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5 Cost Effective Ways to Convert Fluorescents to LED
When fluorescent lighting options became available on the lighting market, they were considered to be highly efficient. They were a better option at the time when compared to High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights such as Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium. However, these lights were surpassed quickly by LEDs.
So, if you are still using fluorescent lights in a commercial or industrial facility, switching to LED lights can cut your energy costs by half.
At the time of their introduction to the lighting market, LEDs were much more expensive when compared to fluorescent and HID lights. Since then, they’ve become much more affordable and are competitively priced.
Plus, you will make up the extra money spent immediately through maintenance costs and energy savings.
Upgrading Fluorescent Lights to LED
You can switch from fluorescents to LEDs in two distinct ways. Firstly, you can alter your existing fixtures to make them function for LED lighting. This is known as retrofitting. Secondly, it is possible to replace the lighting fixtures entirely with modern LED lighting.
Once you have decided whether you would like to retrofit or not, there are many other considerations to make. Here, you have to consider factors like the kind of fixtures available, location, budget, and other lighting requirements.
Regardless of the option that you go with, LEDs have quite a few advantages over fluorescent lights. After they are installed, you will enjoy a reduction in operating expenses and lower electrical bills. Plus, your employees become more productive and happier.
So, learn here how you can cut down your utility expenses and employ LEDs.
LED T8 Tubes
The Issues with Fluorescents
1. Fluorescent tubes contain mercury.
The worst thing about fluorescent lights is that they contain mercury. Although there is no danger when mercury is contained within the sealed tube, it becomes a hazard if the tube drops and breaks.
When a tube gets broken, some amount of mercury gets released into the area. Thus, it is recommended to air out that area immediately and clean up shattered glass quickly.
However, a vacuum cannot be used for cleaning up as it makes the mercury airborne. Thus, workers must take some extra precautions to ensure that they are not injured even when cleaning up the mess.
When it comes to appearance, LED tubes look exactly like fluorescents. However, they are very different. LEDs do not emit as much heat as other lighting options.
This means that their housing is are made of sturdy plastic rather than glass. As a result, they are less likely to shatter and break. Plus, even when these lights do break, LEDs do not have mercury and you will not have glass remains everywhere.
2. Fluorescents’ lumens drop quicker in cold or hot environments.
Fluorescents are delicate when it comes to their functionality and composition. These lights only perform well in a room-temperature setting. In fact, in temperatures under 50 degrees, you can expect the light to perform at max, at 80% capacity.
Plus, this is only when you put up a brand-new light. We are going to discuss this later in more detail. However, fluorescent lights are infamous due to their rapid light quality and quantity depletion.
On the other hand, LEDs do not get affected by factors like temperature. These lights keep functioning at their peak regardless of your room’s ambient conditions.
Plus, it is important to note that even when at an appropriate temperature and indoors, LEDs can still outpace fluorescents quickly.
3. Fluorescent technology does not work well with dimmers.
Most fluorescents are not dimmable. However, some can be. Dimmers actually interfere with the interior functioning of fluorescent fixtures.
Thus, they reduce their life significantly. This is a huge drawback as dimmer switches are an awesome way of cutting energy costs a bit further.
So, if you like to install dimming options and like to get it done efficiently, LEDs are the more hassle-free and easier option. Now, get your fluorescent tubes replaced with LEDs and access the advantages of dimming the lights whenever you need or want to.
4. Fluorescents are not directional.
In case you have been looking into the lighting options for your unit, then you may probably have heard of terms like omnidirectional and directional.
So, what do these words mean in the lighting world? Here, omnidirectional means the lighting fixture emits light at 360 degrees. LEDs feature directional fixtures, whereas fluorescents are omnidirectional.
So, does this actually matter? Around 30-40% of the non-directional light emitted through a fluorescent bulb is wasted. This much light gets lost to various refractions or diverted to an area where it is not required.
Most LED lighting options are directional. Thus, you can direct the light in any direction that you need it to be. You also have options related to light beam spread. This beam spread can be tailored to your particular lighting application. Plus, it ensures that there is no wasted light.
5. Fluorescents utilize more energy than LEDs.
When you switch to LED technology, there are lots of benefits. As a result, you save more money. However, the most drastic one is that LEDs result in lower electrical costs.
Based on the fluorescent lights installed before and what LED lights you replace them with, you can save up to 80% on your energy bills.
On average, it is found that there is about a 30% reduction in electricity consumption. Even when you do not replace your fluorescent lighting fixtures with the best LED lighting options, there is a drastic reduction in energy usage.
So, consider how much LED lights cost as compared to fluorescents in the long run. LEDs provide a return on investment, which is not possible with fluorescents.
6. Fluorescent tubes produce more heat.
Facility managers and property owners know that appliances that emit more heat are something that you should avoid. That’s because they increase cooling costs and pose a hazard to employees.
While it is unavoidable to use such equipment in particular situations like factory settings, it is always possible not to use heat-producing lighting fixtures.
Sometimes, fluorescent lights are a big contributor to this. When you own a large facility, covering its ceiling with fluorescents will make the situation even worse.
This becomes worse when it already costs a great deal of money to keep the facility cool. Changing to LEDs will make a noticeable difference and a great impact. This is because LEDs emit little to no heat.
7. Regular usage of Fluorescents causes failure.
In your industrial or commercial facility, you are probably using lights every day for the majority of the day. One of the best ways to mitigate the cost of lights each day is to install motion sensors for dimmers.
However, this could be a detriment to the fluorescent fixture’s life. Fluorescent lights do work well with motion sensors and dimmers. Plus, when you switch off/on these sensors, it actually decreases the light’s lifespan.
So, you might want technology that enables frequent off/on switching during the day. LED lighting solutions are the perfect option.
These lights do well with lighting controls and sensors. One can switch them off and on multiple times without affecting their feasibility.
8. Fluorescent lights require more replacement and maintenance.
You can extend the lifespan of a fluorescent tube by following certain steps, such as cutting down on the number of times you switch it on and off. Nevertheless, they will deteriorate rapidly. An average lifetime of 15,000 hours is what you’re looking at. This is three to four times quicker than your average LED light.
On average, LEDs last for about 50,000 hours. Meaning that you must replace fluorescent lights at least three times more frequently than an LED. In large buildings that have lots of lighting solutions, the cost of replacing fluorescent lights usually adds up quickly.
So, you need to spend more money on replacement bulbs and on the manpower that it takes to switch out the old lights for the new ones. Now you can lower the maintenance costs effectively by opting for LEDs. These lights have a remarkably long lifespan and emit brighter light for a long period.
9. Flickering and buzzing
Lastly, the most infamous aspect of fluorescents is their flicker and buzz. This loathsome flickering and buzzing put a strain both mentally and physically on employees. This, in turn, affects productivity and morale severely.
Most health problems have been attributed to working under buzzing fluorescent lights, such as:
irritation and eye strain
enhanced stress levels
So, this is unfortunately an unavoidable thing about fluorescent lighting. Fortunately, you can resolve this issue by opting for LED lighting.
These lights run off a consistent current. As a result, these lights never flicker or buzz, even when they approach the end of their useful life.
Retrofitting fluorescent fixtures with LED Lights
As you can see, conversion to LEDs comes with various benefits. It is possible to switch to LED lighting through various methods.
However, the best method for you and your facility will depend on various factors, such as budget, the state of current lighting fixtures, and how you plan to use the lights. When replacing your current fluorescent tubes, it is best to use retrofit LED tubes.
So, this process is less expensive as you do not really have to replace the complete fixture here. For this method, you need to do rewiring work to bypass the ballast in a lighting fixture. However, this is not nearly like replacing the complete lighting option.
1. Benefits of Retrofitting Using LED Tubes
When you decide to retrofit, the best way to carry out this task is to use LED tubes. This procedure saves energy, where you just bypass the ballast.
Also, this helps to prevent ballast failures and flickering or dimness in the future. You can look for retrofit tubes in high-efficient models and standard models too.
The brightness increases depending on the LED tube’s lumen ratings. Changing your lights to LEDs will reduce the expenses of running them and give back twice the brightness.
Plus, the conversion method ensures that you enjoy very efficient usage. Usually, standard LED Tubes use about 18 watts compared to the 36 watts fluorescents consume.
Thus, one LED tube can replace two fluorescent lights. So, this makes an 18 watts versus 72 watts energy consumption.
Another benefit of using LEDs is getting rebates from a utility provider. These rebates are for energy-saving upgrades that you make to your lighting system.
To qualify for these rebates, always purchase LED lighting options that have a DLC listing. Make sure to look for this listing before purchasing new LED lights.
Also, the lifespan of an LED tube is significantly longer than fluorescent tubes. When it comes to an LED, you can enjoy about 50,000 hours on the low end.
2. Benefits of Employing Magnetic LED Strips
The other upgrade option that might be available to you is to install Magnetic LED strips. This way provides more advantages than just retrofitting the existing fixtures.
However, this is not possible for all lights. Magnetic LED strips are simple to install as they just stick to your old fixture’s metal housing. Plus, you do not require any wired power sockets.
You can easily connect the driver to any power source and link it to the magnetic strips with the given quick connects. LED drivers replace your existing ballast and magnetic strips replace your bulbs.
Also, you can include frosted covers to provide a fluorescent appearance for lighting fixtures that do not feature a frosted cover.
In comparison with the LED tubes listed above, magnetic strips are much brighter. These LED strips employ about 30 watts for two 4-foot strips and about 60 watts for four 4-foot strips.
For each strip, there are 2100 lumens, where you just require a single driver for every set.
Cost to Convert Fluorescents to LED
The up-front cost of converting can be high, totaling between $1000 and $20,000.* This includes $50-$100 per hour for an electrician and the cost of LED bulbs and conversion kits. The efficiency of LED lighting will save you money in the long run.
* This depends entirely on the number of fixtures being converted.
Swap Fluorescent Lighting Fixtures with LEDs
This method is a bit expensive. However, it will offer a transformative experience. One can swap the complete fluorescent lighting fixture with both strip lighting fixtures and LED Wrap-around lighting fixtures.
3. Benefits of Employing LED Wrap-Around Fixtures
These are unique fixtures that require no rewiring other than what is needed for replacing the fixture. The primary advantage of this method is that you can enjoy all the benefits of new LED features, such as light distribution, impressive light levels, and color temperatures.
Plus, this upgrade fixes other issues immediately, such as when lighting fixtures are old, or the lenses are faded or yellowed.
Ceiling Mounted LED Wrap Fixtures
LED wrap fixtures are classic ceiling mount lighting fixtures. They are low in cost and offer good lighting solutions for different settings like shops, garages, and workshops. These fixtures are ceiling mounted only. So, they do restrict the installation options a bit. install magnetic LED strips. This way provides more advantages than just retrofitting the existing fixtures.
Strip Light Hanging LED Fixtures
These fixtures are hanging-style shop lighting fixtures. Strip light fixtures offer customization when it comes to installation. Plus, they bring the lighting closer to your work area. These fixtures are available in 2, 4, or 8-foot lengths.
There are options available with vapor-proof and IP ratings, which keep dust and moisture from getting into the fixture’s interior. This protection enables the lighting options to function trouble-free in tough environments for longer.
4. Benefits of Employing LED Panels
Also, you can replace fluorescent lights with LED panels. These LED Drop-In Panels are specially designed for drop ceiling grids or surface mounts. These trendy lighting options keep the troffer integral.
Thus, you get to enjoy an impressive look. This is a perfect kind of LED fitting, which can be used in suspended grid ceilings. Plus, they look great on flat ceilings.
Using LED panels, the light is evenly disturbed and spread without dim spots. So, the lighting looks pleasing, even within the panel. They offer a bright option to replace a 2×4 lighting fixture with two tubes.
To replace a 2×4 lighting fixture, this fixture employs 40 Watts and provides 5000 lumens. The average life of this fixture is about 100,000 hours.
Also, we offer dimming and color-changing panels. If you are confused about the color temperature, then worry not. Use the supplied remote for changing the light levels and color temperatures to easily to suit all requirements.
5. Benefits of Shop LED Fixtures
Besides LED wrap fixtures and LED panels, you even have the option to swap your fluorescents with a single linear LED Shop Fixture. These lighting fixtures are very sleek and slim.
These integrated lights are the same size as fluorescents. One can suspend these fixtures from wires. It is also possible to surface mount these fixtures. So, installation is entirely customizable.
Plus, the brightness of shop fixtures is better than the tube ones. These fixtures offer long lamp life, which saves a lot of money because they don’t require frequent replacements.
They also offer dust and water protection along with an integrated design. There are more intense options available, such as waterproof and vapor tight fixtures.
6. Benefits of Linear High Bays (Bonus)
Most warehouses employ T5 High output linear high bays that provide general lighting. They cover large portions of aisle lighting. Typically, they contain 4, 6, or 8 54 watt T5 high-output tubes.
Unfortunately, these tubes become a maintenance problem quickly and need constant replacing. Also, they do not function well with other devices, such as motion sensors that switch off the lighting fixture when they are not needed.
Switching to LED Linear High Bays from T5 Linear High Bays is a smart and simple process. These powerful options can offer light levels that are not obtainable with T5 tube lighting fixtures.
Here, we are talking about 71,000 lumens. To offer such a light, you require 18 tubes if you are using a comparable T5 lighting fixture.
Cost-Effective Methods to Convert Fluorescents to LEDs
The thing that matters the most is that conversion to LED is going to be very cost-effective. Also, this is not only because LED lighting helps to save a great deal of money on energy bills.
LEDs are virtually maintenance-free due to their longer average lifespan i.e., 50,000 hours and durable coverings made of plastic. Plus, LEDs help to enhance employees’ productivity and morale. Thus, switching to this innovative lighting will cut down costs effectively and enhance productivity.
However, in case you are worried about the primary costs, you get various options with diverse price ranges.
Since LEDs have a shorter payback period, you will begin to spot an ROI (return on investment) immediately. Therefore, switching to LEDs is pretty cost-effective.
Are you doing a project in the pole barn, shop or garage at your house? Make sure to work with a reputable contractor to ensure the project is completed successfully and without any unexpected surprises. The last thing you want is to flip the switch on to find that the new lights were wired wrong, too dim, or were not the right option for your space.
About the Author
Cory Peterson is Director of Sales & Marketing at LED Lighting Supply where he focuses on improving customer experience and revenue operations. Cory writes about commercial & industrial lighting, along with topics important to contractors and facility managers. In his free time, Cory enjoys traveling, snorkeling, exercise and cooking.