LEDs Attract Shoppers While Saving Energy

May 24, 2005
A Lighting Research Center study shows just how beneficial LEDs are in retail settings

Want to do more than merely illuminate store windows? Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) may be the solution you’re looking for. The results of a recently released field study by the Troy, NY-based Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center (LRC) revealed that use of these tiny lamps could cut lighting energy in retail windows by 30 to 50 percent and attract more attention from shoppers.

While using plenty of high-wattage accent lights to highlight mannequins and merchandise provides the most impact, it can cause costs and energy consumption to climb when used 12 or more hours every day. More energy-efficient lighting solutions are now available - including the LED, a tiny semiconductor that emits light in a range of vivid colors.

Though the technology is most often used in traffic signals, exit signs, and electronic displays, it now provides solutions to lighting needs in a whole host of environments - including retail settings. According to the LRC, “The potential benefits, including better efficiency and longer life (up to 50,000 hours, or 40-times longer than conventional incandescent lamps), have catalyzed global research efforts in LED and solid-state lighting technology.” Due to the flexibility they offer designers, and the 50-percent reduction in energy consumption over incandescent sources, colored LEDs have risen in popularity as an architectural and display lighting option.

The LRC field study was sponsored by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, with the purpose of determining whether energy-efficient, colored window lighting could draw shoppers’ interests, reduce energy consumption in store windows, and maintain or improve retail sales. Custom, slim-profile LED fixtures were installed by LRC researchers in the windows of three Los Angeles clothing stores located in area shopping malls. In each window, general fluorescent lighting was eliminated, the number and wattage of halogen accent lighting was reduced, and LED systems were added to create colored backgrounds of interest. The goal was a 30- to 50-percent reduction in energy consumption.

Over an 8-week period, different window display and lighting scenarios were tested. Shoppers were surveyed about the attractiveness, visibility, and eye-catching ability of the window. According to the LRC’s Dan Frering, “We designed the window lighting to create impact and contrast with color, instead of high light levels. This allowed us to reduce the amount of accent lighting and cut energy use.”

The response from shoppers validates the success of the installations. Eight weeks and more than 700 surveys later, the results showed:

  • 74 percent of shoppers found the new lighting design to be eye-catching.
  • 84 percent agreed that the LED display windows were visually appealing.
  • 91 percent confirmed that the reduced accent lighting did not diminish the visibility of the window mannequins and merchandise.
  • The colored LED-lit windows were preferred by shoppers over the typical window lighting design, and offered a 30-percent reduction in power.
  • Cutting consumption to 50 percent in each window resulted in no significant difference in shoppers’ opinions when compared to typical window lighting, but garnered a lower opinion when compared with the 30-percent reduction lighting design.
  • Sales data for the three stores did not reveal any significant change from sales during the same weeks last year, even with a 50-percent reduction in power consumption.

Approximately 5,500 kilowatt-hours per year could be saved by the average store (based on a 2,000 watts of window lighting and 14 hours of use per day), according to the LRC’s estimates. The typical system payback is less than 2 years, the LRC reports. To find out more, visit the Lighting Research Center (www.lrc.rpi.edu) and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (www.ladwp.com) websites.

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