LED vs Fluorescent
For many years Linear Fluorescent Lights have been the go-to when it comes to lighting large indoor spaces. Fluorescent lamps are able to convert more input power into visible light than incandescent lamps, which of course made them quickly rise in popularity. They also typically last 10 – 20 times longer than an equivalent incandescent lamp which makes them less expensive to operate in the long run. That aside, there is a new lighting technology on the market now, and it’s giving linear fluorescents a major run for their money.
Linear LED tubes are becoming more and more popular, and there’s no doubt that the technology is here to stay. Before, retrofitting a fluorescent high bay fixture meant replacing and rewiring the internal guts of the fixture. However, with the invention of LED linear lamps, upgrading to an even more energy efficient solution is as easy as installing a new tube. So what are some of the advantages of switching out your old tried-and-true fluorescent lamps with these newer and more expensive LED replacements? Is it even worth it? Let’s find out!
LED Energy Efficiency
As we all probably know by now, energy efficiency is currently one of the largest goals when replacing or retrofitting your fixtures. But how much more efficient is a T8 LED lamp compared to a fluorescent equivalent? In a side-by-side comparison, the latest linear T8 LED lamps are a whopping 30% more efficient than their fluorescent counterparts. Now that might not sound like much, but let’s take a moment and put that into perspective. Let’s say that you’re the owner of a large warehouse that has a number of fluorescent T8 High Bay fixtures installed. The energy usage just from those fixtures is costing you $1,000 a month. Well 30% of $1,000 is $300! That’s a total savings of $3,600 a year.
Initially, another reason that linear fluorescents replaced incandescent lamps was the longer life of the lamps. However, this is another area where LED has a clear and sizeable advantage. Because the light-emitting diodes don’t degrade in the same manner that the gas escapes a fluorescent or the filament burns out in an incandescent, LED lamps have a much longer lifespan than either of those lighting technologies. Some of the newer LED lamps generally have an expected lifespan of over 50,000 hours. Compare that to linear fluorescents which, if operated 24 hours a day, may have an average life of 38,000 hours. On the contrary, shorter burning cycles will actually decrease the fluorescent lamp’s average life to about 20,000 hours or less.
Directional lighting, a feature which can benefit the overall look and feel of any environment, is another area where linear LED is superior to linear fluorescent lighting. Linear T8 fluorescent tubes emit light at a 360 degree pattern due to their low pressure, mercury-vapor gas-discharge. Because of the way fluorescent light spreads, only 30% of the created light actually hits the intended target. Reflectors can aid in recovering some of the unused light, but it is still inefficient when it comes to using all available light. Because LED technology uses diodes instead of fluorescing gas, light can be emitted uniformly at a 110 degree spread without glare or hotspots. The directional lighting advantage of linear LED lamps is perhaps the most visibly noticeable advantage over linear fluorescent tubes.
Lack of Ultraviolet Light (UV)
Another advantage of retrofitting to LED is the fact that LED lights do not give off light in the non-visible light spectrum (UV). UV/IR light can affect plastics that are exposed by making them fade, become discolored, or crack and fall apart. In fact, one of the reasons that LED lighting has become so popular in places like art galleries is because the UV light can even damage and/or discolor paintings and other works of art.
Free of Mercury
In order to operate, fluorescent lamps require a small amount of highly toxic mercury or “quicksilver” as it’s sometimes called. If a fluorescent lamp breaks, it releases the mercury and therefore poses a health and safety risk for people and also the environment. Because of the Light Emitting Diode technology, mercury is not even part of the equation of a Linear LED, thus eliminating this safety risk.
LEDs Produce Less Heat
Another area in which LED has fluorescents beat is in the amount of heat produced. LEDs run much cooler than fluorescents, which could potentially save money. Producing less heat might just reduce the load on building cooling systems.
LED Technology Is Constantly Improving
More and more consumers are realizing the importance of energy efficient lighting and have invested in its future by jumping on the LED bandwagon. The market is still fairly new, and manufacturers are continually finding new ways to add different features while constantly striving to improve energy efficiency. In fact, the newer LED’s that are currently being sold are up to 50% more efficient than some of the first ones that hit the market. LED efficiency keeps rising while the high prices are beginning to fall–making it a more viable option for many consumers.
One Lamp Can Work with Various Ballast Types
Most Linear LED lamps now work with several different ballast types. This makes LED retrofitting projects so easy that anyone can do it–no wiring or electrical knowledge required. Just simply place the lamp in the fixture!
Should You Upgrade?
Ultimately, the advantages of long life, energy efficiency, safety, and lighting functionality sets linear T8 LED apart from the fluorescent counterparts. Replacing linear fluorescent lamps with LEDs is an easy decision for the informed buyer who is aware that the upfront costs will be money saved in the long run.
So if you’re thinking about making the jump over to Linear T8 LED, then you might want to upgrade your knowledge concerning some of the specific LED features. Don’t forget to also check the spec sheets of a particular lamp for more information when making a decision for a certain type of application. You can also check out our previous blog post, A Contractor’s Guide to LED, which breaks down all of the basic essential LED specs.
The future is bright for Linear T8 LEDs, and there’s never been a better time to jump on in and replace those old fluorescent lamps!
-Written by Dane Gustafson