One of the most common lights used to illuminate large buildings like warehouses, schools, and corporate offices over the last several decades has been the linear fluorescent tube. Many facilities are already configured with recessed troffers that fit the standard dimensions for linear fluorescent lights (T5, T8, and T12 bulbs being the most common fluorescent bulbs while other options like T2, T4, and T6 are also relatively available).
Linear fluorescent lights are made to be housed inside recessed troffers (a type of lighting fixture), surface mount, strip, or highbay/lowbay fixtures. As you might expect, there are different sized bulbs and different sized fixtures. The largest distinction between the different options (both fixtures and bulbs) is the length of the bulb/fixture and the type of socket/pin base the bulb uses to attach to the fixture and provide power to the lamp. Typical lengths start around a foot but can be up to 96 inches (8 feet). Connectors are different depending on the particular bulb but tend to be one of four general types (HO, VHO, single pin, and bi-pin).
What’s important to know is that many new bulb technologies like the much more energy efficient LED lights can be retrofit into your existing lighting infrastructure. For facility managers evaluating different options to replace linear fluorescent tubes with LED lighting, there are two major options to choose from:
- LED linear lamps
- LED fixtures
LED linear lamps are sold using similar names to their fluorescent predecessors. For example, you can purchase a bi-pin T8 LED linear lamp. Depending on the manufacturer, this type of light is likely to be compatible with most instant-start ballasts as well as some of the programmed-start and emergency ballasts. They can also come in line voltage and external driver models. Installing LED fixtures for use in recessed troffers, surface mount, strip, or highbay/lowbay fixtures generally means replacing the entire fixture. Regardless of which option you prefer we suggest you focus on some of the following characteristics when you are looking to convert your linear fluorescent lights:
- Energy Efficiency: Bulbs that consume more energy tend to be cheaper to purchase up front (all other things being equal). That is, you pay for lower operating costs with a higher up front purchase price. The amount of energy consumed is measured in watts and will be readily identifiable on any packaging as well as on the light itself. That is not to say that most high-watt bulbs will be cheaper. It’s more that for a given light output, those lights that consume more energy (watts) tend to be cheaper because they are not as high quality as those that consume less energy. In this vein, some related and perhaps more important terms to read up on include luminous efficacy and/or useful lumens.
- Lighting Performance (the quality and lifespan of the light): One of the best things about LED emissions is that almost nothing is emitted in the UV spectrum (very different from fluorescent and other types of light). Additionally, LEDs render color very well and are available in a large variety of color temperatures. Lastly, LEDs have a tremendous lifespan. For an LED light that lasts 50,000 operating hours (some last more than twice this long), you will not have to replace the light for more than 17 years if you operate it every single day for eight hours straight (more than 11 years operating for 12 hours daily).
- Purchase Price: One of the most common questions we get about LED lighting surrounds the issue of up front costs. “Are LED light prices coming down?” The answer is yes! Prices continue to drop and along with them the opportunity costs associated with operating traditional lighting technologies like fluorescent, metal halide, HPS, or incandescent. The real question you should be asking yourself is an economic one: “does it make financial sense right now to keep operating outdated lights waiting for the price of LEDs to be perfect, or does it improve our bottom line right now to make the switch?” In most cases we have found that businesses will save significant money now by making the investment in today’s LED lighting technology.
So which light is best to minimize purchase price? While we tend to avoid recommending a particular light in general, there are a few trends to be aware of. First, the larger the wattage the lower the price per lumen tends to be.
In summary, several different types of LEDs are available to replace linear fluorescents in recessed troffers. Whether you’re looking to simply change out bulbs with linear LED tubes or completely replace both the fixture and the light with non-tube LED lights, we recommend you focus on three items: energy efficiency, lighting quality, and purchase price. If you need help running a full lighting analysis and evaluation please contact Stouch Lighting - or try our return on investment (ROI) calculator.