Questions & Answers LED

Point/Counterpoint: LED Tubes or T8 Fluorescent Tubes

I love LED lighting more than apple pie, puppies, and a day off from work combined. Still, I Dr. Bulb, LED super enthusiast, understand that LEDs are not the solution for everything and some LED products are not up to snuff. For instance, LED retrofit tubes are not adequate replacements for T8 fluorescent tubes. Despite how some of my other blogs have appeared,  I’M NOT BLINDED BY MY PASSION! LEDs work best in applications where the fixtures are designed around the needs of the LED chip, not forced to fit an existing fixture. However, the CEO of an LED tube manufacturer believes quite the opposite and is preaching his thoughts to LEDs Magazine. Surprise, surprise!

In the style of Saturday Night Live’s classic “Point/CounterPoint,” let’s debunk some myths on someone else’s poorly debunked myths.

“LED retrofit tube lights have longer life.”  NO! There are T8s in the marketplace that have a life of 84,000 hours, exceeding the rated life of LED tubes. Any argument for LED tubes based on long life is incorrect. Some T8s win and have more reliable technology.

“LED tubes save 50% or more energy over fluorescent tubes.” MALARKEY! At this point, LED tubes are not significantly more efficient than high performance T8 systems. Also, they greatly reduce the light output. If you’re going by this rationale, keep your T8 fluorescent lights and turn 50% of them off in order to save energy. That is, if you like to work in the dark…

“Organizations such as the DesignLights Consortium have qualified LED tubes…”  Okay. So I can buy milk that is 100% organic but I’m still lactose intolerant! This information is unrelated. While the DLC Qualified product list indicates that products have met specific criteria for energy savings and quality, it does not mean they are a superior solution for your lighting application.

“For those concerned that new LED manufacturers won’t be around to support the warranty. An easy way to protect your business is to look for performance-based programs such as savings shares, lighting service contracts, or LED rental center opportunities. This way you don’t fully pay for the technology and aren’t chasing the seller if the failure occurs.”  Really? Would YOU trust a product with a ten-year warranty from a startup company that has only been around for two years? How about from a startup rental company pushing the product? These solutions are simply unrealistic, overly complicated and poor investments. I’ll stick to my fluorescent T8 lamps I can afford, flat panel led luminaires or until LED tube technology has advanced.

“Fluorescent tubes may have more lumens, but 35% of the output is often wasted going up into the fixture. Make sure to look at fixture output side-by-side in foot candles after a sample LED tube retrofit.”  INCORRECT! The 35% of light is redirected by the fixture pan to provide wide angle dispersion, which evenly lights the space being lit. While LED tubes may deliver similar foot-candles directly under the fixture, they create gaps between the fixtures and unevenly light the space. Fluorescent fixtures are meant for general illumination, not for point-source lighting that LEDs provide.

“At least, consider a rolling retrofit where you replace fluorescent tubes and ballasts as they fail with new LED tube technology.”  NOT ON MY WATCH! Rolling retrofits for ceiling lighting would create an unsightly hodge-podge of color temperatures and would cast varying amounts of light. Anyone who is concerned with building aesthetics would not buy into this recommendation.

There are a limited amount of applications where LED retrofit tubes may be a better choice, like near food storage where the risk of mercury contamination from fluorescent lighting is extremely dangerous.

It feels good to really speak my mind. The Department of Energy states that LED tubes are improving, but they are not yet superior to high performance T8 lighting solutions. While LED tubes are not a great solution for the replacement of fluorescent T8 tubes, there are other LED fixtures that do the job right. LED troffers for grid ceilings work well, and unlike most LED tubes, many are manufactured by trusted brands.

For more lighting information and an occasional rant , follow me on Twitter @doctorbulb and subscribe to my blog. Also, please like me on Facebook. I hope to get more likes than Justin Bieber.

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