Lighting Upgrades Drive Operations Efficiencies

LightingNOCO Express, with 35 c-stores throughout Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., has been bringing its interior and exterior store lighting to the next level.

In the three stores the chain has constructed over the last two years, NOCO has added compact fluorescent dimmable ceiling fixtures that are connected to a light-harvesting program. The buildings gain natural light through skylights and the stores’ front windows, and light sensors stationed throughout the store adjust the brightness of the lights according to the amount of sunlight flowing into the store from outside.

“For now we’re just adding the light harvesting system to our new stores because they have an open ceiling plan where our older stores have a suspended ceiling,” noted Scott Robinson, director of real estate for NOCO.

The chain is also in the process of converting the exterior lights at all existing stores to LED. At presstime NOCO had already completed 18 sites, and planned to convert the remainder of its stores in 2014. NOCO partnered with a utility company before embarking on the project.

“The utility pays for 70% of the cost of the project, we pay for 30%, and they give that to us at 24 months at 0% interest,” Robinson said. The company has also added motion sensors in its restrooms, offices and backrooms, so lights only turn on when someone opens the door.

Lighting Trends
Robinson noted that LEDs, skylights, and allowing more natural light into stores are the main lighting trends he’s noticed during the foray into lighting upgrades.

 “You’re going to continue to see LEDs both on the interior and exterior of convenience stores, including street lighting and parking lot lighting,” said Derek Kirchner, principal program advisor for DTE Energy Co., in Detroit, Mich. He added that as the light quality of the LEDs has improved and costs have fallen, now is an ideal time to make the switch for those who have been holding out for the right time to upgrade.

The first step for convenience stores wishing to convert to LED lighting is to contact their local utility to determine what incentives might exist. Another trend Kirchner has identified for 2014 that is impacting lighting is that many utility companies are offering larger incentives to businesses doing multiple energy efficiency projects at once.

Robinson agreed that this is an important part of the due diligence phase. “Check with your utility provider first to see what incentives are out there because most utilities have them, and the incentives change frequently,” he said. “We partnered with a utility when we upgraded our interior lights—we switched from a four-bulb, 32-watt fluorescent light down to a three-bulb, 28-watt light at 18 stores. At the same time the utility was offering some savings if we also converted to LEDs on all our coolers and freezers, so we took advantage of that.”

The utility NOCO is working with now to upgrade lighting at the remainder of its stores was offering an incentive if they added refrigeration controls at the same time. NOCO took advantage of the program. “The refrigeration controls make it so that the condenser motors and door heaters no longer run 24 hours a day—now they only run as needed,” Robinson noted.◆

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