West Marine Gains From Lighting Retrofit

With over 400 stores nationally, West Marine, a leading U.S. boating retailer, considers efficient distribution key to the success of its business. That’s why, when the metal halide lamps in its 476,000 square foot South Carolina distribution center depreciated below the light levels adequate to fulfill operational needs, facility management at the company, which is based in Watsonville, CA, decided it was time to bring in a new lighting technology.

What West Marine chose to install in the South Carolina distribution center was a fixture made with an optimized fluorescent lighting system that took advantage of a new reflective material called Miro. Optimized fixtures are far more efficient than fixtures made with traditional anodized aluminum reflectors. Miro, made by German manufacturer Alanod Aluminum, essentially maximizes every bit of light out of the fixture and can improve the energy savings by as much as 25%.

This West Marine distribution center was retrofitted with fluorescent lighting fixtures equipped with reflector technology.
This West Marine distribution center was retrofitted with fluorescent lighting fixtures equipped with reflector technology.

This reflector technology that West Marine chose was designed and built inside fixtures manufactured by Westinghouse Lighting Solutions. What attracted West Marine to this type of lighting system was the expected energy savings. Pat Murphy, VP of Logistics for West Marine, was impressed at how quickly the system would pay for itself. “In difficult economic times like these, if a project has 12 to 18 months payback, like the Westinghouse lighting we installed, I put that in the A category,” he said.

According to Jay Goodman, managing director for Westinghouse Lighting Solutions, “By customizing the reflectors for West Marine’s specific application and by leveraging the specular properties of the Miro material, we created a system that will save West Marine 1.5 million dollars in energy costs over the next 10 years.”

Choosing The System

As part of his evaluation, Murphy compared several other options, and determined the Westinghouse system met West Marine’s specifications best. The new lighting system was part of an overall program of environmental improvements and reduced operating costs. “We haven’t done anything that didn’t cost something, but these improvements delivered a lot more in the long run,” Murphy said of the lighting system and other efficiencies.

T5’s lamps were installed in a two-lamp configuration. “When we looked at the application, the Miro reflectors made the most sense for us” said Murphy. And to further improve efficiency, West Marine installed motion sensors to reduce kilowatt hours in areas of limited work activity. According to Murphy, the system “reduced the monthly bill by about half. It’s been consistent and worth a lot.”

Specialized optic design has become a popular method for lighting designers to improve the energy efficiency of their fixtures. Until Miro aluminum reflectors were introduced, anodized aluminum and white painted aluminum were the most common reflector material.

Specularity—a property of the Miro reflectors used in the West Marine project—is a material’s ability to direct light exactly where the lighting designer points it. Older reflectors defuse light, which wastes light on the walls and ceiling where it’s not needed. Especially for commercial and industrial facilities, lighting designers cam look for materials that are nearly 100% reflective and highly specular to bounce light more efficiently.

The sum of these improvements allowed West Marine to realize a payback on its lighting investment in about one year, which translated to an annual energy savings of more tahn $150,000. “It’s a very nice contribution at the bottom line of the company,” says Murphy. “Everybody loves it.”

With the high cost of energy, West Marine considers its new lighting system to be like money in the bank. Investing in the new lighting system has yielded West Marine the equivalent of a 23% compounded annual rate of return, with the simultaneous enhancement in light levels.

Beyond the energy savings, the new reflector lighting system conserves materials as well. For instance, 4,000 fewer lamps were used in the Westinghouse system than in other systems Murphy reviewed. He explains that it doesn’t have to cost money to be ecologically sensible, and facilities can even save money. “In retrospect I’m tickled pink that we did the new lighting this way because it’s paying off even more than we thought.”


  1. It’s reasonable to expect these kinds of results if the fixture manufacturer employs these optics. The problem comes when the facility manager decides to “save money” and use lower quality fixtures with lesser materials. Short term savings turns into higher energy costs in the long run. The reflectors used is this case study are a prime example of doing it right at the start. But our studies have shown that facility managers need to insist on more efficient materials, like Miro, in their fixture, otherwise they could get shortchanged with a cheaper, and less effective materials.

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