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A Greener Bottom Line With Sustainable Store Lighting

A Greener Bottom Line With Sustainable Store Lighting

Lighting accounts for a major portion of supermarket energy use and expense, and retailers are benefiting both from their own increasing use of sustainable lighting, and from suppliers that have made sustainability a priority in this area. 

Key Takeaways

  • Food retailers are increasing sustainability and efficiency in their stores via LED lighting, and the subsequent savings are going directly to the bottom line.
  • There’s been a resurgence in demand for LED display case lighting, with some retrofits now being done on products from manufacturers that are no longer in business.
  • Designers will continue to learn better ways of integrating LED products and drive further innovation in products and usage. 

Today’s food retailers are increasing lighting sustainability and efficiency in their stores, and the subsequent savings are going directly to the bottom line.

“We began using LED lighting with Walmart before the technology was ready for prime time,” recounts Thomas Henken, VP and director of design at api(+), in Tampa, Fla. “We are constantly improving the energy efficiency of our lighting selections, and the industry has developed products that are not only more efficient, but have become more cost-effective as the popularity of these fixtures has driven competition in the lighting products industry.”

For LED products, the benefits extend to getting the same light levels with energy reductions of 40% or more, Henken says. “Presence detection is also a great way to save on energy costs in ‘staff only’ areas,” he adds, “as the lights will dim or shut off when no presence is detected.”

LED lighting can be programmed with specific combinations of hues and tones to reduce discoloration of fresh products such as meats, produce and flower displays, Henken adds, noting that the equipment “allows lighting controls to be centrally operated for multiple stores, and managers can access controls via the app to create dedicated zones, schedule lighting levels to auto-adjust with the time of day, or bump up the brightness, setting the stage for an in-store event such as a celebrity chef event. If the store has windows or light wells, progressive LED controls will also adjust to harvest the natural daylight by adjusting their own light levels to a preset standard. There is no need to shut the light off outside of operating hours, because the system is auto-scheduled to ensure lighting is only on when needed.”

Meyda Lighting often creates unique fixtures for its supermarket clients, as seen below
Meyda Lighting often creates unique fixtures for its supermarket clients, as seen here

Another LED benefit is that the lower heat loads generated, thanks to the far cooler operating temperatures — along with a diverse range of fixture types and sizes — allow the lighting to be integrated into the food display casework, and have little or no effect on food quality and freshness.

“We also have longer lifespans for these products and more stable light levels and coloration throughout the lifespan, which also adds to the bottom line,” Henken says. “This keeps the demand on landfills down and will eventually eliminate the harmful chemicals associated with fluorescent lighting, which has been the industry standard until quite recently.”

Strides in Sustainability, Cost Savings

LED lights at The Fresh Market in Doral, Fla., are part of the store design by api(+).
LED lights at The Fresh Market in Doral, Fla., are part of the store design by api(+)

Amerlux, an integrated LED fixture manufacturer in Oakland, N.J., “uses no harmful materials in constructing its fixtures, and because of the LED’s long life, there is much less wasted,” says VP of Marketing and Product Management Bill Plageman. “LEDs are made of recyclable materials and can be reused, repurposed or recycled.” 

Plageman acknowledges that food retailers have always been early adopters of sustainable energy-reducing products and understand the importance of reducing energy costs. “They don’t just look for the cheapest lighting products; they understand the role lighting can play in selling merchandise,” he notes. “Either wired or wireless controls can be automated to change the intensity of light on sunny or cloudy days.”

Sherry Heid, sales account manager at Clearwater, Fla.-based ElectraLED Inc., dwells on the reduction of maintenance costs with LED lighting. “LEDs last much longer than fluorescent and halogen bulbs, and they do not suddenly go out, leaving dark spots in the store until they are replaced,” she says.

Heid also observes that while the initial investment in sustainable lighting is more than with traditional lighting, the return on investment is quickly seen in the daily cost savings.

“Once retailers start using sustainable lighting, the benefits are obvious, and they tend to proactively upgrade throughout the store,” she asserts.

Christopher Eisenack, in charge of end-user product marketing at Somerset, N.J.-based Signify US, which offers a broad range of Philips LED lighting products, affirms that supermarkets are starting to make great strides in sustainability, with many launching programs to reduce energy consumption and costs.

These lights furnished by api(+) are at a  Hannaford store in Bedford, N.H.
These lights furnished by api(+) are at a Hannaford store in Bedford, N.H.

Lighting is one of the first areas that retailers look to upgrade, because lighting accounts for up to 40% of energy use. Eisenack notes that LED lighting can reduce energy costs by up to 50%, and that LED lighting upgrades can be integrated with smart controls to further enhance energy savings and operational efficiency.

“In today’s digital world, lighting can also play a big role in enhancing the customer experience,” he points out. “Grocers can use light to help shoppers navigate their stores and easily find the products they are looking for, or provide personalized promotions that enable cross selling. The in-store navigation systems can also enable employees to fulfill online orders for pickup more quickly.”

Time for a Retrofit

“We worked with a large regional grocer in the Northeast to retrofit their existing aisle lights that used T5 fluorescent lamps,” notes Maria Wooldridge, marketing manager at Peabody, Mass.-based International Light Technologies Inc. (ILT), which provides customized LED solutions and retrofit systems for customers that can’t find off-the-shelf solutions. “The [original equipment manufacturer] of the fixture did not provide a retrofit, and [the retailer] did not want to replace the entire fixture for a number of reasons. They had very specific requirements that we were able to meet in addition to it qualifying for DLC,”  a DesignLight Consortium designation for high-level energy efficiency.

Creating Comfortable Spaces

When it comes to sustainable HVAC systems for supermarkets, Ben Tacka, sustainability programs leader at Davidson, N.C.-based Ingersoll Rand, says, “Trane products within the EcoWise portfolio are designed to help lower environmental impact with next-generation, low global-warming potential (GWP) refrigerants and high-efficiency operation.”

Tacka notes that in 2014, Trane made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its products and operations by 2020, and surpassed that goal two years early. Compared with a 2013 baseline, GHG emissions were reduced across global operations by 43%, and the GHG footprint of the product portfolio by 52%.

He adds that Trane has embarked on “even bolder 2030 sustainability commitments with its Gigaton Challenge, designed to reduce the customer’s carbon footprint from buildings, homes and transportation by 1 gigaton” — that is, 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases.

“For supermarkets, we expect to see more appropriate-sized equipment for lower-energy and refrigerant profiles, and an increased use of data and digital solutions to ensure systems are run in the most efficient way,” Tacka asserts. “For example, Trane’s building energy management systems help customers uncover and reduce energy waste, and proactively monitor systems 24/7 to prevent downtime.”

Going forward, he believes that “[s]ustainable-minded food retailers will take a more holistic approach to building equipment, controls and energy management to create comfortable spaces that provide optimal occupant experience, reduce operating costs and minimize energy consumption.”

Wooldridge adds that one large wholesale chain came to ILT to custom-engineer a display case light because the current ones kept getting damaged when product was loaded. “Ours is so durable, you can run over it with a forklift and it will still light,” she observes.

ILT’s proprietary optical design delivers a wide-angle beam while reaching deep into the case. According to Wooldridge, the company has seen a resurgence in demand for display case lighting, because some retrofits were last done more than 10 years ago, and those manufacturers aren’t in business any more.

She sees a “major challenge” for grocers in dealing with LED products that have failed, because “in many instances, the light engine and fixture are one unit, so when the light engine fails — or the lumen output depreciates to the point that it no longer provides adequate illumination — the customer is often left having to replace the whole unit.”

According to Rich Rattray, technical specification manager at Wilmington, Mass.-based Ledvance, Sylvania LED lighting retrofits save 40% to 70% in energy costs, and most LED products have a lifespan twice that of traditional lamps, providing significant savings for food retailers, because the lights are higher in the ceiling and a lift may be needed for access to light fixtures.

“Supermarkets make careful decisions regarding their capital investments,” Rattray observes. “LED lighting retrofits can range from simple to a complete lighting upgrade, thereby allowing the choice of the level of investment. As an added benefit, most areas of the United States offer a utility incentive for this type of retrofit, which will further improve the return on investment.”

Ledvance is launching a family of Sylvania LED products that produce light that’s closer to natural light, and the company is further adopting controls that allow food retailers to save additional energy, as the light can be easily adjusted to lower light output as needed.

The Future of LEDs

“We see the high efficiency of LED lighting products and the range of options continuing to develop,” says api(+)’s Henken. “Designers will continue to learn better ways of integrating these products and drive further innovation in products and usage. I’m also thinking that in my lifetime, we’ll see a day when this technology is dated and the amazing efficiency we have come to love is no longer state of the art.”

“We are able to use slim lines and color-changing features that were unavailable in the past,” weighs in Max Cohen, marketing director at Yorkville, N.Y.-based Meyda Lighting, which makes a broad range of custom energy-efficient and sustainable light fixtures for food retailers. “Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) is the future of the LED world, and it is exciting to see the advances that have been made there in the past few years.”

About the Author

Bob Ingram

Bob Ingram is a contributing editor at Progressive Grocer.

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