Roof-mounted photovoltaic panels on the Davis & Warshow's campus buildings produce more than 200,000 kilowatt-hours annually—which is more energy than what the new LED lighting system consumes.
Courtesy Davis & Warshow Roof-mounted photovoltaic panels on the Davis & Warshow's campus buildings produce more than 200,000 kilowatt-hours annually—which is more energy than what the new LED lighting system consumes.

The U.S.’s largest single-facility LED tube installation can now be found in Queens, N.Y. In April, kitchen and bath distributor Davis & Warshow completed the retrofit of the lighting system in its 209,000-square-foot distribution center, which is also topped off with roof-mounted solar panels.

Charlie Szoradi, chairman and CEO of Independence LED, the Pennsylvania-based manufacturer that oversaw the lighting design, says that he could find no other single facility installation that was larger. “We put together a line list of LED tube projects by looking at trade publications and talking to distributors and others in the industry,” he says. “Nobody else was even close in terms of size or watts per square foot.”

The lighting system in the Davis & Warshow distribution center, which comprises two warehouses, uses 0.2 watts per foot, a quarter of the power that lighting in a typical distribution center would use, Szoradi says.

Previously, the facility, which Davis & Warshow has occupied since 1975, was outfitted with fluorescent tubes. As part of its Practically Green program, which emphasizes eco-friendly, companywide initiatives, Davis & Warshow replaced the fluorescent tubes with the equivalent of two miles of Eagle LED tubes from Independence LED. The luminaires have an independent external driver, a deep-fin extruded aluminum heat sink, and Independence LED’s FlexDensity diode system, which can produce variable lighting levels with the same LED tube.

The lighting retrofit comes on the heels of another energy initiative by Davis & Warshow. Last year, the company installed 1,038 roof-mounted photovoltaic panels on its campus, which includes a corporate headquarters and two warehouses that comprise the company’s distribution center. The PV panels produce more than 200,000 kilowatt-hours annually—more energy than the new LED lighting system consumes.

Prior to the retrofit, Davis & Warshow president and chief operating officer David Finkel says that lighting cost nearly $50,000 per year to operate, and represented 65 percent of the facility’s overall energy consumption. He expects that the retrofitted system will drop costs to $20,000 per year, and that it will represent less than 50 percent of the facility’s energy consumption. He also anticipates that the retrofit—which cost $250,000—will pay for itself through energy savings and rebates from Con Edison; the utility company, which serves New York City and Westchester, N.Y., gave the kitchen and bath dealer a $63,704 rebate check for the lighting conversion—based on annual kilowatt-hours saved and for using fixtures made in America—in a Sept. 12 ceremony at the Davis & Warshow headquarters.

“Once you get comfortable with the economics—which in our case is a payback timeline of less than three years—you start to appreciate the technological benefits,” Finkel says. (Factoring in the retrofit’s cost of labor increases the project’s payback period to five years.)

One improvement that the company will enjoy from the retrofit is a brighter environment. At the project’s onset, Davis & Warshow requested that Independence LED need only to match the lighting levels produced by the facility’s existing fluorescent tubes. However, the company soon learned that because the old tubes had degraded over time—and weren’t replaced until they were completely worn out—the new LED tubes will actually increase lighting levels in the environment, as well as have a longer operating life than their predecessor.

With the technology available today, Szoradi says, a full-scale conversion to LEDs will be more energy efficient than adding occupancy sensors or dimmers to existing lighting schemes. After all, he says, “Why repair a typewriter when you can buy an iPad?”