Chain of Lighting Showrooms Saves Energy With Switch to CFLs
April 4, 2012 - 4:14pm

Earlier this year, Seattle Lighting became the first lighting showroom to be named Energy Star Lighting Partner of the Year. Seattle Lighting Chief Operating Officer Dave McKee (center) accepted the award from the Environmental Protection Agency's Peter Banwell (left) and the U.S. Department of Energy's Richard Karney at this year's Energy Star Lighting Partner meeting in Phoenix.

Seattle Lighting has designed and implemented an ambitious in-house energy-savings initiative—something many lighting showrooms have just begun to think about. The new program promises to reduce energy consumed by electric lights, as well as associated costs, by an average of $12,500 per showroom annually. With 14 lighting showrooms in the Seattle Lighting chain and an average of 2,500 sockets in each of their lighting showrooms, the company's savings could total as much as $175,000 a year.

Heading up the initiative is Energy Efficiency Lighting Specialist Paul Williamson, who says energy efficiency and reducing the company’s “lighting footprint” is a corporate priority.

“Our objective is to maintain and improve our position as the number one lighting showroom chain for energy-efficient, Energy Star lighting,” Williamson explains. “Dave McKee, Seattle Lighting's Chief Operating Officer, wants to be out in front. He realizes that energy efficiency is something people want to learn more about, and he wants to position Seattle Lighting in a leadership role.”

The key to Seattle Lighting's program is the replacement of incandescent bulbs with reduced-wattage Energy Star lighting such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in their lighting showrooms. To that end, the company is working with local utilities to retrofit sockets and fixtures with Energy Star-qualified CFLs. The company is starting with its downtown Seattle showroom, where it has already replaced most of its 2,500 incandescent lamps.

In the program's initial iteration, Seattle Lighting replaced 25W incandescent lamps with 9W CFLs but discovered that the new fixtures resulted in an overly lit showroom.

“In many cases, it’s overkill because a 9W CFL is much brighter than a 25W incandescent,” Williamson says. “Moreover, a 9W CFL is almost as big as a standard 14W, which created a bit of a problem with some fixtures because the bulbs were too large. Especially in lighting showrooms, you want the light source to be as discreet as possible.”

The upshot: Seattle Lighting found that it was not only possible but aesthetically desirable to reduce lamp size and wattage still further. 

“We actually found that we can do better,” Williamson says. “We’re now going to a 4W Energy Star premium performance bulb. It’s actually a better fit for a lot of our fixtures. It’s smaller and, especially in a chandelier, you really don’t want to see that CFL.”

The effect on the chain's bottom line has been nothing short of remarkable.

“At our downtown Portland store, electricity costs us about 8 cents per kilowatt hour,” Williamson says. “The lights are on 60 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, which comes out to 3,120 hours a year. The wattage reduction is 21 or .021 kilowatts, so the annual savings per socket is about $5,” for a grand total of $12,500 in each of the company's lighting showrooms. In addition, Seattle Lighting obtains a hefty rebate on each bulb it purchases as part of the commercial incentive program offered by the local utility.

As for the look and feel of the lighting showrooms, Williamson says the change is negligible. “When people come into lighting showrooms, they don't want to feel like [they're in] a hospital,” he advises. But according to the showroom manager at the downtown Seattle location, “customers don't notice that anything’s different.”

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