Don Hinds Ford in suburban Indianapolis was an early adopter among dealerships when it converted from incandescent to LED lighting technology inside and out in 2013.
Swapping out 2,000-watt floodlight packages with 400-watt LED units on 50 exterior poles and converting interior showroom and service departments slashed power consumption and maintenance. Fixed Operations Director Jim Story says he's never looked back.
"I would do it again in a heartbeat," said Story. "In fact, I did it a year ago when we bought the building next door for our pre-owned operation."
LED lighting has become increasingly popular at auto dealerships as hardware costs fall and the technology matures, says John Weeber, CEO of Revolux LED Solutions in Houston. Weeber sees huge potential because "less than 15 percent of the 18,000 U.S. auto dealerships have converted fully or partially to LED lighting."
Revolux COO Tom Grieco said most U.S. utilities, eager to avoid having to build new power plants to meet electrical demand, offer cash incentives to businesses to install power-saving technology.
"Often, that can cover most or all of the capital cost of an LED conversion," Grieco said.
Revolux was formed last year in a merger of eTex Energy Solutions and the Automotive Division of Facilities Resource Group of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Don Hinds Ford contracted with what was then the Facilities Resource Group unit. As soon as the dealership installed LED exterior lights on 16 of the site's 20 acres and the showroom and service department, the store's monthly electric bill dropped by about $4,000.
The dealership sells 100 to 125 new and 60 to 80 used vehicles a month, in addition to its Ford commercial vehicle operations.
Story likes the light quality of LEDs.
"Everything is clearer," he said. "The vehicle colors are more vivid. And the intensity means we can see more on our security cameras."
Because LED lighting is more directional than incandescent fixtures, it can take some time for employees to get used to it, especially in service bays where technicians' work may be under hoods as well as in vehicle interiors or wheel wells.
"We got some portable units that technicians could move around," Story said. "It took about 30 days for the technicians to adjust, but I'm not getting any complaints from them now."
Much of the LED savings comes from lower power usage. But lighting maintenance is also far simpler because LED units last longer than incandescent bulbs. Expected replacement is measured in tens of thousands of hours instead of thousands of hours.
Story said: "It's not like before, when we'd have to have a company come out three or four times a year with a cherry picker to replace bulbs, and it was $2,000 to $3,000 each time.
Story, who started working at Hinds Ford in 1967, said that when owner Bud Colglazier bought an adjacent vacant dealership building and moved the used-vehicle business into it 16 months ago, it was an easy decision to switch its showroom to LEDs.