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Lighting up best practice

AlisterAnthonyIn this article Alister Anthony from Arcus Solutions, highlights some of the key areas to consider when it comes to efficient and cost effective long-term lighting solutions for a retail environment.

According to the Carbon Trust, up to 40 per cent of a building’s electricity use is consumed by its lighting – a significant impact upon on energy costs. This is particularly relevant within a retail operating environment where lighting is used to display goods in the best possible way and safeguard shoppers. However, careful management of lighting system selection, control and ongoing maintenance, can help maximise operational efficiencies and cut energy costs. Addressing the importance of this area makes good business sense.

System selection

Traditional fluorescent tubes and incandescent lamps are cited as a major source of energy wastage. Fluorescents are at their most wasteful and costly when they are at end of life and failure to replace them at that stage will unavoidably result in poor lighting levels and increased energy costs.  In recent times, it is clear that incandescent lamps are gradually being phased out in retail outlets and workplaces around the country. Many, for example, are replacing legacy systems with LED (light emitting diode) solutions.

Among the clear benefits offered by an LED specification are markedly lower ongoing maintenance requirements, as well as the long-life performance characteristics of the LED itself. This, in particular, lessens the need for regular maintenance commitments, apart from the relatively simple annual task of cleaning the light fitting. In the event of a LED failure, simple and quick repairs can be carried out to ensure the lighting fixture is up and running as soon as possible. To facilitate this, it is important to carry a good stock of spare control gear.

Industry estimates indicate that a good standard LED lighting system installed within a retail environment can offer a three-year pay back on the original costs, courtesy of lower running and maintenance costs, with LED,s having a proven operating lifespan of eight years plus. With a myriad of inferior products readily available on the market, it is also worth ensuring that the system selection comes from a reputable supplier and the components are well-regarded, or else the efficiencies and cost savings of a LED system will prove unobtainable.

Smart Controls

Lighting systems should always be linked into an intelligent building management system that can, for instance, respond to the retail environment’s specific needs. While essential lighting to safeguard customer safety and showcase goods during opening hours is a pre-requisite, the ability to ramp down lighting (and with it energy cost) during non-opening hours should always be sought where at all possible. Intelligent systems can operate lighting at 100 per cent capacity during trading hours, but then reduce capacity to say 30 per cent when the shop is closed, but stock-filling and security issues still mean a requirement for light. The adoption of intelligence-based solutions such as this can have a marked impact on annual energy costs.

Likewise, the use of occupancy sensors which will dim or switch off lights when a room is not occupied, or daylight sensors, which can adjust the balance between artificial and natural light within a space, can help a company’s strategic vision to reduce overall electricity consumption.

It is also important to take a holistic view when it comes to lighting and
the potential impact on its surroundings. In food retailing for example, it is crucial to understand the effect that heat generating lamps can have on nearby refrigeration units. Allowing an increase in heat from lamps can make such units work harder and consume more energy. The operating link between lighting provision and refrigeration must be one that works seamlessly and effectively together, not in isolation.  The same case could be argued for clothing outlets, where there is a tendency to use heat-generating spotlights to aid product displays, but which can have a detrimental effect on the operating efficiency of air conditioning units required in the summer months.

Finally, smart controls in leisure spaces or restaurants can support the provision of feature lighting so the appropriate atmosphere is created to attract customers. Creatively controlled areas of light can help enhance the ambiance of such establishments.

Simple tips

For businesses looking to maximise the impact of lighting, but minimise its expense, a few simple actions can go a long way.

  • Turn it off – switching off lights not in use is perhaps the simplest way to drastically reduce energy outgoings. Request that staff turn off lights when leaving rooms, or ensure non-essential lighting fixtures are turned off at night or weekends (if applicable).
  • Check lamp sizes – many businesses are inadvertently illuminating their premises to a level brighter than is required. Assessing lower-wattage lamps or replacing older wire wound fixtures with smaller electronically controlled fittings can be a route to lower energy use.
  • Look at technology – as indicated above, the adoption of smart technologies such as motion sensors can help ensure lights are only active when needed.
  • Think for the long-term – when assessing potential lighting systems, it is important to think for the long-term, not just the cost of immediate lamp, tube or fixture replacement. Known brand lamps often have significantly longer lifespans due to their stringent development and testing, which will soon deliver cost payback.

Lighting is crucial to building operational effectiveness. Companies looking to improve performance in this area, and make an impact on the bottom line, should seek out the expertise of partners as a pathway to appropriate system selection and maintenance for both short-term answers and a long-term strategic approach.

Doing this will ensure lighting in a retail environment not only visually enhances goods and attracts consumers – but it also won’t cost the earth.

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