Energy-Efficient Lighting for Refrigerator Cabinets

Owners of supermarkets, convenience stores, butcher shops and cafes want their food products to be well lit and attractive to customers, but refrigerator or freezer cabinets are probably the worst possible

A prototype of the LED lighting system installed in a refrigeration cabinet.

places to install lighting systems. For one thing, heat produced by a light inside a refrigerator or freezer places an additional load on the refrigeration system. For another, at freezing or near-freezing temperatures, fluorescent lights produce only a fraction of their normal light output while using just as much electricity.

Poly Optics Australia Pty Ltd, an Australian company, has taken on the challenge of developing a lighting system for commercial refrigeration systems that provides comparable levels of illumination and is both attractive and energy-efficient.

Poly Optics has developed specialised technology to produce fibre optic cable for transporting and emitting light for specialised applications, and has coupled this expertise with the latest lighting technology using LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes).

The company received funding assistance through the Queensland Sustainable Energy Innovation Fund to develop such an energy-saving lighting system for commercial refrigerators.

Light emitting diodes have been widely available for more than 30 years for use as small indicator lights. However, only in recent years have white LEDs become available. Initially, white LEDs were relatively inefficient and extremely expensive; however, LED technology has improved dramatically and new LED lamps becoming available are more efficient, lower in cost, and higher power.

Over the course of the project, as more efficient and higher-power LED light sources were developed, Poly Optics produced a range of prototype systems. By the conclusion of the project, Poly Optics had developed an LED refrigerator lamp that used half the power of a standard fluorescent tube, while producing equivalent light output and ambience. By producing less heat within the refrigeration cabinet, the prototype LED lamp reduced overall power consumption by nearly one-third, and reduced the risk of food spoilage.

The LED lighting unit can be mounted within the refrigerator cabinet as a direct replacement for a fluorescent tube, or can be mounted with the LED lamp located outside the refrigerated section of the cabinet.

Since the fibre optic cable is made from polymer materials, the technology eliminates the use of glass within the refrigerated cabinet, avoiding the potential for broken glass to contaminate food products.

Poly Optics is currently seeking commercial partners in the retail food industry to undertake “real world” trials of its refrigeration lighting system.

Commercialisation of this technology will establish Poly Optics, and Queensland, as a supplier of world–leading high-efficiency lighting technology to the refrigeration and food industry.

Efficiency and light output of fluorescent lamps declines dramatically at reduced temperatures. Light output for a typical fluorescent tube is less than half normal illumination at temperatures inside a refrigerator cabinet, and less than 20% normal light output for operation at freezer temperatures.

Poly Optics continues to refine their technology as LED technology evolves and efficiency improves. By mid-2007, Poly Optics was able to produce a refrigerator light containing a single 10 watt LED, producing 500 lumens of light. Operated continuously over ten years, the lamp would provide electricity costs savings of about $700, compared to a conventional fluorescent fitting. The selling price is expected to be around $250, which would allow capital and finance costs to be repaid in four to five years.

Although the lighting technology developed by Poly Optics through the QSEIF program was originally intended for commercial refrigeration, it could be applied cost-effectively in many other applications. Any lighting system requiring long tube lifetime and low maintenance, low heat dissipation and high efficiency might benefit from this innovative product.

In 2007, Poly Optics won the EPA’s Innovation in Sustainable Technologies Award for its fibre optic lighting systems integrating optical cables and LEDs (see http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/environmental_management/sustainability/industry/epa_sustainable_industries_awards_2007).

Contact details:Eddy Joseph
Poly Optics Australia Pty Ltd
Unit 1, 18 Leda Drive,
Burleigh QLD 4220
Telephone: (07) 5520.2222
Email: [email protected]

Source: [www.epa.qld.gov.au/QSEIF] The Queensland Sustainable Energy Innovation Fund (QSEIF) assists Queensland organisations to develop innovative technologies that reduce environmental impacts associated with consumption of fossil fuels and water.

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