When fluorescent lights first became available, they were touted as high-efficiency lighting. And, to be fair, compared to HID fixtures they are. But, they were quickly surpassed by LEDs. If you are currently using fluorescent lighting in your industrial or commercial facility, you can cut your energy costs in half, just by switching to LEDs.
Upon their introduction to the market, LEDs were much, much more expensive than fluorescent and HID lights. Although they are still slightly more expensive, this margin has fallen considerably. And, you’ll make the extra money back almost immediately through savings on energy and maintenance costs.
There are two different ways to make the switch to LED lighting. You can change your current fixtures to make them work for LEDs, which is called retrofitting. Or, you can replace the fixtures completely with new LED fixtures.
These are just your first of many different decisions. After you decide whether to retrofit or not, there are several other options for you to consider. Factors such as location and the type of fixtures present, your budget, and your lighting needs will help guide you in these decisions.
Regardless of the option you select, LEDs offer many benefits over fluorescent lighting. After installing LEDs, you’ll find that your electrical bill is much lower, your operating expenses are less, and your employees are happier and more productive.
Here, you’ll learn how to use LEDs and reduce your utility bills.
The Problems with Fluorescent Lighting
1. Fluorescent tubes contain mercury.
Perhaps one of the worst things about fluorescent lights is that they contain mercury. Although it is completely harmless while in the tube itself, accidents can happen. And, in commercial and industrial settings, accidents do happen.
When a fluorescent tube is broken, a small amount of mercury can be released into the surrounding area. It’s recommended to immediately air out the area, and quickly clean up any shattered glass. However, you can’t use a vacuum to clean up because that can make the mercury airborne. So, workers will need to take extra precautions to ensure that they also aren’t injured while cleaning up the glass.
LED tubes look remarkably like their fluorescent counterparts, although they are, in fact, much different. LED lights don’t emit nearly as much heat as other lights, this means that their housings can be made of durable plastics instead of glass. LED lights are much less likely to break and shatter. And, even if they do, they don’t contain mercury and you won’t have glass shards everywhere.
2. Fluorescent lights lose functionality in hot or cold environments
To make a long story short, fluorescent lights are delicate. And, not only in their composition but also in their function. Fluorescent lights only perform at their peak in room-temperature environments. In fact, in temperatures under 50 degrees, you can expect the light to perform at max, at 80% capacity. And, that’s only if the light is brand new. We’ll discuss it in more detail later, but fluorescents are infamous for rapid depletion in quality and quantity of light.
LED lights, on the other hand, are not affected by temperature and continue to operate at their peak regardless of the ambient conditions in the room. It’s also important to remember that even when indoors and at an appropriate temperature, fluorescents are still quickly outpaced by LEDs.
3. Fluorescent technology wasn’t made for dimmers
Although some fluorescent lights are dimmable, all of them are not. Dimmers interfere with the inner workings of these fixtures and greatly reduce their lifespan. This is an enormous drawback because dimmer switches are a great way to cut energy costs even further.
So, if you are in need of dimming capabilities, and want to do so efficiently, LED technology is the easier and more hassle-free option. Get a LED fluorescent tube replacement installation done and enjoy the benefits of dimming your lights as much as you need when needed.
4. Fluorescent Light is not directional light
If you’ve been looking into options for your facility’s lighting, you’ve probably heard the terms directional and omnidirectional. But, what do these words actually mean in the world of lighting? Well, omnidirectional simply means that such the fixture emits 360 degrees of light. LEDs are directional fixtures, while most fluorescent lights are omnidirectional.
Why does this matter? Because 30-40% of the non-directional light being emitted by a fluorescent tube is wasted. It’s either lost to multiple refractions or simply by being in a space where it isn’t used. All LEDs are directional lighting, which allows you to direct the light where it needs to go and ensures that none of the light is wasted.
5. Fluorescent Lighting uses 2x more energy than LEDs
There are many different benefits of LED lighting that allow you to save money but the most drastic difference you’ll see is with your electrical costs. Depending on the fluorescent products you had installed before and which LED products you are replacing them with, you could save up to 80% on energy bills.
And, on average, you’ll find a 30% reduction in energy consumption. Even if you’re not replacing your incandescent fixtures with the best of the best LEDs, you’ll still see a significant reduction in electricity use.
Take a look at how much LEDs cost in the long run versus fluorescents, and you’ll find that LEDs offer a return on investment while fluorescents offer no payback.
6. Fluorescent tubes emit more heat
Property owners and facility managers know that any appliance that emits a significant amount of heat is a no-go. This is because they drive up cooling costs and pose a risk to employees. While some of this equipment is unavoidable in certain situations, i.e. a factory setting, it’s always possible to cut back on other heat-producing fixtures.
And oftentimes, fluorescents are a big contributor. When you have a large facility, that already costs a large amount of money to keep cool, covering the ceiling in fluorescent lights will only make the problem worse. Switching to LEDs, which emit little to no heat at all, will make an instant impact and a noticeable difference.
7. Daily usage of Fluorescents causes failure
If you have lights in a commercial or industrial facility, you’re probably using them for most of the day, every day. One of the options we recommend to mitigate the cost of running lights all day is installing motion sensors of dimmers. However, this can and will be a detriment to the life of a fluorescent fixture. Not only do fluorescent lights not play well with dimmers and motion sensors, but switching them on and off actually decreases the lifespan of the light.
If you want a technology that allows for frequent switching of on and off throughout the day, we can’t blame you. LED lights are the best option. They work well with light sensors and control, and you can turn them on and off as many times as you want without cutting their viability.
8. Fluorescent lighting requires more maintenance and replacement
Although there are certain steps that you can take to elongate the life of your fluorescent light, like trying to cut down on the number of times you turn it on and off, these lights still deteriorate rapidly. With an average lifespan of 15,000 hours, fluorescent lights die out three to four times faster than the average LED.
With LED’s average lifespan of 50,000 hours, this means that you will need to replace a fluorescent at least three times more often than you would an LED.
In large buildings with lots of lights, the cost of constantly replacing fluorescents adds up quickly. You have to pay for new bulbs and you have to account for the manpower it takes to switch out the old bulbs for new ones. You can greatly lower maintenance costs, like this, by switching over to LEDs. They have a significantly longer lifespan, and their lights burn brighter for longer.
9. Buzzing and flickering
Last but definitely not least, one of the most infamous aspects of fluorescent lighting is their ever-present buzz and flicker. This obnoxious buzzing and flickering puts a strain on employees both physically and mentally, which in turn severely affects morale and productivity.
Many health issues have been attributed to working under flickering fluorescent lights, including:
eye strain & irritation
increased stress levels
Unfortunately, this is just an unavoidable part of fluorescent lighting. Fortunately, you can easily remedy this by switching to LED lighting. They run off of a consistent current, so they never have any buzzing or flickering, even at the end of their life.
Retrofitting fluorescent tubes with LED Lights
As you can see, upgrading to LED lighting has benefits across the board. You can convert to LEDs using several different methods. The best one for you and your facility will depend on several things like budget, how you want to use the lights, and the condition of existing fixtures. You can use LED retrofit tubes to replace your existing fluorescent tubes. You need not replace the entire fixture with this method so it is less expensive. You will have to do some rewiring work, in order to bypass the ballast in the fixture, but not nearly as much as replacing the entire light.
Pros of Retrofitting With LED Tubes
If you decided to retrofit, one of the best ways to do so is with LED tubes. This process helps save energy by bypassing the ballast. This also helps avoid ballast failures in the future and dimness or flickering. You can find retrofit tubes in standard models and models with high efficiency.
The brightness will increase based on the lumen rating of the LED tubes you use, but by switching to LEDs, you could reduce the cost of running the light and receive twice the shine.
This conversion method also ensures that usage is also very efficient. Standard model LEDs typically use around 80 Watts for every 172 watts that fluorescent tubes consume. A single ultra-high LED light can replace 2 fluorescent lights. That is, a 40 Watt power consumption versus 128 Watts.
Another advantage of LED lights is receiving rebates from your utility provider for the energy saving upgrades you do to your lighting. To be eligible for these rebates, you need to buy an LED with DLC listing. There are LEDs without DLC listings, so make sure you check this before you purchase new lights.
Lamp life is also prolonged. You can expect 50,000 hours on the low end for an LED and around 30,000 hours on the high end for a fluorescent bulb.
Pros of Using Magnetic LED Strips
You can also use magnetic LED strips to upgrade your facility lighting. This method offers many advantages over other types of retrofitting but isn’t for every light. Magnetic LED strips are extremely easy to install because they stick to the metal housing of your old light and you don’t need to wire power sockets.
You can simply connect the driver to the power source and link the driver to strips using the included quick connects. The LED Driver replaces the old ballast and the strips replace the bulbs. Frosted covers can also be included for fixtures that do not have a frosted cover, providing a ‘fluorescent’ look.
As compared to the LED tubes above, LED magnetic strips are much brighter. The strips use around 30 Watts for two 4 ft strips fixtures and 60 Watts for four 4 ft strips. Lumens are 2100 lumens per strip, and you only need one driver for each set.
Replace Fluorescent Fixture with LED Fixture
This is the more expensive method, but it will provide the most transformative experience. You can replace the entire fluorescent fixture with both LED Wrap-around and strip light fixtures.
Pros of Using LED Wrap Fixtures
These fixtures are unique in that no rewiring is needed, other than the wiring that is required to replace the fixture. The main benefit to this is that you will be able to take advantage of many of the new features of LED – light distribution, color temperatures and better light levels. Plus if your fixtures are old, or their lenses are yellowed or faded, this upgrade will immediately fix those issues as well.
LED Wrap Around Fixture
Ceiling Mounted Wrap Fixtures
LED Wraparounds are the classic looking ceiling mount fixtures that you’re commonly used to seeing. These low cost LED light fixtures provide great lighting options for many different settings including, workshops, garages, and shops. These lights are ceiling mount only though, so they do limit your installation options a little bit.
Strip Light Hanging Fixtures
Strip light fixtures are hanging style shop light fixtures. They allow you to bring the light closer to the work area and offer some customization with the installation. They are available in 2, 4, and 8-foot lengths, and some options are IP rated and vapor-proof rated to keep dust from entering the insides of the fixture. This protection allows the lights to operate trouble-free in difficult environments for a very long time.
Pros of Using LED Panels
You can also replace your fluorescent lights with LED panels. LED panels are designed for surface mounting or drop ceiling grid mounts. This trendy panel light keeps the troffer intact, which gives it a cool look. This type of LED fitting is perfect for use in suspended grid ceilings but is also great for flat ceilings.
With LED panels, lighting is evenly spread and distributed without any dim spots. Lighting in the panel looks even and pleasing. It provides the brightest option for replacement of a 2×4 fixture with 2 tubes. For a 2×4 fixture, it offers 5000 lumens and uses 40W. The average lamp life is 100,000 hours.
We also offer color changing and dimming panels. If you’re unsure what color temperature to choose, worry no longer. By simply using the supplied remote, you can easily change color temperature and light levels, to suit any requirement
Pros of LED Shop Fixtures
In addition to LED panels and LED Wrap fixtures, you also have the option to replace fluorescent lights with an all in one, linear LED shop light fixture. These lights are very slim and sleek, and the integrated LED lights are similar in size to a fluorescent tube. You can suspend them from wires or surface mount them, so installation is completely customizable.
The brightness of these fixtures is also better than tube lights. It provides longer lamp life, which in turn, saves you from the expense of frequent replacements. Protection from water and dust is also present with this integrated design. Other, more intense options, include vapor tight and water-proof fixtures.
Pros of LED Linear High Bays
Many warehouses use T5 High output linear high bays to provide general lighting for large areas of aisle lighting, They typically contain 4, 6 or 8 T5 54 watt high-output tubes. The tubes unfortunately quickly become a maintenance issue, and require constant replacing. They also don’t work well with motion sensors and other devices that turn the fixture off when they’re not required.
Replacing T5 Linear High Bays with LED Linear High Bays is simple and smart. More powerful LED options can replace 4, 6 and 8 tube models. And these more powerful options can provide light levels not achievable with T5 tube options – we’re talking 71,000 lumens. A comparable T5 fixture would need 18 tubes to provide a comparable light.
Cost-Effective Ways to Convert Fluorescent Lights to LED
The bottom line is that any conversion to LED lighting would be cost-effective. And, not just because LEDs help you save a ton of money on electrical bills. LED lights are virtually maintenance-free because of their extremely long (50,000 hours) average lifespan and durable plastic coverings. LEDs also help improve employee morale and productivity. Switching to LED lighting for your facility will cut costs across the board and improve productivity, which is really the best way to cut back on costs.
However, if you’re extremely concerned about the initial cost, there are plenty of different options above with varying price ranges. LED lights have an extremely short payback period. So you’ll start to see a return on investment almost immediately. Any conversion to LED lighting is cost-effective.