A year and a half ago my store experienced a brown out.
With the drop in voltage coming into the store we had the unfortunate experience of losing a number of the ballasts in our Hussmann Impact frozen food cases.
I had replaced a ballast on a couple of occasions, but never to the tune of a thousand dollars worth of parts at one time.
And so began my efforts to replace my fluorescent case lighting with LEDs.
LEDs or light emitting diodes are quickly becoming the gold standard in lighting.
They're highly efficient, have a long run time (average 50,000 hours) and as they become more prevalent their cost continues to decline.
Today LEDs are most often used in vertical display cases–freezer and cooler doors–but the future looks promising as more and more applications take shape.
Investing in LED lighting is by no means the largest investment a grocer will ever make, but it is significant enough that you'd want to be sure that you're going to get value for money.
Some friends of mine have installed an LED product where the fixture resembled a fluorescent light bulb and the driver is located inside the tube.
After disconnecting the old fluorescent ballast, the new LEDs used the dual pin receptor from the old fixture to power the LEDs.
Seemed simple enough.
Upon further inspection questions started to emerge.
Who exactly was this company?
Could they ensure that the fixtures would last the length of time they professed?
Are the fixtures even certified for use through the Canadian Standards Association–the Canadian equivalent of UL certification?
Will the fixtures qualify for government incentive programs?
As with any emerging product, there will always be companies looking to cash in and capture market demand.
I felt uneasy with some of the products I had seen and decided to continue looking.
At the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocer's Grocery Innovations trade show last October I came across the GE lighting booth.
I took their pamphlets and exchanged contact information.
A couple of weeks later GE sales rep Bill Piontkowski called and we began collecting information about my store and the fixtures I was looking to retrofit.
What was particularly appealing about this approach was that I would have store specific information on which to make my decision.
In my particular case, once government incentive programs were factored in, my payback was a mere 2.4 years!
(Without government assistance my payback was 3.19 years based on the cost of electricity in Ontario.)
Very few business owners will commit to change if it will represent an ongoing cost to doing business.
Simple rules of economics will dictate that most rational people will choose the path that yields the greatest return.
In the case of LED lighting, a strong case can be made that replacing your old fluorescent lighting will make you money.
But what if the benefits of LEDs go beyond the simple cost of illuminating your refrigerated cabinets?
As retailers we are always looking to keep our stores looking fresh, we want to be sure that the products in our stores look their best, and if possible, we'd also like to increase our sales through better presentation.
I have to admit, that I was hooked on LED lighting for my frozen food cases from the time that I ordered my most recent Hussmann cases that came equipped with LEDs direct from the factory.
The sparkle of the products behind LEDs make everything look better.
What's more, as a produce guy, I like colors in the store to "pop".
For that reason I chose 5000 kelvin color temperature for my lights.
While my older cases were still in good shape, the fluorescent lights seemed to give everything a yellowish hue. I don't want frozen food cases to look "warm", they're freezers after all!
To my eye the 5000K lights provide great color rendition and really show off products nicely.
We recently retrofitted the first of our cases with the new GE Immersion LED lights.
Here are some pictures:
Our initial impressions of the GE Immersion LED retrofits have them performing as good as the factory installed LEDs direct from Hussmann. With the improvement in lighting quality from the fluorescent fixtures that used to light cases, we're hopeful that this retrofit will help us to continue making our store look fresh, while increasing sales at the same time. Now, if only I could get the CPG companies to cover the cost!
Note: I have not received any financial consideration from GE for righting this blog. Buyers are encouraged to look at all options available and make their own decisions when purchasing equipment.