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Converting Fluorescent Shop Lights to LED
The Shop Upgrade You Should Consider – Fluorescent Lights to LED
Are you still using fluorescent lighting options in your facility or workshop? If yes, you are not alone. Most shops have used or currently use fluorescent lighting all over the country. However, if you still rely on fluorescents, it is probably time you think about converting fluorescent to LED.
Now, think, are these lighting options any good? Does this light brighten up dim and dark areas well? Do you need to strain the eyes to see the fine particulars or can you actually work fine in fluorescent light?
Are you tired of those buzzing ballasts and flickering bulbs? How often do you replace faulty fluorescent tubes or ballasts? When do you replace these lights? Do you need to take extra care to make sure that these lights are properly disposed of?
When people are overwhelmed by such common problems, they need to consider converting their fluorescent lighting options to LED Lights for Shops. Surely, LEDs can make a huge difference to your facilities, your employees, and you in the long and short term.
With LED lighting options, consumers can lower their electricity bills by more than 50%. Also, this eliminates operating charges too. As LEDs do not have mercury, unlike fluorescent lights, disposing of these lighting options when you are through is as simple as recycling and tossing them in the trash.
In the past few years, if you have considered LEDs, you know these lights are more costly as compared to other less effective lights. However, in recent years, with the progress in technology, LED lighting options have become less expensive. Although these lights have a higher upfront cost, immediate savings are realized after installation.
LED lights have no maintenance charges, a remarkably long lifespan, and are energy-efficient. As a result, consumers enjoy meaningful savings right away. Also, after recouping the charges of LED lights, people can save extra on energy bills for a fixture’s life. We also recommend you read this post on Avoiding the Pitfalls of Purchasing LED
Options to convert your shop to LED
When it comes to converting fluorescent lights to LEDs, there are two methods available out there. Replacing (getting rid of the whole fixture) or retrofitting (using the existing fixture). Regardless of which you choose, make sure you work with a licensed electrician so that your property is ready for any future inspections.
When you retrofit a fixture, it is less expensive than purchasing a new one. However, this option is available for specific cases only. Here, you will find a discussion about which method you should go with to determine the right path for the lights in your facility.
Retrofit fluorescent light fixtures to LEDs.
If you prefer to keep the existing shop light fixtures but still want to switch to LED, then you have two options – magnetic retrofit kit strips or LED tubes.
While it is not at all complicated to retrofit a fixture, it is suggested that you should use a certified electrician to do so. Removing a tube and ballast as well as rewiring your fixture for a single-ended tube could be complicated if you are not a professional electrician.
LED tubes look just like fluorescent tubes. You need to install these tubes inside the fixture’s lamp holders. Essentially, there are two kinds of LED tubes: ballast compatible or direct connect.
Direct connect LED tubes bypass the light ballast. This means that you are directly wiring AC power to the lamp holder. Also, many direct connect LED tubes are single-ended power. Thus, you will require un-shunted lamp holders.
By contrast, ballast-compatible LED tubes can make use of the existing ballast. Now, this seems to be a good option. However, there are several factors to consider.
Not all ballasts will function this way and the ballast can fail at some point.
Magnetic Strip Retrofit Kits
Magnetic strip retrofit kits are another option. We recommend this method. These retrofit kits feature magnets on their back, which are used to attach the lights to the metallic light fixture.
LED strips do not employ lamp holders. Instead, they employ LED Drivers, which are installed to replace your fluorescent ballast.
These retrofit kits are superior to the other options. This is because LED drivers are exterior to the LEDs. Here, people do not need to be concerned about ballasts deteriorating or making sure that they have non-shunted lamp holders.
Plus, it enables the magnetic strips to employ the metal enclosure of the fixture as a heat sink. Now, this could extend the already long life of LEDs.
Replacing old shop fixtures with new LED fixtures
Another option is to install new LED lighting fixtures in the workshop. This option is perfect for neglected or damaged fluorescent fixtures. It is more costly when compared to retrofitting. However, with this method, the old lighting fixture is eliminated and replaced completely with a brand-new light fixture.
Currently, there are various LED options available to replace fluorescent shop light fixtures. This includes linear design, vapor tight, round UFO style, and low bay style.
Each fixture is matched to a specific purpose. Also, completely getting rid of a fixture offers you impressive light distribution. Plus, it gives you additional options to determine what you require for your area.
Switching to LED lighting fixtures from fluorescent shop lights
When compared to their fluorescent counterparts, LED lights offer a better, brighter light. LED lights were specially intended to be functional and durable, which makes them great for shop lighting.
The LEDs’ sealed housing keeps away debris from the lighting components inside. In turn, this greatly reduces the time spent maintaining the shop lighting.
The most manageable and cost-effective alternative to fluorescents is LED lighting. These lights have an identical diameter to fluorescent tubes, and they are available in 4 or 8 foot lengths. This makes them great for replacing the current lamps without many alterations.
6 Reasons Why You Should Replace your Fluorescent Shop Lighting
1. LED Lights reduce energy bills by more than 50%.
LEDs were designed for efficiency. Although fluorescents might be more energy-efficient than other kinds of lamps, they cannot compete with LEDs. How much can you save by converting to LEDs from fluorescents? Let’s have a look at a few common scenarios.
A typical T8 fluorescent lamp draws 32 Watts and adds in a 15% ballast consumption draw. The consumed total watts are approximately 37 Watts for each fluorescent tube.
Typically, a High Output T5 fluorescent tube draws 54 Watts. Along with a 15% ballast consumption draw. The total consumed watts by this lighting option is approximately 62 Watts for each fluorescent tube.
LED efficiency (lumens/watt) has significantly improved in recent years. In striking contrast to similar fluorescent lighting options, it is practical to expect LED lights to work at 150-180 lumens per watt. This means that you can easily switch out a two-tube T8 fluorescent light with two 12-Watt LED tubes or with a single 24-Watt LED tube.
So, if you take the above scenario and change two fluorescent tubes that consume 74 Watts in total per fixture, it is better to make the switch. Converting to LEDs can result in a 66% reserve margin.
That figure is even more noteworthy when you use tens or hundreds of lights, as many shops do.
2. LED Lights can reduce maintenance costs.
An average fluorescent light fixture’s expected lifespan can be somewhere between 7,000 hours and 15,000 hours. However, not all these hours are usable. The more you use fluorescent lights, the quicker their light output and quality degrade.
In the middle of the lifespan of fluorescents, you will find a perceptible change in their light output. Due to this, you will need to replace your fluorescent lighting options more frequently than LEDs.
By contrast, LED lighting options do not have this problem. The lighting of LEDs is rated at L70. This L70 measurement refers to the time taken by a light to reach 70 percent of its original lumens. In the case of LEDs, one can assume the L70 ratings to be somewhere between 50,000 hours and 100,000+ hours.
As an example, let’s presume an LED product’s L70 is just 50,000 hours. So, when your LED reaches the L70 point, you will have burned through four comparable fluorescents.
3. LED Lights do not strobe or flicker
When someone thinks about a fluorescent light, they mostly think about the flickering that fluorescent light fixtures are well known for. The ballasts of fluorescents work on the AC current, where AC operates at about 60 Hz in North America.
This means that the current cycles switch on and off around 60 times every second. This process occurs so fast that it is not often detected. However, people who regularly work under a fluorescent light report complaints regarding headaches and eye strain.
You will also observe that the flickering becomes more noticeable when a fluorescent light fixture approaches the end of its life.
LED light fixtures employ a unique LED driver for converting AC to DC. As compared to AC, DC doesn’t cycle but supplies a continuous energy supply.
Thus, even though LEDs take AC power technically, these lights will not flicker. If your LED lighting options are flickering, this could be because of faulty drivers. If so, you can easily replace it.
4. Fluorescent tubes contain mercury
One of the dangerous, but lesser-known attributes of a fluorescent light is that they contain mercury. It’s an essential part of fluorescent tubes and is safe unless its housing is damaged or broken. Mercury should be carefully handled as it is a known carcinogen.
Many states follow strict disposal rules and regulations for mercury, and thus, for fluorescents too. One cannot simply toss it in garbage bins or take it to landfills. Strict disposal requirements are needed.
To make things worse, fluorescent tubes or bulbs are manufactured with glass. Glass is potentially harmful as well as extremely fragile. If you drop them, the lamps can shatter and release mercury into the air.
Glass shards are also hazardous. This affects anyone working in proximity to a shattered lamp.
LED lights do not contain mercury. Plus, these lights are often manufactured with sturdy plastic. Thus, there is no need to worry about potential harm from breakage or proper disposal techniques. You can throw the old light in a standard trash bin and replace it with a new one.
5. LEDs work well with motion sensors
A great way to enhance efficiency in a workshop is to install motion or occupancy sensors. This ensures that the lights are turned off when someone leaves the area and turned on when someone enters.
With fluorescent lights, constant off-and-on cycles will degrade their lifespan even further. By contrast, constantly switching on and switching off LED lights does not affect their lifespan.
6. LED Lights are dimmable
Dimmers work great when you attach them to occupancy sensors or motion sensors. They are also perfect for areas that are too bright. Apart from helping to create an ideal workspace, dimming lights can help you save expenses on your lighting bills.
Most fluorescent lighting solutions are not dimmable. The ones that are dimmable need special ballasts to work.
If you are willing to put extra expenses on your special fluorescent light fixtures and a devoted ballast, it is highly recommended to switch to LEDs. Only then, you will see enhancements on all fronts and not with dimming alone
About the Author
Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.