blue up arrow with circle
cover image for blog post showing modern hallway with LED lights

3 Retail Energy Management Strategies for Lighting

April 15, 2024

In the bustling world of retail, where every watt counts towards both profitability and environmental responsibility, implementing energy management strategies, especially for lighting, can make a surprising difference. Not only can proper energy management reduce operating costs, and improve profit margins, it can also play a significant role in boosting brand reputation and loyalty. This article delves into the pivotal role of energy management in retail, and specifically explores three strategies that can help retailers seize many benefits.

The Importance of Retail Energy Management

What is Energy Management in Retail?

Retail energy management encompasses strategies and tactics that retail environments can implement to save energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Saving energy with energy management is not only eco-friendly, it’s also economical, as it increases operating profits.

Energy management in retail can be especially important and impactful, as retail stores are energy intensive environments. In fact, according to, “of the almost 5 million commercial buildings in the US, retail buildings account for the largest energy costs – nearly 20 billion each year.” Additionally, the World Retail Congress points out that the retail industry is responsible for approximately 25% of worldwide emissions. The industry has a model (called the retail compliance model) that helps to set standard operating procedures that counteract inefficiencies such as excessive energy usage. For example, this model advises that teams are set up to perform energy audits, devise energy management strategies, and implement energy saving projects. Improving energy management not only has the potential to significantly reduce operating costs associated with energy usage, it also enhances a retail store’s reputation, and can even improve the comfort of a store’s atmosphere with improved light quality (less flickering). Lighting makes up a large portion of energy usage in retail, so next we’ll be diving into three strategies to reduce energy usage associated with lighting.  

An infographic that defines 9 ways to reduce operating costs in retail stores
Image Source

Three Strategies for Energy Management in Retail

1. Implement LED Lighting

You've probably heard this before, but one of the first steps that can be taken to improve retail energy management is to invest in energy efficient LED lighting. On average, at least five fluorescent light bulbs are discarded in the lifespan of one LED fixture, and incandescent lighting only converts 5% of its consumed energy into visible light (the rest is wasted away as heat). In contrast, LED lighting converts 95% of its consumed energy into light. This is why LED lighting is taking over as the superior choice for lighting in retail, and most other applications. There are even bans being implemented worldwide on the sale of incandescent and fluorescent lighting to encourage the further implementation of LED lighting. As such energy intrusive environments, retail stores are some of the first to make the switch.

LED lighting in a retail environment as an energy management strategy
LED Lighting in Retail

2. Automate Energy Management for Lighting

Aside from being generally the most energy efficient form of lighting, LED lighting can also support energy savings due to its compatibility with smart energy management automation technology. By integrating adjustable lighting controls , such as motion sensors and automatic dimmers, retailers can significantly reduce their lighting costs. For example, occupancy sensors have been shown to reduce energy consumed by lighting by about 35% in open office contexts. LED lighting also seamlessly interfaces with smart automations like daylight harvesting.

What is Daylight Harvesting?

Daylight harvesting, also known as daylighting, leverages natural light data collected from indoor environmental quality (IEQ) sensors to automate artificial lighting based on need. This ensures that natural daylight is leveraged when possible, and artificial lighting is only used when necessary. Studies have shown that daylight harvesting can yield up to a remarkable 50% energy savings in school classrooms, and it’s to be expected that it yields similar results in retail environments.

A diagram that shows how daylight harvesting works
Daylight Harvesting Diagram

Energy Management with Occupancy Sensing and Timers

To implement occupancy sensing for lighting in a retail environment, sensors are strategically placed throughout a store to detect human presence and adjust lighting accordingly. The sensors can even be strategically placed, so that patrons do not see the lights turning on. Occupancy sensing saves energy by ensuring that lights are only on when spaces are in use. The data collected from occupancy sensors can also be used to glean insights on space usage relative to time, which provides even more opportunities for smart energy management. With this information, lighting timers can be set to turn on lights (or even HVAC) depending on anticipated space usage. Aside from energy management, occupancy sensor data can also provide insights into how spaces are used by customers, which helps retailers display products strategically.  

An image of a heatmap of a retail store that was generated using data from occupancy sensors
Heatmap in Retail Store Generated with Occupancy Sensor Data

By embracing LED lighting in tandem with smart technology, retailers can effectively manage energy usage to improve operating margins and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

3. How to Choose the Best Power System for LED Lighting in Retail

As we’ve covered, LED lighting is the most energy efficient form of lighting available. However, did you know it could be made even more efficient? LED lighting is often advertised to last between 50,000 to 100,000 hours but, according to a study by the US Department of Energy, LED fixtures rarely last over 8,000 hours. That’s less than 10% of the maximum anticipated lifespan for LED fixtures.

The study highlights that the culprit of these shorter LED lifespans is not the LEDs themselves, but their integrated drivers. Specifically, the study states, “failure of these devices can be attributed to changes in the driver, not the LED loads.” Thus, eliminating the need for inefficient, integrated LED drivers would significantly improve the lifespan of LED fixtures.

Infographic highlighting the true lifespan of LED lighting

The question remains: how do you eliminate the need for these inefficient drivers? Is it even possible? The answer is yes, with remote, centralized drivers and DC power distribution.

DC Power Distribution to Improve the Efficiency of LED Lighting in Retail

LED lighting and the implementation of energy saving automations are highly effective energy management tactics. However, did you know energy management can be taken to the next level by implementing a power distribution system specifically made for LED lighting? Let's start with how current, traditional power distribution systems are causing inefficiencies in LED lighting.

What Causes Inefficiencies in LED Lighting

Buildings, including retail environments, typically have alternating current (AC) power running through their walls, but LED lighting requires direct current (DC) power to operate. This is why LED fixtures traditionally have an integrated driver that features a rectifier. A rectifier is used to convert AC to DC power, which is why it’s required in LED lighting applications. These drivers are often an afterthought for manufacturers, which could explain why the study found them to be so inefficient, and reduce the lifetime of LED fixtures. Ultimately, integrated, inefficient drivers waste energy in the form of heat, which causes thermal runaway. Thermal runaway eventually is the culprit that damages drivers and, in turn, reduces the lifespan of LED lighting.  

What is Thermal Runaway?

Thermal runaway is the cause of inefficient LED drivers dying before the advertised lifetime of an LED fixture or bulb. Essentially, thermal runaway is a phenomenon in which the inefficiencies present in components are emitted in the form of heat. This heat can then damage drivers, and cause even more inefficiencies in components, resulting in even more heat emitted. This is what leads driver components into an uncontrollable, self-heating cycle, which is what’s referred to as thermal runaway.  

Image Source: Thermal Runaway

How to Eliminate Thermal Runaway in Lighting

Thermal runaway affects the lifespan of LED fixtures for two reasons: first, traditional LED drivers are inefficient and, second, they are integrated with fixtures, so driver inefficiencies emitted in the form of heat damage components and the light fixtures themselves. Knowing this, the solution to thermal runaway in lighting applications is efficient LED drivers that remotely distribute DC power to LED lighting at the correct voltage and power levels. To achieve this, a Class 2 rated, low-voltage DC power system can be implemented. Power over Ethernet (PoE) is an example of this type of power system, but there are also other Class 2 power systems that provide the same benefits, such as the elimination of thermal runaway in drivers. Implementing a Class 2 power system for lighting extends LED fixture lifetime typically by more than 3 times, often bringing LED lighting closer to its originally advertised lifespan.  

If you’d like a full comparison of Power over Ethernet to other Class 2 rated power systems, you can read more on this article: Power over Ethernet Vs. Other Class 2 Power Systems.  

Additionally, if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of remote drivers, you can read this article: The Most Efficient Remote Power Systems

Implementing a Class 2 Rated power system is a highly effective, and underrated energy management strategy in retail. Not only does it save about 20% of energy consumed by LED lighting applications, it also extends fixture lifetime by more than 3 times.  


Retailers are seeking opportunities to improve energy management, as well as operating procedures, and operating profit. It’s also beneficial to build their brands by improving their reputation among consumers. At the same time, consumers are more ethically motivated than ever, and want to know more about the products they buy, and the practices of the brands they buy from. Energy management strategies for lighting in retail environments can make a significant difference, and are a great place to start when improving the efficiency of retail store equipment. We’ve outlined how implementing LED lighting, energy saving automations, and appropriate power distribution systems for LED lighting, are highly effective ways to reduce wasted energy and greenhouse gas emissions. The Cence LV system, specifically, is easy to implement as a power distribution system for LED lighting in retail. It simply plugs into any typical AC electrical panel, distributes low-voltage DC power remotely to LED fixtures, and eliminates thermal runaway.

Making retail environments more eco-friendly is not only good for the planet, it’s also one of the most effective ways to increase profit margins without selling more product, and it can even help improve brand loyalty among consumers.  

If you’re interested in learning more about energy management strategies for LED lighting, contact us at to speak with a power distribution expert.  

blog author image

Erin Law

Erin is the Creative Director at Cence Power. She has a New Media degree from the University of Toronto and 5 years of experience in the communications field. She has also done digital content creation for dozens of clients through her own business called Story Unlocked. Erin loves technology, especially when it makes the world a better place.

Cence Brings Buildings Into The Future

We improve the value of commercial and multifamily buildings with an intelligent DC power distribution system that's pain-free to install. It combines the benefits of low-voltage wiring practices with voltage capabilities of up to 450 Volts DC.

About Us