More convenience store operators are prioritizing measures to lower energy costs. One of the first steps for many retailers is to evaluate the energy savings they could obtain by switching to LED lighting.
LEDs are much more energy efficient than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. Efficiencies will vary between models, but on average only about 10% of the electricity going into an incandescent bulb is released in the form of light, while the remaining 90% produces heat. LED lights, by comparison, average about 40% efficiency in producing light, so retailers can use a lower wattage to produce the same amount of illumination.
High-quality LED lights also have a longer lifespan and can last for many years. Solid-state LED bulbs are also much more resistant to bumps and shocks, making them great in display cases where customers retrieving products may accidentally bump the light fixture in the case.
Another plus is that LED lighting is versatile and can be designed to mimic almost any kind of light, including neon, incandescent, Edison bulbs and more. These make them excellent choices for exterior applications such as signage and illuminating parking lots.
How much money do LED lights save retailers?
“That depends on the local cost of electricity,” noted Kevin Banas, project manager for Cini-Little International Inc., the Germantown, Md.-based global consultancy.
A 100-watt lightbulb running around the clock would use 876 kilowatt-hours.
“In Chicago, our average electrical cost is currently 15.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, meaning that bulb costs almost exactly $134 to run for the year. An equivalent LED bulb using just 16 watts would use 140 kilowatt-hours, costing a little over $21 to run for the year.”
A high-quality LED bulb from a reliable manufacturer should last a minimum of 15 times longer than an equivalent incandescent, Banas said. “In the case of a common household LED replacing a 100-watt bulb and using retail prices, over a 15-year period you would save $14.50 in replacement incandescent bulbs and $1,695 in electrical utilities.”
How does that translate to retailers?
Getting reliable numbers on which to base the decision to switch isn’t always easy, according to Sam Odeh, president of Power Buying Dealers (PBD USA) in Elmhurst, Ill., which operates 25 owned and franchised locations in Illinois, Georgia and Florida. “Yes, we are in favor of LED and yes, we (garner) savings from the conversion to them. But frankly, it’s so hard to benchmark because we are constantly adding and remodeling sites with more demand on electricity usage.”
LED fixtures can save $37 per fixture per year, said Brian Lally, Exchange corporate energy manager for the Army & Airforce Exchange Service (AAFES), which operates 589 Express convenience stores and 122 main stores.
“With most Expresses having 80 to 100 fixtures, average yearly savings is approximately $3,000 to $3,700 per store,” he added.
Lighting selections depend on use and illumination requirements, Lally has found.
“High light levels are used for reading product labels and at the point of sale,” he said. “Lumens output is always a critical consideration specific to location and wattage.”
Refrigeration and Displays
Lighting fixtures are far from the only places that smart retailers look to cut costs.
A major expense in c-stores is refrigeration systems for display cases and bottled beverages, Banas explained. Purchasing modern, Energy Star-certified equipment for free-standing cases will help keep operating expenses low, while walk-in coolers can be designed with thicker, higher R-value (measures an insulating material’s capacity to resist heat flow) walls and efficient refrigeration systems.
“Be sure to keep all heating and cooling equipment well maintained, as equipment in disrepair will show its age by losing energy efficiency,” Banas said.
New refrigeration and HVAC controls are excellent opportunities for convenience store energy savings, Lally said. “LED lighting strips can be added to refrigerator and freezer doors and reach-in coolers, as LEDs don’t put out as much heat as fluorescents. Vestibules can also reduce heating and cooling loads.”
C-stores can also save on lighting by installing dimmers and timeclock controls, and by turning lights off when not in use, Lally added.