How Modern Light Bulbs Can Improve Restaurant and Hospitality Sustainability

How Modern Light Bulbs Can Improve Restaurant and Hospitality Sustainability

In the beginning, there were incandescents. Incandescents were the carbon filament-based technology that Thomas Edison and other lighting pioneers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries relied upon to bring artificial light to the masses. And they were the standard lighting instrument around the world for decades to come.

However, like most technologies, incandescents have been slowly pushed aside by newer, more efficient alternatives. Fluorescents came first, with their widespread adoption beginning in the mid-20th century. The use of fluorescents continued to pick up steam as energy shortages in the 1970s made the need for better efficiency a more immediate concern. By the 1990s, compact fluorescents (CFLs) had become standard for both residential and commercial lighting products.1

Over the past decade, the latest step in the evolution of lighting, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), have taken much the same path that CFLs did in the latter part of the 20th century. As energy efficiency has become even more important in the modern world, LED technology has rapidly developed to become longer lasting, less energy intensive and more affordable.

The advantages of LEDs
Modern LEDs – particularly those that are ENERGY STAR-certified – are six to seven times more efficient than incandescents, with energy reductions of 80% or more and a lifespan that lasts 25 times longer.2 Just as importantly, the price for LED bulbs has dropped significantly. These bulbs now represent the easiest way for business owners and managers to improve the sustainability profile of their operation while simultaneously reducing utility costs, especially with LED lighting maintenance being much less of a problem than it is for other bulbs and fixtures.3

Also, since LEDs are directional light sources, they allow for a wider range of interior and exterior lighting design options. This makes it easier for businesses, particularly customer-intensive businesses like restaurants and hospitality enterprises, to develop a lighting design that is more comfortable and welcoming.

LEDs in the restaurant and hospitality industry
LED commercial lighting products can make an enormous impact in restaurants and hospitality businesses when it comes to improving sustainability, and they are an excellent lighting option to save money. Many restaurants and hospitality businesses rely on commercial lighting products for far more than just practical purposes, and it is usually one of the largest contributors to their electricity cost.

As the cost of LED bulbs has gone down, it has become easier for even the smallest businesses to improve their sustainability profile. There are also numerous lighting rebates available from government agencies and utility companies that make switching to LEDs more affordable.4

LED replacement lamps and bulbs can simply be used to replace existing, less efficient bulbs in almost any restaurant or hospitality setting, including the following:

  • Display cases – The directional lighting capability of LEDs makes it easier to highlight specific products, including food and retail goods
  • Ambient mood lighting – New "warm to dim" LEDs mimic the warmth and feel of incandescents, thus making restaurant and hospitality lighting more inviting for customers and employees
  • Lobby lighting – Lobby areas are often the first spaces that customers experience, and quality LED hospitality and restaurant lighting helps to create a strong first impression
  • Exterior lighting – LEDs are an improvement over metal halide bulbs because they are more uniform in terms of the light they emit and dark spots between fixtures can be easily eliminated
  • Parking lot lighting – Dark Sky Complaint LED fixtures significantly reduce light pollution from parking lot fixtures, and they also provide consistent light, which makes for a more secure parking environment
  • High-bay and low-bay lighting – LEDs provide a much more energy efficient way to illuminate aisles and other similar indoor areas and with the integration of controls, savings can be reduced by 90%
  • Office areas – Simply replace standard, inefficient bulbs with LED screw-in replacements to save money and improve sustainability
  • Storage areas – Whether the storage area is a simple closet with a single bulb or a larger warehouse-style space, LEDs can turn a restaurant or hospitality business's back rooms into sterling examples of sustainability
  • Lighting controls – LEDs are readily compatible with lighting controls such as occupancy sensors, photosensors and dimmers, all of which provide greater sustainability and cost reduction opportunities

LED lighting rebates for restaurants and hospitality businesses
As the emphasis on energy efficiency continues to grow among government agencies and private enterprise, LED lighting rebates have become increasingly common. A wide variety of agencies, both public and private, offer these lighting rebates. For commercial customers in Central and Northern California, PG&E provides several ways to save on LED installation and retrofitting with rebates, incentives and financing.5

Improving sustainability with commercial lighting products allows businesses to save money and reduce energy usage. Working with a qualified lighting contractor is the best way to ensure that businesses are up to code and maximizing the benefits of a lighting retrofit. For more information on finding and working with a contractor, download "How to Get the Best Results from a Lighting or HVAC Project" from PG&E.


  1. U.S. Department of Energy
  2. U.S. Department of Energy
  3. California Lighting Technology Center
  4. Pacific Gas and Electric Company