As owner of the new Better Day BP fuel station in Racine, Wis. and a professional home builder, Tom Tousis understands the effects of using “green” components in building design. That’s why, when it came to constructing his own petroleum station, he incorporate a LED lighting throughout.
“It made sense, from a financial standpoint and an environmental one, that LED lighting was the way to go in terms of lighting throughout the facility,” Tousis said. He turned to Beta/Kramer Lighting, a division of Ruud Lighting in Racine, Wis., to provide the LED components he needed to make his vision a reality. His new facility includes seven fuel pumps and an expansive store—all of which are illuminated with LED lighting—including pole lights, canopy lighting, car wash lighting, and exterior lighting.
“We’ll be installing LED components on the interior of the store in a few weeks,” Tousis said. And Scott Manning, sales manager for the manufacturer Beta/Kramer Lighting, said although Tousis may be the first customer to incorporate LED lighting throughout his entire facility, he is certainly not the last.
“It is a really exciting time in the lighting industry,” Manning explained. “LED technology is an up-and-coming technology that is really going to change the way this industry and other industries meet their lighting needs.”
Beta/Kramer Lighting offers LED lighting for applications in the petroleum, commercial and industrial industries. The EDGE by Sturtevant, Wis.-based Beta LED is a family of products that includes a canopy, area, wall/security, bollard and parking garage fixtures. They take a “total systems approach with the design of the fixture to ensure that it functions properly within the environment it was designed for.”
What is LED?
So why the sudden interest in a relatively new lighting technology? And how can it impact the petroleum industry? According to the experts at Beta/Kramer, “LED is the common abbreviation for a light-emitting diode. Each individual LED consists of a semiconductor diode that emits light when a voltage is applied to it.” As Manning explained, the electronics industry has used LED technology for several decades as indicator lights for various electronic devices, but only recently has the technology evolved to the point where it is viable for general lighting applications.
“LED technology enhances canopy lighting, for example, by using less lumens per fixture than traditional fixtures,” Manning said, “our exclusive NanoOptic allows for better light distribution and creates a more uniform spread underneath the canopy. The actual light emitted from an LED fixture is a whiter light, which improves the overall appearance under the canopy.”
Manning added that LED lighting offers better lighting uniformity and a minimum of a 50 percent energy savings over conventional light sources. These fixtures contain no lead or mercury.And since there are no lamps to replace, they are virtually maintenance free.
As Scott Ready, president of Cincinnati-based LSI Lighting Solutions Plus explained, from a manufacturing perspective, LSI and others in the industry have been looking at this technology for quite some time. “When you start to talk about LED technology, you have to look at it in a way that it is evolving in its technology—it is early in its adoption phase and still relatively early it its development phase. “
Often referred to as solid state lighting, LED technology in other applications, specifically color applications, has been in the marketplace for 20 years. “The real change that has propelled it into lighting has occurred in the last 24 months,” Ready said. “When you look at the base technology, it is electronics as opposed to the lighting. It is like going from vacuum tubes in televisions to LCDs. It is a huge leap in technology.”
Indeed, as the experts at Beta/Kramer explain, early attempts to apply LEDs in general illumination lighting failed because they didn’t meet the lumen-per-watt output or color requirements. Technology has advanced to the point where using LEDs for general illumination is now viable.
And while an LED module may physically fit into an existing housing, that housing doesn’t leverage the inherent qualities of the LEDs. Manning explained that standard housings can’t handle the challenges of LED thermal management, which is vastly different than thermal management for traditional incandescent or fluorescent lighting.
“When looking at LED products, customers should insist that the fixtures maintain proper thermal management of the LEDs,” Manning said. “They will not hold up to the internal heat that LEDs inherently create.”
Worth the Investment
While Tousis has been installing LED lighting technology throughout the homes he builds, he came across the industrial solutions for the petroleum industry at a petroleum marketers trade show in Madison, Wis. It was after seeing the many benefits that the technology could provide his new gas station that Tousis’ interest was piqued.
“I no longer have to pay someone $90/hour to change lamps or maintain the traditional lighting fixtures,” Tousis said. “And better yet, LED lights do not include the mercury or lead found in traditional metal halide lamps.” Disposal issues are also no longer a consideration because his LED lights are expected to last 30 years.
“The rate of improvement in white solid state lighting products is really what is propelling it into the marketplace,” Ready said. “Another form of comparison is to look at the other light sources we’ve used in the petroleum industry in the past few years. You didn’t see huge leaps in performance of fluorescent or incandescent lighting—perhaps 5 to 10 to 15 percent in a 40-year timeframe. LED, on the other hand, in the last 14 months has more than doubled in its performance criteria. You are seeing improvements of 100 percent in a period of less than a year and a half.”
Ready noted that the environmental friendly nature of LED lighting is also playing a big part in the technology’s appeal. “It is the only light source other than incandescent that doesn’t contain mercury, so there is a great deal of environmental appeal. It is not only efficient as it produces more light and uses less energy, but it also is a light source that doesn’t have the disposal issues of the current light sources have.”
And what about the cost? Industry experts agree that, as with any new technology, you will pay more initially. “Owner/operators should consider LED lighting for the energy savings and as part of an overall focus on green-friendly products,” Manning said. “This is solid-state technology and with new technology you get a different cost structure. Your upfront costs are more, but your long-term costs of ownership are less.”
As Tousis discovered, the LED components he was considering cost about five times more than traditional, metal halide lighting. “But when I sat down and really looked at the numbers, I realized that it may be an expensive upfront cost, but in the long term, I will be saving money,” he said.
“As the performance improves, the cost is going to come down,” Ready said. “There is not a lot of volume being produced or purchased, but naturally, as that happens, the cost structure is going to start coming down and will create a good value proposition for the end user.”
So why would someone adopt the LED technology now when it is so new? “You have to keep in mind that it is based on 20 years of development,” Ready said. “That development has chugged along to the point that now we see the value proposition to the customer. That’s really the point we’ve reached in the last 12 months.”
The value proposition is certainly driven by energy. That can be seen in LSI’s new LED product introduced in November 2007. Called the Crossover, the product is geared to be very specific in its application—namely, exterior petroleum canopies.
“The reason LSI developed it for that application is that we saw the best opportunity to apply LED on the exterior settings—energy and maintenance being the primary drivers,” Ready said. “We are taking the product now into the marketplace, a product that can save the canopy owner up to 85 percent on his energy bill.”
While environmental and energy savings issues are appealing characteristics of LED lighting, the quality of light provided by this technology is also catching the attention of marketers and their customers.
“One of the industry issues that petroleum retailers faces is the increased need for stringent light control,” Ready said. LSI developed a product 12 years ago called the Scottsdale, which was a brand new metal halide lamp in a glass lens that produced a broad distribution of light underneath the canopy.
“It illuminated everything and acted as a target point source of illumination and was very attractive,” Ready said. “But today you find legislation restrictions on energy use and restrictions on light pollution that have really modified the kind of lighting that many communities will allow. So LSI has offered multiple solutions—giving the customer different ways to approach specific lighting needs.”
Tousis finds that the LED lighting installed throughout his facility provides a clean, crisp, refreshing light that really helps his facility stand out. “Many of my customers understand the environmental impact of LED lighting, and they come into my store and comment on the lights,” he said. “It’s definitely been noticed in the community. This is refreshing because the petroleum industry is seen as a ‘necessary evil’ in terms of the environmental impact it has. Whenever you can improve your environmental initiatives in your business, it is a good thing.”
Manning added that this new technology allows marketers to differentiate themselves from others by creating a new look and feel to their sites. “No longer do you need large, glare-producing fixtures hanging below your canopy,” he said. “A fresh new look or remodel always drives traffic to the store.”
With any emerging technology, the future seems rather bright. This can certainly be said for LED lighting.
‘The changes in this technology are happening at a rate unheard of in lighting,” Manning said. “We are looking at a paradigm shift in lighting technology from old tube-type lighting to solid-state/electronic lighting. The possibilities are endless with what you can do with LED. We have several new products in development and we have just begun to touch the surface.”
Design Parameters Surrounding LED
Michael Lawshe, president and owner of Paragon-Solutions, a Fort Worth, Texas based design firm, said that LED lighting is a great way to push people toward incorporating “green” elements into their business, while enhancing their site’s design.
“In addition to providing good energy savings and reducing the contaminant waste of traditional lighting components, LED lighting offers intriguing new fixtures that will enhance the look and feel of your facility,” Lawshe said. “Although the technology is really so new that it requires some research to determine what it offers your facilities, it is important to examine the costs involved in retrofitting your existing facilities lighting equipment.”
As Patrick Fiedler of the Los Angeles-based Fiedler Group explains, LED feels brighter to the human eye, which gives a brighter feel to a site.
“This crisp, white light is focused on horizontal surfaces, which helps surfaces appear brighter,” Fiedler said.
Lawshe recommends petroleum marketers interested in retrofitting existing lighting components with LED fixtures do their homework.
“You have to remember that, particularly on the interior of a site, LED lighting can change the look of the interior of your store. It completely changes the light spectrum,” he said. “That means, if you are retrofitting new fixtures in an area that had traditional accent lighting, for example, it may completely change the look of that area. Do some analysis to determine the proper placement of these new light fixtures.”
Fiedler added that proper placement of LED fixtures, particularly with canopy applications, can impact the look and feel of a site’s design. “It’s important to properly determine the site’s design with regard to these LED fixtures because the LED components last so long—an average of 13 years. Once they are installed they don’t need any ongoing maintenance.”
Also remember that LED is affected by heat differently than traditional lights, so be sure there is the right level of circulation around the lights.