GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Meijer here completed a one-store LED spot-lighting pilot in the produce department last month that has brightened product displays while delivering improved energy results.
“We’re getting a good ROI and energy results on this,” said Mitch Boucher, manager of energy and engineering for Meijer, during a session last month at the Food Marketing Institute’s Energy & Store Development Conference in Phoenix. In his presentation, Boucher said that Meijer would “validate results and make adjustments” in what he called a “2013 pre-rollout.”
Meijer’s current ROI for most lighting projects is three to five years, Boucher said. “They are all coming in very well for us.” Meijer asks all potential suppliers to use the same ROI formula so that the chain can make “apples to apples” comparisons, he added.
In addition to produce spot lighting, Meijer is considering applying the directional, focused lighting characteristics of LED (light-emitting diode) to gas station canapé lighting and to other areas where “there is a good fit between the technological capabilities of LED and our applications,” Boucher said. The chain, which operates 197 stores, is not looking at using LED for “volumetric” — or more diffuse — lighting applications in stores. LED lighting for refrigerated cases, a common LED application in supermarkets, is also “not on our radar,” he added.
LED’s lighting capability “has changed tremendously” over the past five years, said Chip Israel, president, Lighting Design Alliance, Long Beach, Calif., who spoke with Boucher at the conference session. He said LED as a directional lighting source could be used now at a distance of 12 feet, double the distance attainable a few years ago.
In Meijer’s pilot store, lighting levels on produce racks “came up a little bit” with LED spot lighting, said Boucher. “We were below 80 foot-candles and we’re trying to hit 80 to 100 foot candles. Floor lighting in between the aisles came down a little, which was good.”
In assessing lighting technology, retailers should consult with a store designer to bridge the gap between the technical specifications and the lighting goal in the store, Boucher advised. “There’s a whole list of things that are not designed to get you to your goal, and that’s where you need a good designer to bring the technology to the application.”
Boucher cited heat management as an operational challenge for retailers installing lighting that needs to be seen in context. “Every LED manufacturer talks about how they manage heat,” he said. “That’s good but we really just want to light produce appropriately. Heat is not the most important thing up front.” Characteristics Meijer is seeking in produce spot lighting included warm product colors, high color rendering index (CRI) and low UV (ultraviolet) index.
Another important factor for Meijer is maintenance. “Am I going to be able to maintain it with the resources I currently have in my company?” said Boucher. In addition, “As I build new stores, can I use that there and still retrofit old stores so it’s the same technology and maintenance?”
Boucher described another retrofit project in which metal halide lighting in a walk-in freezer room was replaced with induction lighting, a volumetric application. The technology offers “extremely long life” (100,000 hours, or about 16 years) in a low temperature environment, he said. It also allows easy integration of occupancy sensor controls in a way that makes them “harder to tamper with.”
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