home could be connected. An interactive booth where customers can turn lights on and off and an employee can talk to potential customers enabled shoppers to learn about the benefits and price points of LEDs vs CFLs. For many Best Buy shoppers, it could be the first time they’ve even thought about using these types of efficiency tools to cut home energy usage. There were a few shoppers in the section asking questions, even on an early Monday afternoon.

The Nest learning thermostat sat front and center of the Home Energy section, as it is hands-down the most well-designed product out there (which is as indicative of the generally poor design in this industry, as it is of the gorgeous design created by the former Apple team). But as I reported last week, the Nest thermostat is sold out until 2012, and the Best Buy store didn’t have a single Nest thermostat for sale on Monday.

Overall, on just a single look, Best Buy’s Home Energy section has a lot of potential to educate consumers and grow the market for home energy products. It’s one of the only large retailers in the country paying attention to this market, though we’ll have to see how much volume goes through the section in the coming months, and whether Best Buy will recreate the section in other stores, keep it as a niche in just three stores, or someday shut them down if they aren’t performing.

Here are my photos from the visit:

  1. Wow, very little sex appeal at all. Gonna need something a lot more compelling than “Save a few bucks a month!” before this market takes off.

    1. Totally agree with that, but I like to give Best Buy the thumbs up. Because in Singapore, the retailers might not even set up a section for this kind of products.

  2. Katie Fehrenbacher Monday, November 7, 2011

    Only sex appeal was from Nest thermostat. But those were sold out for months (not sure at what volumes though). Also some expensive gear for energy saving — I bought two Toshiba LEDs, and it cost me over $70.

  3. It is good that retail stores are embracing solar technologies. This will give customer more options for buying green products.

    Free Energy Audit

  4. Chad Armstrong Monday, November 7, 2011

    Where is the Best Buy in Chicago which has the Home Energy department?

      1. Thanks, Katie. I visited the Chicago Best Buy this past week and enjoyed exploring the Home Energy department. Liz, the manager of that department, was very knowledgable and friendly about the products and services offered.

  5. MaxPoint Interactive Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    @bestbuy knows shoppers care about cutting energy costs. Will home energy stores be new driver for in-store traffic? http://t.co/lSjiPlwd

  6. Photos: Best Buy’s quiet home energy stores http://t.co/FaLhrSja

  7. Are you kidding me?? $35 for a lightbulb!!?? What are we paying for a years worth in a regular bulb up front?

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