The time has come for all buildings, including restaurants and foodservice operators, to replace their T12 linear florescent lamps with more efficient bulbs, such as T8s or T5s, Young said. Department of Energy regulations that took effect this past July now eliminate the oversized lamps most commonly used in foodservice. While these bulbs are less popular in new construction projects, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association estimates that T12 units represent 30 percent of fluorescent four-foot lamps sold every year. The T12 bulbs are also common in older restaurants and other operations.
"There are still some rebates available for new lamps, so people need to act now — you can't put it off any longer," Young said. "The longer you wait, the more expensive it will be to make the switch." At any rate, the thinner, more efficient T5s and T8s ensure a fast payback because of their lower energy use, and they have illuminating capabilities that are just as strong.
Next to go are the traditional PAR38 halogen flood lamps and the track lighting that uses these bulbs, Young added. Those will soon be phased out. While some more efficient flood lamps will eventually be available to replace these, another solution is to use compact fluorescents in nondimming, bright spotlight applications away from people, such as in walk-in coolers and under exhaust hoods, or to highlight menu boards. Then, for general back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house lighting applications, operators can solve the rest of the problem by switching to LED floodlights, according to Young.
LED floodlights, while efficient and better made than in years past, are still a "bit of a Wild West," Young said. "You have to be careful with what products you are getting and make sure the company is reputable with a good track record and warranty program."
While these lamps can be easy to use — think plug-and-play — "they are expensive, so you don't want to buy a piece of junk," Young cautioned. Chipotle, for example, uses a mixture of two different top brands for its LED floodlights. "The colors pop out, the beam is great, but it's a $100 light," he added. That said, smaller operators might want to investigate creating an integrated lighting solution that combines high-quality LED floodlights with other efficient bulbs on the market.
The most widely used decorative lamp in foodservice is the MR16 halogen, though in theory, this shouldn't be used so widely, said Young. These small, superbright lamps were supposed to be "just the icing on the cake," used only for highlighting small spots in the front of the house, for example, hung over tables to spotlight dishes, or to showcase a painting or a vase of flowers.
Instead, foodservice operations often use them in excess, even in track lighting. The problem with this approach is that these bulbs are red hot and burn out quickly. If they're overused in the bar area, they can bleach out wine labels, and they can even bleach out colors of food in retail applications.
"For years, the LED industry has eyed the MR16 with a goal to produce a true solid-state equivalent," Young has written on the FSTC blog. Now, one manufacturer has finally broken ground to produce that 55-watt, intense light created by a real halogen MR16. The small LED package operates like a "point-source" MR16 lamp, but without the intense heat, thanks to a heat-sink design that creates a convective air current to move heat away from the lamp, according to Young. Moreover, these new bulbs are based on a violet LED for better color correction and to prevent that strong blue color component created by many traditional LED bulbs. At $20 a bulb, according to the FSTC calculator, one of these lamps running at 10 hours a day can earn payback in just one year.
"A lot of lighting from a small package — that's what we need to make a true replacement for an efficient MR16 lamp," Young said. This is LED 2.0.