Lighting the Way


In addition to LED technology, other advances are creating a revolution in supermarket illumination.

Hands down, light-emitting diode (LED) lighting is the most significant recent breakthrough in supermarket lighting.

Randy Dollar, VP for systems & LED at Nashville, Tenn.-based Universal Lighting Technologies, puts it this way: “The most important innovation in recent years is the ongoing development of affordable LED lighting systems. These systems are now able to provide equal or better visual comfort and color clarity than any existing retail store lighting, as well as significant energy savings and a longer lifespan.”

At Hillphoenix, in Conyers, Ga., Design Center Specialist Jack Sjogren says: “LEDs are popular because they introduce more light in a particular area, with less energy and more punch on the product. A good-quality LED can help increase sales while saving overall energy costs.”

The Hillphoenix Design Center works with, among other companies, St. Louis-based BARO North America. “While certain HID [high-intensity discharge] lighting sources are still quality lighting options for supermarket operators,” notes BARO COO Lee Rhoades, “the continuing advancement of LED lighting is absolutely the most important trend in food lighting.”

From a pure technology perspective, says Jake Summers, director of specialty markets at ConTech Lighting, in Northbrook, Ill., LED is “by far the driving force within the lighting industry today.” Just two or three years ago, LED was considered to be “a premature lighting technology that would have limited use in retail and supermarket applications,” Summers recalls, but “with technology improving at such a rapid pace and light fixture manufacturers’ accelerated learning curve on the engineering of dedicated LED fixtures, LED light fixtures can now be used throughout most departments of a supermarket.”

From a bottom-line point of view, the most significant factor of the rise of LEDs is “the tremendous and short-term ROI,” says Larry Rallo, business development manager at LEDtronics, in Torrance, Calif.

Power Play

Rallo points out other LED advantages such as the extremely low heat they emit — as much as an 80 percent reduction — which increases the efficiency of store air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. Another positive is that many products sold in supermarkets — including cheese, produce and even cosmetics — are negatively affected by heat.

Another bonus: The elimination of the toxin mercury, which is present in fluorescent and CFL lighting products, and can be an issue in a high-traffic food environment.

And because LED lighting is directional, Rallo says, it eliminates “light pollution” by allowing retailers to direct the light as they choose “to best display their product offerings or create the lighting environment they most desire.”

According to ConTech’s Summers, retailers are trending away from “light everywhere” to “lighting design” to save energy and create a more welcoming and enjoyable ambiance for their shoppers. “Good supermarket lighting is much more than light level and energy consumption,” he explains. “Contrast between brilliantly illuminated areas next to darker ones creates a more enticing environment, which can be achieved with the right light fixture. Glare control is becoming a high priority for retailers so their guests are looking at the merchandise and not being distracted by the glaring, uncomfortable lights in the ceiling. Finally, decorative lighting products are creating a more attractive and familiar environment, making customers comfortable so they linger and buy more in specialty departments, freezer spaces and even at checkout.”

Other Bright Spots

Universal’s Dollar points out that LEDs aren’t the only major development in lighting technology for retail spaces.

“Integrated energy management systems represent a huge step forward for energy savings, especially if automated lighting controls can be installed without the need for expensive control wiring,” he says. “Along the store perimeter, near windows and doors, photocells can detect sunlight during daytime hours and signal your control system to dim the lights accordingly. In stockrooms, bathrooms and break rooms, new dual-technology occupancy sensors use both motion and sound detectors to switch lights off or dim them when no one is around.”

Further, time-of-day scheduling software can automatically reduce light levels in the evening and overnight hours. “Today’s wireless lighting controls can be integrated into an existing building management system for a commonly controlled energy management solution for refrigeration, HVAC, lighting and other systems,” Dollar says.

Hillphoenix’s Sjogren stresses that research and development are highly important in coming up with the right product for the right application, and that standard LEDs able to function across a wide range of applications don’t always work in a supermarket setting.

A holistic design-and-build approach works best most of the time for supermarkets, he notes.

BARO’s Rhoades concludes: “There is both a science and an art to lighting supermarkets. One thing I always tell my customers is that if you are illuminating your prime rib or your peppers with the same light you are lighting your bathroom or warehouse with, you are most probably losing sales opportunities. Quality lighting choices are investments that always pay dividends.”

“If you are illuminating your prime rib or your peppers with the same light you are lighting your bathroom or warehouse with, you are most probably losing sales opportunities.”
–Lee Rhoades, BARO North America

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