Best Practices Award: Energy — Food service distributor installs high-tech lighting and improves its bottom line

Dec. 17, 2010
Out of the dark: Upgraded lighting qualifies for government incentive.

Maines Paper & Food Service, Inc. is one of the country’s largest independent broad line foodservice distributors with revenues approaching $3 billion. Headquartered in Conklin, New York, Maines services businesses such as Burger King, Subway and Applebee’s and has facilities in 33 states. The Conklin showplace includes a very active 460,000 square foot warehouse with ambient and cold sections. More than 500,000 cases ship in and out of the bustling facility every week. Maines has a strong commitment to sustainability across the organization and, in evaluating energy efficiency alternatives, they identified lighting, which represents about 20% of their electricity costs, as a key upgrade opportunity.

Critical factors contributed to the solution’s selection and success. Maines wanted to replace their inefficient, HPS (high-pressure sodium) lighting with a more energy-efficient alternative. Their stringent requirements included measurable energy savings, improved light levels, a payback period of less than three years and a solution that would be easy to implement and maintain. Additionally, working with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Maines’ chosen solution had to qualify for the project incentive provided by NYSERDA.

There are many highbay lighting solutions available for warehouses, including simple fixtures, which are without intelligence or controls beyond ON and OFF settings. Maines saw the immediate value of an LED-based Intelligent Lighting System from Digital Lumens that provides the ability to slash kWh consumption and add the capability to customize the lighting program to match projected activity and employee movement within the facility.

The Digital Lumens Intelligent Lighting System combines intelligent local and centralized controls, sensors, a wireless network and custom-designed LED-based luminaires into a single system. The lighting controls integrated into the Digital Lumens system ensure that lights are OFF when there is no activity in the area and that, when ON, lights can be set to whatever level of brightness is appropriate to shift and task. And, because there is no delay in ON and OFF, employees never experience being in a dark area while they wait for the lights to warm up.

Another important aspect of the decision to choose Digital Lumens was that it afforded Maines the ability to continuously commission the system to ensure energy efficiencies over time. (Buildings that do not re-commission every year risk an annual 15% increase in energy use.) With Digital Lumens’ smart technology, Maines has avoided the “set it and forget it” mentality, that can erode savings over time.


Implementation encountered problems. Despite rigorous advanced planning, Digital Lumens found that there were some portions of the facility that required different settings than anticipated. This was due to traffic patterns being different than the initial assumptions or even Maines’ own beliefs. The Digital Lumens team worked with the Maines team to change settings for these portions of the facility — e.g. sensor delays of 60 seconds vs. 30 seconds to turn lights OFF after an area has been vacated — leveraging the Digital Lumens software and embedded intelligence. The wireless networking built into the fixtures enabled adjustments without having to send a Maines employee or electrician up on a lift. And, Maines’ staff could test out different settings until they found the right combination that worked for both maximum energy savings and the best fit with their application.

By installing the Digital Lumens Intelligent Lighting System, Maines has realized:

  • An 87% drop in direct, lighting-related energy use
  • Savings of 1,726,108 kWh per year (more than enough to power 200 homes for a year)
  • Reduction of 1,240 metric tons of CO2
  • Increased light levels — from 12 to 20 foot candles
  • Additional BTU savings from the reduced chiller load as the Digital Lumens lighting system runs at a significantly lower wattage, which generates less heat
  • Improvement in overall safety with better light provided
  • Decrease in maintenance as LEDs do not require bi-annual re-lamping and ON/OFF doesn’t shorten bulb lifetime
  • Ease in deployment, as the upgrade of the lighting leveraged existing wiring and was completed over the course of two weeks.

Maines will realize a payback on the system of less than one year, almost unheard of in the installation of new equipment. This payback includes the rebates Maines is receiving from NYSERDA.

The Maines warehouse staff has taken ownership in the overall energy efficiency changes and takes pride in how Maines is alleviating drain on the power grid while making operational changes for a better work environment.