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Making the Switch to LEDs


Fueled by rapid-fire advances in technology, the use of solid-state lighting is finding increased acceptance throughout the fast-food and casual-dining sectors. With their higher efficiencies and long lifespans, LEDs, which contain no toxic elements, are an ideal solution for operators looking to cut costs and improve their bottom lines while also helping the environment. Indeed, a report by McKinsey & Co. cited conversion to LED lighting as potentially the most cost-effective simple approach to combating global warming using existing technology.

Here is an update on two recent applications:

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers has replaced approximately 12,000 standard incandescent and halogen lights in more than 150 of its U.S. locations with new, more efficient, 7-watt LED PAR 20 flood and spotlights. The chain is using the LEDs for general down-lighting applications that require a high quality of light, measured as lamp-to-lamp white LED color consistency.

The lamps, from GE Consumer & Industrial, Cleveland, feature advanced optical controls that reduce wasted extraneous light. They were installed in phases at Red Robin’s restaurants, from November 2008 through March 2009, in the entrance and lobby areas, as well as over the dining room tables and around the perimeters.

The LEDs are helping to preserve the ambiance of Red Robin restaurants and customers’ comfort, while supporting the chain’s initiatives targeted at saving several hundred thousand dollars annually in lighting energy costs over the life of the new LED lights.

“Switching to LED lamps in our company-owned Red Robin restaurants offers immediate energy-cost advantages given the number of locations involved in our energy-reduction efforts,” said John Rogers, VP capital purchasing, Red Robin, Greenwood Village, Colo. “We expect a very attractive return on investment with reductions in both energy consumption and maintenance requirements.”

The LED lamps (200 lumens) cut energy consumption up to 77% and last more than six times longer (a 20,000-hour rated life to 70% of initial light output) than standard 30-watt incandescent R20 reflectors (200 lumens) with a 3,000-hour rated life. The annual energy savings for just one 7-watt GE LED light operated for 4,500 hours annually at $.10 /kWh will be approximately $10, GE said.

Solid-state lighting technology also figures prominently in McDonald’s new restaurant in Cary, N.C. The site, which is seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification, is lit 97% with LEDs. When compared with the standard lighting packages, it consumes 78% less electricity for lighting.

The Cary McDonald’s uses the full line of LEDs from Cree, Durham, N.C., including its recessed downlights and new LED bulb. The lighting is featured throughout the restaurant, from the dining areas and kitchen to the hallways and restrooms, as well as the drive-through, entryways and parking lot.

In addition, the restaurant features a fully automated, intelligent lighting-control system that combines light from the high-efficiency LEDs and daylighting (tubular daylighting devices from Solatube International, Vista, Calif.) with a photo sensor to maintain the proper light levels on work surfaces. For example, if it rains and the daylighting is reduced, the LED light levels are increased to compensate. The dimming capability of LED lighting provides the flexibility needed for this system to work effectively.

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