When fluorescent lighting options came up in the first place, they were considered to be highly efficient. To be honest, they are better if you compare them to HID lighting fixtures. 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 the energy costs by half.

When LEDs were introduced in the market, they were extremely expensive than HID and fluorescent lights. Although LEDs are still a bit expensive, the margin has considerably fallen.

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 diverse 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 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, the budget, and other lighting requirements.

No matter what option you choose, LEDs provide various benefits over conventional fluorescent lighting. Once installed, you will get to enjoy lesser 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

T8LED Tubes

Magnetic Strips

LED Magnetic Strip Retrofit Kits

LED Panels

LED Panels

Shop Lights

LED Shop Lights


led linear high bay fixture for warehouses

The Issues with Fluorescents

1. Fluorescent tubes have 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 have to take some extra precautions for ensuring that they are not injured even when cleaning up the mess.

When it comes to appearance, LEDs look exactly like fluorescents. However, they are very different. LEDs do not emit as much heat as other lighting options.

Meaning that their housings are made of sturdy plastics than glass. As a result, they are less likely to shatter and break. Plus, even when these lights do, LEDs do not have mercury and you will not have glass remains everywhere.

Cost to Convert Fluorescents to LED

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.

upgrading fluorescent lights to led.

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 for 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 over 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 actually 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. 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 around 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 incandescent 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 not go with. That’s because they surge cooling costs and posits a threat 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 big contributors. When you own a large unit, covering its ceiling in fluorescents will make the situation bad only.

This becomes worse when it already costs a great deal of money for keeping the facility cool. Changing to LEDs will make a noticeable difference and a great impact. This is because LEDs emit no to little heat.

7. Regular usage of Fluorescents causes failure

In your industrial or commercial facility, you are probably using lights every day for the most part of the day. One of the best ways to mitigate the cost of lights every day is to install motion sensors for dimmers.

However, this could be a detriment to the fluorescent fixture’s life. However, fluorescent lights do not play great with motion sensors and dimmers. Plus, when you switch off/on these sensors, it actually decreases the light’s lifespan.

So, you might be in want of a technology that enables frequent off/on switching during the day. LED lighting solutions are the perfect option.

These lights do well with lighting control and sensors. One can switch them off and on multiple times without affecting their feasibility.

8. Fluorescent lights need more replacement and maintenance

One can elongate 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. However, fluorescent lights will deteriorate quickly. On average, these lights last for about 15,000 hours. They die out 3-4 times faster than average LEDs.

On average, LEDs last for about 50,000 hours. Meaning that you have to replace fluorescent lights at least three times more frequently than an LED. In big buildings having lots of lighting solutions, the cost of replacing fluorescent lights frequently adds up rapidly.

So, you need to spend on new bulbs and on the manpower that takes for switching the old lights for the new ones. Now, lower the maintenance costs effectively by opting for LEDs. These lights have a remarkably long lifespan and emit brighter lighter for a long period.

9. Flickering and buzzing

In the last, 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
migraine headaches
sleep disorders
enhanced stress levels

So, this is unfortunately an unavoidable thing about fluorescent lighting. Gladly, 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 their end.

Retrofitting fluorescent fixtures with LED Lights

As one can see, conversion to LEDs comes with various benefits. It is possible to switch to LED lighting through various different methods.

However, the best method for your facility and you will actually depend on various factors, such as budget, the state of current lighting fixtures, and how you like to employ the lights. For replacing the 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. In this method, you need to do rewiring work for bypassing 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 in preventing ballast failures and flickering or dimness in the future. One can look for retrofit tubes in high-efficient models and standard models too.

The brightness increases depending on the LED tubes lumen ratings, which you employ. However, 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 for 36 watts fluorescents consume.

Thus, one LED tube can replace two fluorescent lights. So, this makes a 18 watt versus 72 watts energy consumption.

Another benefit of using LEDs is getting rebates from the utility provider. This is for the energy-saving upgrading done by you regarding the lighting system.

For receiving these rebates, always purchase LED lighting options having DLC listing. In the market, there are LED lights without these listings. So, ensure to examine this before purchasing new LED lights.

Also, lamp life is prolonged. When it comes to an LED, you can enjoy about 50,000 hours on the low end. 

2. Benefits of Employing Magnetic LED Strips

Also, you can install Magnetic LED strips for upgrading the lighting system in your facility. 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 light’s metal housing. Plus, you do not require any wire power sockets.

One can easily connect the driver to any power source and link it to magnetic strips with the given quick connects. LED drivers replace your existing ballast and magnetic strips replace your bulbs.

Also, one 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 way brighter. These LED strips employ about 30 watts for two 4-foot strips fixtures and about 60 watts for four 4-foot strips.

For every 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 can save you money in the long run.

* 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 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

These are classic ceiling mount lighting fixtures. LED Wraparounds are commonly employed to seeing.

LED wrap fixtures are low in cost and offer good lighting solutions for different settings like shops, garages, and workshops. These fixtures are only ceiling mount. So, they do restrict the installation options a bit.

Strip Light Hanging LED Fixtures

These 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 8, 4, or 2-foot lengths.

There are options available with vapor-proof and IP ratings, which keep dust and dirt from getting into the fixture’s insides. 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 the fluorescents with the LED panels. These LED Drop-In Panels are specially designed for drop ceiling grid 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 and even in 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 40W 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 easily to suit all requirements.

5. Benefits of Shop LED Fixtures

Besides LED wrap fixtures and LED panels, you even have an option to swap your fluorescents with a single linear LED Shop Fixture . Such lighting fixtures are very sleek and slim.

These integrated lights are quite the same in size as fluorescents. One can suspend these fixtures from wires. It is also possible to surface mount these fixtures. So, it is entirely customizable to install these fixtures.

Plus, the brightness of shop fixtures is better than the tube ones. These fixtures offer long lamp life, which saves a lot of money from frequent replacements.

Also, these fixtures offer dust and water protection along with the integrated design. There are more intense choices available, such as waterproof and vapor tight fixtures.

6. Benefits of Linear High Bays (Bonus)

Most warehouses employ T5 High output linear high bays for providing general lighting. They cover large portions of aisle lighting. Typically, they contain 8, 6, or 4 T5 54 watt high-output light 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 quite a smart and simple process. These powerful choices can offer light levels that are not obtainable with T5 tube lighting options.

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 in saving a great deal of money on energy bills. 

LEDs are maintenance-free virtually due to their longer average lifespan i.e., 50,000 hours and durable coverings made of plastic. Plus, LEDs help in enhancing employees’ productivity and morale. Thus, switching to this innovative lighting will cut down costs effectively and enhance productivity.

However, in case, you are extremely worried about the primary costs, you get various options with diverse price ranges.

As 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 work a reputable contractor to ensure the project is completed successfully and without any unpleasant surprises. That last thing you want is to go flip the switch on to find that the new lights were wired wrong, two 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.

See more posts by Cory Peterson