Bright Ideas


Supermarket lighting is entering an era of sophisticated applications in all store departments.

“This isn't Thomas Edison's light bulb anymore,” declares Allison Parker, director of marketing at Boston-based Digital Lumens, when describing the current state of supermarket lighting. Indeed, she continues, “Lighting is rapidly changing from a simple illumination source to a carefully managed resource that can perform well while using dramatically less energy than traditional systems.”

LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are by far “the most significant breakthrough in all types of store lighting,” Parker goes on. “They are a high-quality, long-life illumination source that can be used in any number of different retail environments — from display cases to general lighting applications to warehouses to cold storage.”

LEDs can place light precisely or spread it gently across a broad area, and as a semiconductor technology, can be integrated with controls and deliver on-demand lighting to maximize energy efficiency. “These same systems can also report on energy use, incorporate a wide variety of sensor types and integrate with building management systems,” Parker adds.

Ken Kane, EVP at Stony Point, N.Y.-based Lighting Services Inc., which numbers Pathmark, Publix and Stop & Shop among its customers, concurs. “LED lighting technology has begun to surpass halogen and even metal halide as the lamp of choice in a wide variety of retail applications,” he says.

Thom Connolly, president of Peabody, Mass.-based International Light Technologies, which supplies retailers such as BJ's, Wakefern and Stop & Shop, notes, “We've developed light fixtures where the directional nature of LEDs, the long lifetime, the superior performance in cold environments and the energy efficiency are fully utilized to achieve superior performance over existing lighting technologies.”

Anshuman Bhargava, product manager, LED and integrated systems at St. Louis-based Hussmann, a brand of Ingersoll Rand Climate Solutions, says that “superior merchandising solutions for meat, deli and seafood departments requiring higher color rendering and optimal color temperature mix for attracting and influencing shoppers,” as well as “superior product visibility and appearance across frozen food departments attributed to advances in technology and optics of lighting products,” are among the most significant breakthroughs in store lighting.

John Weisenberger, senior product manager at Novar, a U.K.-based Honeywell company, which works with customers like Walmart, Carrefour, Riesbeck's and Save-A-lot, feels that “the adoption rate of LED lighting inside refrigerated cases and freezers has been significant, and will continue to accelerate due to the overall energy savings LEDs can deliver.”

“LED lighting technology has begun to surpass halogen and even metal halide as the lamp of choice in a wide variety of retail applications.” — Ken Kane, Lighting Services Inc.

Whether in the retail storefront or in the back of the facility, the primary “lighting challenge has historically been a choice between energy efficiency or light quality,” Digital Lumens' Parker says, noting her belief that the company's Intelligent Lighting System eliminates this Hobson's Choice.

“The system delivers light when and where needed, and at the appropriate illumination levels, and is rated for 50,000 hours on time,” she explains. “For example, when no one is in the area, lights can be dimmed incrementally to save energy.”

Digital Lumens' system also includes LightRules, the company's lighting management software that gives operators the ability to control or reprogram light settings, and provides detailed system reports that show kilowatt-hour use by area or zone, occupancy patterns and more, to help operators understand exactly what their lighting settings are costing them. Among the company's other most popular supermarket products are the midbay fixtures in the Intelligent Lighting System, offering a diffuse light that's designed for open spaces and, with variable dimming, can be fine-tuned to meet a broad variety of lighting needs.

“They are being used in storefront locations and in the back of the store,” Parker says, “and distribution docks as well. The midbay fixtures use 160 watts of power at full illuminations — compared to 465 watts for the HIDs [high-intensity discharge] — and typically increase the delivered light, even though they use less power.”

For his part, Kane at Lighting Services says that his company's LSI Track Current Limiters save energy by specifically addressing Title 24 and ASHRAE restrictions on wattage per foot for track lighting installations and allowing flexibility in specifying the exact wattage needed for a specific job. “The Track Current Limiters integrate directly into single-circuit surface or recessed-track runs,” he notes, “and are available in various amperages — 3-amp, 5-amp, 8-amp and 12-amp — in a variety of finishes to match LSI Track.”

Lighting Services' most popular supermarket product, he continues, is the LumeLEX 2044 Series, a stem-mounted fixture with a discreetly hidden driver, making it appear no different from a traditional halogen source. It was developed specifically for the most demanding applications of retail accent lighting.

“The LumeLEX 2044 differentiates itself from the pack,” Kane believes, “by offering a variety of lumen packages from 600 to 1120, flexible beam control and a full range of internal accessories for manipulating the distribution of light, much like you can do with any halogen source.”

Hussmann's Bhargava says that his company's EcoShine LEDs lower power consumption and provide energy savings of 50 percent to 70 percent over traditional lighting options, thereby helping storeowners obtain utility rebates in many areas.

The LED Dissenter

With such customers as Harmons, Balls Food Stores and Schnucks, BAERO North America in St. Louis is definitely a player in the supermarket lighting arena. Lee Rhoades, director of sales and marketing at BAERO Fresh Market Illumination, is reluctant, though, to jump onto the LED bandwagon.

“With lumens per watt (LPW) rating under 50, I firmly believe that, while there are great days ahead, LED currently is not the best overall value for supermarket owners today,” Rhoades notes. “Yes, it is possible LED fixtures might last 50,000 hours, but, despite all claims to the contrary, LED fixtures, especially track fixtures, simply are not as energy-efficient as T5s or ceramic metal halides,” both of which he says have an LPW rating in the 90s, making them much more efficient than the LEDs that are available for retail at this moment.

Rhoades urges a double-check of his views via the U.S. Department of Energy's website, which includes 2011 test results for LED lamps and fixtures and lamps “to verify the truth of my statements.”

When discussing the BAERO Food Lamp — a 100-watt high-pressure sodium lamp — which he describes as being “by far” the most popular product for food retailers, Rhoades says, “Our combination of highly efficient lamps and reflectors allows us to get every foot-candle out of an already efficient source.”

Despite his current stance regarding LEDs, Rhoades remains energized “about our own development of a LED track-lighting system that will be completely tuned to a grocery owner's specific needs. We are working hard toward this goal as we overcome what we feel are the shortcomings of LED track fixtures on the market today.”

“Hussmann's most popular supermarket product,” he points out, “is the vertical-door mullion EcoShine LED for frozen food reach-in cases. The LEDs are optimized for standard, narrow/tall and walk-in cooler door applications. They provide illumination and uniform light dispersion for enhanced product visibility, coupled with energy and maintenance savings benefits.”

International Light Technologies' Connolly says his company's focus has been on lighting for specific areas in the supermarket “where we feel LED lighting can provide the quickest payback for the investment.

“Utilities have been quick to acknowledge the advantage of LED fixtures in cooler/freezer applications and have made rebates available, further reducing the payback — ROI — to less than two years in most cases.” — Thom Connolly, International Light Technologies

“In addition, we optimize the design of our lighting products to add to the visual appeal of the merchandise through the proper distribution of light and the selection of LEDs with very high color rendering,” he notes.

Connolly says that improving the lighting of vertical freezers and coolers has been a key focus at International Light Technologies, which has resulted in the development of the CaseLight product line, the company's most popular for supermarkets.

“The net result of using a CaseLight-type LED-based product vs. a traditional fluorescent product is more than a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption, significant improvement in product illumination and a near-zero level of maintenance,” he notes.

“Utilities have been quick to acknowledge the advantage of LED fixtures in cooler/freezer applications and have made rebates available, further reducing the payback — ROI — to less than two years in most cases,” Connolly concludes.

At Novar, according to Weisenberger, an integrated approach, known as Energy Management Control Systems (EMCS), delivers energy savings by controlling and optimizing all store lighting, including general sales floor lighting, refrigerated display case and freezer lighting, and external store signage and parking lighting.

“Novar's most popular product is the Opus Energy Management Control System, an open-architecture supermarket EMCS capable of integrating and controlling all aspects of a supermarket's HVAC, lighting and refrigeration systems, regardless of make or manufacturer of the equipment being controlled,” Weisenberger says.

Indeed, today's state-of-the-art supermarket lighting must have Edison smiling down from a well-lit cloud.

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