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Case Study: Refrigerated Display Case Lighting Cost-Cutting with LED Systems
Aug 21, 2012
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Food City of Abingdon, VA, recently replaced the fluorescent lighting fixtures with LED in 7400 vertical refrigerated and frozen cases in 89 of its stores.

The company - which operates 104 supermarket outlets in the tri-state regions of Southeast Kentucky, Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee - wanted to do away with high energy costs and maintenance hassles associated with fluorescent lighting.

Food City upgraded to GE Lighting's Immersion RV40 LED lighting system in 7,400 display case doors. The chain expects to see a more than $300,000 drop in annual case lighting costs, based on an electricity rate of $0.11 per kilowatt hour and having the case lights on 18 hours each day.

Food City evaluated an array of strategic options, looking for the one that would have maximum impact. The team found that by installing energy-efficient LED lighting in vertical coolers in place of 48-watt fluorescent tubes, it could significantly reduce lighting and refrigeration costs - its leading overhead expenses. New illumination would also project a more consistent brand image case-to-case, where light level and color uniformity varied noticeably after years of regularly replacing expired tubes.

Conversion to long-life LED lighting further promised fewer service calls to attend to the often unreliable fluorescent fixtures.

"The biggest expense was not replacement lamps and ballasts, but sending contractors to the stores to begin with," said Keith Norton, director of engineering for Food City. "Preventative maintenance measures were costing Food City more than $5 per door per year, or $37,000 annually."

Norton added: "Removing this cost meant eliminating fluorescent lighting from our cases for good. The reliability of an LED system was a critical factor in our payback equation, as was the impact energy savings would have on shortening that time period."

In 2010, Food City began a competitive evaluation of several LED refrigerated display lighting technologies at its headquarters store in Abington, VA.

"Here we had multiple aisles of frozen food and ice cream that used the same type of case," Norton explained. "To compare energy savings, we installed one manufacturer's LED system in each row and monitored electricity consumption with wattage meters. We found that GE's 16-watt Immersion system used the least amount of energy and would provide the fastest return-on-investment at 28 months."

Norton said Food City later accelerated its payback period by earning a Tennessee Valley Authority utility rebate as the result of its lighting efficiency efforts at supermarkets in that state.

Total annual energy savings for Food City will exceed $300,000 now that the grocery chain uses 1,965,000 fewer kilowatt hours of electricity as the result of its LED case lighting update. Adding in maintenance savings, Food City's lighting and refrigeration costs are down an estimated $337,000 a year, or nearly $3,800 per store.

"Because food stores operate on very tight profit margins every savings is huge, particularly those not tied directly to sales," Norton said.

The visual appeal of the products tested also was a critical factor in Food City's final decision. The Immersion RV40 system greatly diminishes glare and light spillover into aisles while helping bring to life the full vibrancy of food packaging colors.

The stores were transitioned from fluorescent case lighting to LED throughout 2011. The lighting distributor was Illuminating Technologies (Greensboro, NC), with installation services managed by Lighting And Maintenance Providers (L.A.M.P.) of Greensboro.

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