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A beam that beacons: LED leads the way

High-quality, efficient lighting of pumps, car washes, parking lots, perimeters, signage and interiors is a vital component of business today and key to improving customer satisfaction and safety. Stations and convenience stores across the country are almost universally switching from old halogen to LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting in new-build or through upgrades to older locations.

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“There is a big shift in the industry now toward LED lighting because of the cost, operational and customer and staff advantages,” says Jim Rodd, sales manager with Red Leonard Associates. “It’s almost certainly a standard in newly-constructed sites and by now most of the major companies like Canadian Tire and others have done, or are doing, upgrades across their locations.”

LED lighting in the forecourt has numerous advantages. Perhaps first and foremost is energy efficiency. Operators report they have seen savings as much as 66 per cent when municipal rebate programs are taken into account.

Longevity is another major advantage. “LED lighting in the forecourt uses less than 10 per cent of the energy than the old metal halid bulbs consumed and is a far better light,” says Tom Humphries, petro operations manager with Peninsula Cooperative in Victoria, BC. “You can expect to get longevity of 100,000 hours or 15 to 17 years before you need to change any bulbs. Other advantages are fewer operational disruptions when forecourt bulbs need to be changed and no service calls.”

Red River Cooperative, which operates more than 30 locations in Manitoba and some across the border in Ontario, has a local sign contractor come to its sites once every three months in the summer and once every two months in the winter to check bulbs and replace them when necessary. “With LED technology this maintenance and the additional cost is not required,” says Randy Andrusiak, gas bar operations manager with Red River. “From our experience the only item in an LED system that can fail is the driver, but very few have failed us over the last five years.” (An LED driver is an electrical device which regulates the power to an LED bulb or string or strings of LEDs. The driver responds to the changing needs of the bulb or circuit by providing a constant quantity of power as the LED electrical properties change with temperature).

Another advantage is that the light from LED is much better than from old halogen systems. “Better lighting in the forecourt makes the site more inviting for all customers, especially females who often look for a safe, well-lit environment,” says Humphries. “Staff also work much better and safer under good lighting conditions. We use LED bulbs that are 3200 K (kelvin) on the lighting spectrum which we feel give us the optimum lighting for a forecourt.”

The kelvin number will determine the kind of light an LED bulb will emit. A lower kelvin number means the light appears more yellow while a higher number means the light is whiter or bluer. LEDs at the 2700K to 3000K range will match the colour of an incandescent bulb. If you prefer a whiter light look for bulbs rated between 3500K and 4100K.

Another advantage of LED lighting is that it is instantaneous. When an LED light turns on there is no warm up period. As well, it gives more direct light than older technologies and reduces light pollution in the dark hours, a great advantage if the station is near a residential area. “The benefit is a gas bar that is bright in appearance and reassuring to customers that the site is safe,” says Andrusiak.

Red River Cooperative is in the process of upgrading its locations with LED technology at the same time as it is upgrading its exterior corporate identification. Humphries suggests operators upgrade to LED all at once. “Mixing old lighting with new LEDs is a bad idea and it’s typically better to do the whole thing in one stroke,” he advises. “The cost will obviously depend on the size and scope of the upgrade, but either way the investment payback of switching to LED is quick at one to two years.”

Once the forecourt is completed, Humphries recommends changing the in-store lighting as well. “LED tubes versus the standard eight-foot fluorescents again will consume only less than 10 per cent of the energy and provide much better retail lighting,” he says suggesting operators learn about local regulations and rebate programs.

Better lighting adds up to better operations and potentially better revenues and profits as well. Simply, switching to LED will provide premium lighting, conserve energy, reduce inconvenient and costly maintenance and reduce overall costs as well as create a more inviting and secure environment.