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Let There be Light

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For years, supermarket lighting was the domain of what Jeff Brooks, director of business development at Largo, Fla.-based ElectraLED Inc., calls “energy hogs” – like the 70-watt CMH track light fixtures used to highlight high-impact areas in supermarkets like grocery, produce and wine departments. These lights were also “a maintenance issue ever since they were introduced,” Brooks adds.

That changed with the introduction of LED (light-emitting diodes) and other modes of lighting. Kurt Mandelik, VP at Opa Locka, Fla.- based Luraline Lighting, which supplies retailers like Publix Super Markets, Wegmans and Big Y World Class Market, says that “energysaving, longer-life LED lighting for refrigerated sections and freezers, and electronically ballasted compact fluorescent light sources for general area lighting” were lighting breakthroughs, and that “aisle lighting is currently in transition from the older mercury vapor and metal halide fixtures to higher-output T5 fluorescent and pulse-start metal halide fixtures.”
 
Adds John Weisenberger, senior product manager at Cleveland, Ohio-based Novar, a Honeywell company with such customers as Walmart, Carrefour, Riesbeck’s Food Markets and Save-A-Lot: “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 provides low energyconsumption and low internal heat generation, unlike traditional fluorescent lighting.”
 
Robb Northrup, marketing communications manager at Rockford, Ill.-based Southern Imperial, which serves retailers and wholesalers like Albertsons, Supervalu, FoodLion, HEB, Winn-Dixie and Harris Teeter, notes, “At Southern Imperial, we have found that customers are looking to low-energy solutions such as LED lighting to help accentuate products and displays, and illuminate previously hard-to-light areas such as under shelves.” 
 
A caveat regarding LED lighting is provided by John Mears, VP of sales at Stony Point, N.Y.-based Lighting Services Inc., who says, “The LED world is still a little like the Wild West, so any retailer looking to adopt this technology will have to fully research the manufacturer they intend to use in order to ensure that they are reputable and that they will stand behind their products.”
 
A stronger word of caution regarding LED lighting comes from Lee Rhoades, sales and marketing director at St. Louis-based BAERO North America, who says his company’s list of supermarket clients is “extensive and broadly based. Of course, the idea of having light sources with 50,000 hours of life, asLEDs are promoting, is very tantalizing, but I strongly encourage all supermarket owners to run all the numbers comparing the life cycles of LEDs vs. the other technologies, along with actual photometrics of all lighting designs, before making a purchase. We have found that honest and objective studies produce some very interesting information regarding the best overall cost solution for illuminating supermarkets.”
 
Another breakthrough in store lighting is pointed out by SamanthaCriddle, Internet and media marketing manager at Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia-based Promolux Lighting International, among whose customers are ShopRite, Kroger, Whole Foods, A&P and Food4Less. Criddle sees full colorsaturated light sources as a significant innovation, noting that “the ability to use a food-specific lamp that showcases foods’ natural colors without distorting foods’ appearance, as was done in the past, provides a real emphasis on product freshness, and customer loyalty is a result of a store’s commitment to product integrity.”
 
Obviously, supermarket lighting manufacturers are well aware of the expense associated with energy consumption at store level, and are addressing this issue with a variety of solutions and products. Southern Imperial’s Northrup points out that his company is dealing with the high cost of implementation, as well as with energy use. He says that Southern Imperial’s low-cost Allura LED light kits are an effective productfor accent and under-shelf lighting. The Allura LED strips have a power consumption of 0.6 watts and a lifetime of more than 50,000 hours. 
 
They are flexible and can conform to a variety of surfaces, and are also expandable, so retailers have the option to link multiple strips together for longer runs, or segmented strips may simply be used for strips for Accents.
 
ElectraLED’s Brooks says the company’s T-8 fluorescent bulb for refrigerated case lighting in the frozen food department uses about 62 watts of energy, and the LED replacement uses just under 20 watts. 
 
“The lighting created by LED is optimal for the case and really enhances the overall appearance of the refrigerated display case,” he notes. Brooks adds that when it comes to track lighting, “going from 78 watts on a CMH lamp to 38 watts on LED creates a great energy savings, and the enhanced CRI – Color Rendering Index – of the LED really gives the products an extra highlight to entice the customer.”
 
Criddle at Promolux notes that American grocery stores have been more aggressive over the past few years, “with a big push to reduce overall energy consumption, and especially
to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases in line with the green energy movement. “Over the years,” she continues, “we have seen the prolific use of T12 fluorescent shift to the use of T8, T5 and spot lighting, which are more energy-efficient and provide superior illumination. The sweeping energy retrofit movement, focusing on energy reduction, increased illumination and long life, are beneficial in general store lighting.”  
 
BAERO’s Rhoades says that there are ceramic metal halide options that “far exceed LEDs in energy efficiency,” citing his company’s Bright Star Lamps, including a 70-watt version that delivers 7,300 lumens with just 70 watts or 104 lumens per watt. “And, of course, you get that high-definition lighting quality you expect from ceramic metal halides,” he says. “So, along with extreme efficiency, you actually get a huge leap in lighting quality over LEDs and other more traditional light sources.” Rhoades adds that Bright Star Lamps’ performance can be maximized with a line of reflectors designed at BAERO’s R&D plant in Germany.
 
“While energy efficiency is a topic of great concern these days,” Rhoades says, “market owners still have to merchandise their products, especially fresh items like produce and floral, in a way that is eye-catching to their customers. Energy efficiency serves no purpose if you’re not driving sales. We have seen a number of stores that upgraded their lighting only to end up with a store that effectively looked ‘closed,’ with customers opting to go elsewhere simply because it was no longer an inviting shopping experience.”
 
“While LED is the newest lighting technology to offer an energysaving solution to the supermarket world,” says Mears of Lighting Services, “both fluorescent and metal halide technologies still have a very useful function in this market.”
 
Mears says Lighting Services’ H-Channel track system can incorporate track on the bottom section of the extrusion and a continuous run of T5 fluorescent lamps in the top section of the channel, and that in this application, the fluorescent lamps provide an indirect lighting solution of general illumination with no glare. The bottom track section can then be used to install track fixtures – LED or metal halide – in optimal locations to provide accent lighting where needed.
 
“Metal halide will provide more lumens per watt than LED, so they are good for longer throws,” Mears says. “The only limitation is that they cannot be dimmed effectively and there is a two- to three-minute warm-up time when they are turned on. While most LED sources are not as energy-efficient as metal halide, they are still much more efficient than traditional halogen or incandescent sources. In addition, they have about four to five times the life of metal halide sources – about 50,000 hours vs. 12,000 hours. They are also instant-on and can be dimmed effectively.” 
 
Mandelik at Luraline Lighting agrees that energy consumption is an extremely important lighting consideration, but goes on to say that a total lighting solution must take into account other factors such as the heat generated from the actual fixtures, which will cause ambient heat and make the AC system work harder. “In situations like this,” he notes, “fluorescent light sources save both energy and reduce heat buildup. In addition, lighting controls such as motion and activity sensors should be utilized as much as possible throughout the facility to conserve energy and minimize heat when the facility isn’t occupied.”
 
So, while energy conservation is an ongoing and major concern of supermarket lighting manufacturers, they are also aware of the entire spectrum of food retailers’ lighting needs, and, this being the case, the future is literally brighter in this vital area.