Energy-Efficient Lighting for Your Restaurant and Commercial Kitchen


compact fluorescent light bulb

Lighting accounts for nearly 13% of all the energy used in a restaurant. Though it is not the biggest energy consumer, it is one of the easiest places to save money. There are several energy-efficient lighting options on the market, most of which require no expensive retrofit, so saving money can be as simple as changing a light bulb.

Fluorescent Lighting

Fluorescent lights differ from incandescent lights in their operation. Rather than heating up a wire to produce light, as incandescents do, fluorescent lights heat different gasses inside the tube. This process is more efficient than incandescent lighting and gives off less heat. Within the fluorescent lighting category, the most energy-efficient types currently available are CFLs and T8 fluorescents.


CFL stands for Compact Fluorescent Light. They are exactly what the name suggests, smaller versions of the fluorescent lights found in many overhead fixtures.

CFL Benefits

  • Cheaper to use. Each CFL can save about $30 over the bulb’s lifetime when compared to a standard incandescent light.
  • Easy to install. CFLs can screw directly into an incandescent light socket of equivalent wattage, so no fixtures need to be replaced.
  • Longer Lasting. CFLs can last up to 10 times longer than an incandescent light.
  • Produce less heat. CFLs produce 75% less heat than incandescent lights, so they also reduce cooling costs.

Choosing the Right CFL

The following table gives the equivalent CFL wattage to replace your current incandescent light bulb.

Light Output Equivalency
Incandescent (Watts)Energy-Star Qualified CFL’s (Watts)Minimum Output (Lumens)

T8 Fluorescent Lights T8 Fluorescent Lights

T8 fluorescent lights are more energy-efficient than standard T12s. Essentially, T8s have a smaller tube diameter but emit the same amount of light, making them more energy-efficient. Replacing just one T12 fixture with a T8 can save around $30 on your electricity bill every year. » Learn more

Possible Drawbacks. All fluorescent lights contain small amounts of either mercury or lead. Mercury and lead are banned from landfills in many states, and though recycling centers for are becoming available, they are still sparse in number. So fluorescent lights have to be taken to a hazardous waste facility for proper disposal.

LED light bulb


LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. LEDs work a lot like an incandescent light, except while incandescent lights heat up a filament and throw off heat and light, LEDs heat up a small semiconductor (diode) to emit light and produce very little heat. Most of the energy used by an LED goes to producing light, making them very efficient. Whereas standard incandescent bulbs waste a majority of their energy as heat radiation.

Until recently, LEDs were primarily in computers and other electronic equipment. Now are available that can replace standard incandescent lights and CFLs in everyday fixtures.

LED Benefits

  • More energy-efficient than other forms. LEDs can reduce energy use by up to 90% when compared to other forms of lighting.
  • Less harmful than other lights. Unlike fluorescents lights, LEDs do not contain any harmful gases and produce very little heat.
  • More Durable. Since LED light fixtures consist of several tiny plastic covered diodes, they do not break as easily as CFLs or incandescent bulbs.

Possible Drawbacks. Currently, LED light bulbs are very expensive to buy when compared to CFLs or incandescent lights, but many utility companies offer incentives or assistance for investing in more energy-efficient lighting. Check with your local electricity supplier for available programs. Some companies will even finance the light bulbs for you when doing an entire retrofit.

Natural Lighting

The most energy-efficient form of lighting comes at no cost whatsoever. Using sunlight to light your restaurant during the daytime hours can significantly reduce your energy bill and increase employee and customer happiness.

  • Reduces energy costs. Every hour that overhead lighting is turned off in favor of natural lighting equates to several kilowatt hours of energy saved.
  • Increases employee productivity. Studies have shown that using natural light can increase worker productivity by as much as 15%.
  • Longer Lasting. A typical LED light bulb can outlast 30 incandescent lights or six CFLs.
  • Increases customer happiness. Sunlight is shown to increase a person’s health and elevate their overall mood. Additionally, using natural light makes customers feel connected with the outside world, which also increases happiness.

Possible Drawbacks. If the sunlight is too direct it can actually increase your restaurant’s temperature and raise your cooling costs during the summer months. Products like retractable awnings and window shades can help you regulate the amount of light that reaches the interior. There is also a clear window film that, once installed, allows daylight in but blocks the temperature-raising infrared rays.


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