Business owners who embrace energy efficiency often find that the benefits of “green business” go far beyond contributing to a healthier planet. They also make for a healthier bottom line. And one area that can enhance the energy efficiency of your facility’s interior is in the area of lighting—both natural lighting and technologically advanced LEDs are leading the charge on energy efficient interiors.
Out With the Old
During the 1970s, saving energy was a national priority. Soaring costs resulted in individuals and businesses scrambling to use less energy. As time passed, energy prices fell and the momentum in reducing energy consumption lessened in the minds of many consumers.
But today, architects, storeowners, and construction planners are discovering that a lot has changed in the world of energy efficiency—both in materials and technology. And as governments are taking measures to phase out the incandescent light bulb, energy efficient interior lighting is receiving tremendous attention.
A time-honored source of light and ambience, interior lighting products have outlived their traditional roles in store interiors. Today, new technologies and innovative structural changes are making lighting products more durable and versatile than ever. More importantly, instead of short-lived afterthoughts, lighting products have become long-lasting, energy efficient design features for retail and commercial properties throughout the country.
According to Michael Lawshe, president and CEO of Paragon Solutions, LED is a very energy efficient solution. “If energy efficiency is your goal, LED should be a consideration,” Lawshe says. “However, energy management systems, solar tubes, natural light and strategic photo metric analysis is the way to reduce energy even further. In addition, the quality of the lighting can be developed through better photo metrics. It is never the correct answer to equally light everything.”
Paragon Solutions is a design consulting firm. “Because we do not sell a product, we have no vested interest in specifying any particular product,” Lawshe says. “Our role is to design the correct solutions. Companies that sell specific lighting will often tell customers that their solution is the best when in fact it is only the best they have. Our design is independent. There is no single answer. Solutions are often a blend of various lighting alternatives.”
As Christopher Ruud, president of Cree’s Ruud Lighting subsidiary, explains, traditional light source technologies of the past were limited in the solutions they were able to provide—not only to c-stores and gas stations, but for any lighting application.
“Limited optical and lamp choices typically lead to applications that had far too much wasted and spilled light,” Ruud says. “Wasted light is wasted energy and spilled light off your property in addition to wasting energy can also make you a bad neighbor within the community in which you operate. LED technology is a game changer when it comes to lighting and offers the opportunity for much better optical control. Such control allows wasted and spilled light to be nearly eliminated. The result is improved illumination performance while consuming significantly less energy.”
Ruud stresses that by implementing the use of lighting controls and harvesting natural lighting can improve energy efficiency. “Unlike traditional source technologies that make it difficult to utilize such controls, LED lighting is perfectly suited to take advantage of such technology and makes a great energy story even better,” Ruud says.
According to Minda Matthews-Smith, director of marketing at LSI Industries, Inc., “as far as daylight harvesting, this is not a new concept,” Matthews-Smith says. “In fact you can utilize daylight harvesting right now. Some might feel the white light from LED works more effectively with daylight from an aesthetics standpoint but that is certainly subjective.”
LSI offers a broad array of LED lighting solutions for indoor and outdoor use—from the parking lot to the gas canopy to the c-store, car wash and beyond.
“LSI’s LED products are designed and engineered to be high performance fixtures that are easy to install; require virtually no maintenance; and utilize as little energy as possible,” Matthews-Smith says. “As far as LSI’s LED products, we have been and continue to be very deliberate in designing our LED products and advising our customers on the best applications for a LED solution. We are committed to developing and producing the most effective and efficient LED lighting technology as well as designing, engineering and manufacturing high quality lighting fixtures to house that LED technology.
Matthews-Smith admits that interior LED applications are tricky. “It’s important to understand that LED is not necessarily the best solution for every application and that ‘one size does not fit all,’” she says. “If you are using high-intensity discharge (HID) interior fixtures you will certainly see energy savings when you change to LED. Today there are many really good, energy-efficient fluorescent lighting fixtures for interior applications and when they are compared to LED, they are often very competitive as far as the energy savings and fixture price.”
Cree offers a complete line of LED lighting products that are well suited for both the exterior and interior spaces of c-stores and gas stations. For interior spaces, Cree’s CR troffers featuring Cree TrueWhite Technology not only offer energy and maintenance savings, but also offer an aesthetically pleasing alternative with high color quality that is critical for any interior retail application. In addition, Cree’s Essentia recessed interior luminaires are available as downlight, wallwash or adjustable units, offer a more upscale, architectural grade alternative to typical downlights and can be used to make a real design statement in such spaces.
From an aesthetics standpoint, Matthews-Smith says the LED fixture will look great—especially when compared to HID. “LED lighting is a clean white light that brings out colors for a brighter, crisper image,” Matthews-Smith says. “This is certainly important to make your POP and POS materials and displays look dynamic. You can choose from a variety of color temperatures to give the c-store’s interior the ambience you want.”
When determining the best energy efficient light usage, LSI uses a “just right light” approach to deliver the right amount of light for the application. In fact, as Matthews-Smith explains, one of the many benefits of LED is the ability to control the light—from an output and a directional standpoint.
“We are seeing great electronic control systems that help you make the LED light do what you want it to do. Again, this control adds to your energy savings,” Matthews-Smith says.
LSI’s Tri-Lume optics combine high–efficiency LED chips, high performance reflectors and a sealed glass lens to ensure long-term light output integrity. The sealed optic units mean the LEDs and the circuit board that houses them stays within a sealed, protected environment.
“It’s important to understand the benefits of LED as they relate to other solutions,” Matthews-Smith says. “If you are mainly focused on the ROI, you will find a better return by using LED in new construction versus retrofitting existing fluorescent fixtures.”
U.S. LED, Ltd. also offers an array of LED lighting options. For interior applications, the L-Grid is an LED troffer luminaire designed for installation in 2-foot by 2-foot conventional suspended grid ceilings for new construction or retrofit projects. L-Grid can also significantly reduce the number of fixtures needed to light a given area. Custom fixture and power supply kit design allows for quick and easy installation, reducing costly labor time. And by still emitting 70 percent of the original light output after more than 60,000 hours, L-Grid will last many years without the need for costly replacement or maintenance.
Considerations to Make
Ruud says retailers should always take an application-based approach when considering their lighting needs. “Lighting designers can play a vital role in helping determine not only how much light is needed, but also help set light color quality requirements that can be critical for retail applications,” Ruud says. “Once the sustainable illumination performance requirements are set there should be no compromise in meeting these illumination performance objectives.”
The next phase, the economic performance phase, involves evaluating only those products that can demonstrate with credible product data the ability to meet your sustainable illumination performance requirements and then selecting the product that provides the best value—not necessarily the lowest cost.
“As far as the most conducive areas, the cost of energy and maintenance may help prioritize the low hanging fruit, but LED products will make sense for almost all typical applications,” Ruud says.
As you modify, you want to pay attention to color being exhibited by your chosen lighting fixtures. “As with traditional lamps, LED chips can be various color temperatures,” Matthews-Smith says. “At LSI we pay very close attention to the binning of our LED chips to ensure we have color consistency in our fixtures. This is really important in a retail environment when you want to make sure your merchandise is presented well.”
Lawshe says one of the most common lighting mistakes he sees retailers make is to illuminate the retail area too uniform and too much. “Each area has a preferred lighting level and style,” Lawshe says. “To do them all the same is just wrong. The other major mistake is to not consider the lighting of the exterior of the building. Most exterior LED lighting was developed for gasoline canopies. I often see customers revamp the canopy with no consideration of the building.”
When determining what type of lighting would enhance the ambiance of your facility’s interior while improving your energy efficiency, the key question to ask is what is being lit and what the mood is that you are trying to achieve. “Deli and food service areas are different then grocery areas and back rooms in the light that is optimum,” Lawshe says. Exterior lighting is an entirely different situation altogether.”
The Perfect Fit
According to Lawshe, energy efficiency is the greatest asset but the unique qualities of LED lighting can have a significant impact on merchandise—depending on the particular products and uses. “For example, the use of LED lighting in coolers is an excellent solution but in my opinion, not as effective in foodservice areas,” Lawshe says.
“LED is not the best lighting solution across the board,” Matthews-Smith says. “It’s important to understand when and where LED light fixtures will be the most efficient and effective solution. Instead of looking at the store interior as one space, it makes sense to break it into zones and evaluate each area for the best lighting solutions for each one.”
From an energy efficiency improvement standpoint, it’s also important to remember that LEDs love cold temperatures whereas fluorescent lamps do not.
LSI’s LED fixtures are designed with a unique thermal management system that dissipates heat from the optics to ensure an extremely cool running fixture. This is important to the fixture life – typically LED fixtures will enjoy up to 100,000 hour expected life. Keeping them free from heat certainly helps this.
Two interior applications made for LED are refrigerator cases and beer caves. LSI has LED fixtures for both applications. “A well designed LED fixture can last up to four times longer than the fluorescent alternative in these applications,” Matthews-Smith says.
LSI recently introduced its RCL LED refrigerated light fixture. The RCL is designed to light the refrigerator’s interior with even, uniform light as opposed to many other LED fixtures that leave a dark spot somewhere along the fixture line in the display case. Installed properly, the RCL will light the product in the case and will not compete with the ambient lighting in the c-store.
“LEDs are more rugged that fluorescent lamps,” Matthews-Smith says. “This is important as shoppers and employees quickly move product into and out of the refrigerated case—one misstep and you break the fluorescent lamp, you have a mercury issue.” LEDs are flat so they typically don’t get in the way when moving product. Further, LEDs contain no mercury, or lead, so you don’t have the environmental or disposal concerns that you do with fluorescent.
In addition to significant energy savings compared to traditional lighting source technologies, well-designed LED lighting products have the potential to virtually eliminate maintenance by avoiding re-lamping expenses. “And finally, a well executed lighting design can enhance brand image and the customer experience,” Ruud says.
Embracing the Future
Matthews-Smith advises petroleum marketers and c-store owners to check into utility rebates and incentives in their area when embarking upon a new lighting project. “It is not unusual today to find very generous rewards for installing LED lighting to reduce your energy consumption,” Matthews-Smith says. “In some locations, zoning and other legislative dictate very specifically how much energy you can use and where. This is likely to become true in more and more locations around the globe.”
Experts agree that all indicators suggest LED lighting will be mainstream in the next 10 years. Lighting solutions are evolving quickly every day and the cost of LEDs is continuing to grow more competitive.
“The days of using LED products solely because they are green even though they don’t make economic sense are over,” Ruud says. “LED products are not only green, but they work and make economic sense. LED products are and will continue to replace all incumbent lighting sources used in c-stores and gas stations today. Anyone building or considering upgrading the lighting in a c-store and/or gas station today should absolutely be using LED products. In addition to increased adoption of LED luminaires, further integration of control technologies, such as adaptive lighting control, will also accelerate as we move into the future.”
According to Minda Matthews-Smith of LSI, LED lighting technology is really exciting and offers numerous lighting performance, energy, maintenance, environment and ROI benefits.
- LED offers a bright, clean, white light that looks great.
- LED lighting is more efficient than most traditional light sources. LED will provide more light for every watt of energy put into the fixture—the overall energy savings can be up to 80 percent, depending upon the application, when compared to traditional light sources.
- LEDs can be controlled with dimming and motion sensors that are built into the fixture so you can make the light do what you want—another way to control the energy used.
- LED is environmentally friendly—contains no mercury or lead.
-LEDs are very cool running—reduced heat means less wasted energy.
-With up to 100,000 hours expected life, a LED fixture will last 5 to 10 times longer than traditional fixtures, which dramatically affects your maintenance requirements/costs.
- LEDs interact beautifully with security cameras to provide enhanced color and visual clarity for superior identification of people and vehicles.