A Bright Idea for Energy Savings

LED lighting can cut costs and simplify operations

When it comes to lighting, convenience stores use a lot of energy.

“[C-stores] had the highest percentage of electricity used on lighting of just about any vertical building that we looked at, and with lighting control, but especially with LED, you can drop that incredibly,” says Andy Foerster, executive vice president and chief technology officer for LSI Industries, an industrial lighting company with a focus on the c-store industry.

LEDs—short for light emitting diodes—are more energy efficient than conventional incandescent or compact fluorescent lighting, because they waste less heat and direct light in a specific direction, reducing the need for deflectors.

If a c-store operator were to replace every interior and exterior light in one midsize convenience store with LED bulbs, they would see about a 60% to 70% energy savings, says Jordan Spychala, vice president of niche market for LSI.

“For LED, the only con really has been cost,” says Foerster, “and cost has been falling over the last several years.” In 2013, the average price of an LED bulb with the equivalent brightness of a 60-watt incandescent bulb was about $25. By 2015, the bulbs cost slightly less than $2.50 each.

Spychala estimates that the money spent on installing LED lighting could be earned back through savings in two to five years. The exact time frame of the return on investment depends on weather in the area, the existence of rebates from local utility companies and the location’s kilowatt-per-hour rate.

Relatively low energy usage isn’t the only reason to consider LEDs as a lighting solution. Spychala says some LED fixtures can “dim themselves when the sun comes through the window. And then they’ll automatically go back up when the sun goes away, so you’re going to save even more.”

The automated capabilities of LEDs simplify instore operations, making dimming or turning the lights on or off an automatic process instead of an employee’s responsibility. “You don’t need to remember to do it. It just happens,” Foerster says.

“LED is the biggest no-brainer since sliced bread,” he says. Given enough of an investment of time and capital, it also could be a considerable energy saver for operators paying too much for power.