It's time to shine some light on light-emitting diodes. LEDs can do a lot for your store and its bottom line. This may surprise you, because the conventional wisdom is that LEDs emit very cool, blue light that may be too harsh or wrong for many stores or products.
But that's not necessarily true anymore. Today’s LEDs can be made to emit light from any point in the spectrum. That means LEDs have a lot more versatility now and can do more for a store.
Enhance Product Image
"You can literally dial in any color you want," says Frank Sorce, vice president of CCG LED Solutions, an LED lighting consulting company. For example, grocery stores can shine the "redder" white light on meat and make it look more appetizing. "It's still white light. But you're dialing up the reds in the LED."
But it isn’t only the butcher who likes what he sees from the new bulbs. "It is a more comfortable-looking light," Sorce says. "It looks cleaner. It's a better light. Most designers we talk to like the light better."
Jewelry stores have begun using LEDs to make their diamonds sparkle in various hues, too. "We worked with a national jewelry chain that wanted a specific color to 'explode' their diamonds."
Another chain wasn't happy with how their diamonds looked under halogens. Sales people had gotten in the habit of taking customers outside to show them the diamonds in the sunlight. The LEDs enabled the store to keep diamond demonstrations inside.
Most LEDs do not emit ultraviolet or infrared radiation. That means products such as produce will last longer on the shelf.
"If your bananas normally last three days, and you have to throw them out, now they're going to last six days," says Sorce.
And colors in your products, like fabrics, will last longer, too. For example, Sorce's firm replaced the lighting in a high-end furniture chain to improve their products’ appearance and lifespan.
"They found that the color rendering on their products was better than with the halogen 100 CRI product that they were using prior to it," Sorce says. "And because of the low UV, you won't have any fading on any of the products in your showroom."
Yes, LEDs will cost more than the same number of conventional light bulbs. But LEDs use less energy to provide the same amount of light. Most utility companies offer rebate programs that will help ease the upfront cost of installing LED lighting systems. That's because the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 42 percent of a store's utility bill is spent on lighting. Energy efficient lighting saves retailers money and it reduces demand on the nation’s power grid.
Another energy and cost saving benefit of LEDs is their low operating temperature—much lower than conventional bulbs—which can result in cheaper air conditioning bills during warm summer months.
And LEDs last long enough that one light is cheaper than all the replacement bulbs it outlasts. That also means less trash for the local landfill.
Unfortunately not all LEDs are created equal. Energy savings and lighting quality vary among manufacturers. To help sort all that out, the Department of Energy has provided resources to help decipher labels and claims.
- LED Lighting Facts is a DoE program that lists LED products from manufacturers who submit products for testing and report performance results. There also is information explaining what the labels mean.
- The Commercially Available LED Product Evaluation and Reporting (CALiPER) program supports testing of solid-state lighting products. It publishes summary reports that focus on types of products and detailed reports for each product tested.
The Dark Side of LEDs
Again, there is an initial investment that may be too much for a cash-strapped store—even including the various rebates and tax breaks.
Also, LEDs won't last in extreme heat. So not all spaces will be good locations. But that applies to very few retail spaces comfortable for customers.
But overall, LEDs are versatile enough that they can make almost any store look much greener.
Carl Natale is a recovering journalist who now blogs about how small-business owners can develop and improve their businesses. He shares ideas and tips on CarlNatale.com and as @CarlNatale on Twitter.
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