ROTTERDAM, N.Y. -- A Price Chopper store here is participating in a study to be completed early next year comparing the lighting performance of white light-emitting diode (LED) technology to that of fluorescent lights within freezers.
The store, operated by Schenectady, N.Y.-based Price Chopper Supermarkets, has been retrofitted with a four-door freezer illuminated with LED lighting.
The study, being conducted by Troy, N.Y.-based Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center (LRC), will also evaluate shoppers' lighting preferences and the lighting's effect on product sales.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first application of LEDs in a freezer within a supermarket setting," said Dr. Nadarajah Narendran, director of the LRC. In the spring of 2005, LRC plans to present results to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which is funding the study.
Price Chopper will decide whether or not to expand its use of LEDs after it reviews those results, according to Mona Golub, spokeswoman, Price Chopper.
The LEDs-illuminated prototype freezer was installed in the Price Chopper store in May beside a fluorescent-illuminated freezer. Price Chopper was chosen for the study, according to Dr. Narendran, because of its proximity to the LRC.
"This is a field study, and it's convenient that Price Chopper is within [driving] distance because we need to monitor a lot of parameters throughout the day," said Dr. Narendran, adding that Price Chopper was happy to oblige.
"Operating efficiently helps us to control our costs and pass savings on to consumers," said Golub. "We're always looking to present the products in the clearest, most-appealing light possible. We want to increase lighting output and decrease maintenance. So this is a great collaboration."
Currently, LRC is engaging Price Chopper customers in surveys designed to compare the illumination ability of LED and fluorescent lighting.
"We ask them if they think LED lighting sufficiently illuminates pricing information," said Narendran. "We're also monitoring LED's impact on sales."
Although LRC must collect six months' worth of sales information before it reviews LED's impact on sales, customers' reactions to the LED light have shown "very positive results" so far, said Narendran.
"With the LEDs, customers seem to think things are brighter in the space, merchandise looks better to them, and they're able to read things more easily," he said.
LRC started its research over two years ago with a small pilot study funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. "In this lab study pilot, we found that LEDs are ideal for freezer case applications," said Narendran.
Unlike fluorescent lighting, LEDs have been found to thrive in cold environments, he said. Also, fluorescent lamps have significant amounts of radiant heat that can affect perishable foods, whereas LEDs do not have radiant heat.
"The freezer environment is terrible for fluorescent lighting," he said. "Low temperatures affect its efficiency and light output, and fluorescent [bulbs] fail much faster. With LEDs, you'll get 40,000 to 50,000 hours of operation compared to 10,000 to 15,000 hours of operation with fluorescent lighting" in a freezer application.
The prototype freezer case used in the study was manufactured by Tyler Refrigeration, Niles, Mich., and retrofitted with a LED lighting system developed by Gelcore, Valley View, Ohio.
"There has been a lot of interest [in LEDs] from other major retailers," said Narendran. "They've been calling since they see the potential in this. A few manufacturers have LED systems in the prototype stage, so they'll be available to the commercial market."