We like to keep close tabs on the latest news in LED innovation, but in reality it doesn’t really mean much unless the technology is used. That’s why we were impressed when we heard that Brinker, the company that owns the Chili’s and Maggiano’s Restaurant chains recently announced that they will switch all 827 of their restaurants to LEDs– saving $3.7 million dollars a year. The eateries even claim to prefer the ambiance afforded by the new lighting technology to incandescents.

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Restaurants are serious energy hogs, and have been very slow as an industry to embrace new lighting technology. In fact, we know of a manager of a chain restaurant whose deep reduction in energy consumption irritated the corporate offices so much they let him go. It turns out that he broke company policy by making the other restaurants look bad – logical, no, but surprising, not really. Restaurants are also loath to try anything that might change the ambiance and lose customers. Fair enough, but now that LEDs can replace incandescents with no discernible visual difference we are looking forward to seeing them in a lot more eateries. The new LEDs’ light is as good or better than incandescent bulbs, is dimmable down to 20%, and uses up to 90% less energy.

The financial savings do not just come from the efficiency of the light bulb. By reducing the heat output, the buildings’ air conditioning is also reduced. An LED’s life span is counted in the tens of thousands of hours which reduces maintenance costs as well. Chili’s change out of 125,000 bulbs is the largest LED switch over to date. Perhaps the best part is that the public gets to see this great green technology in action.

Via Eco-story