LED TUBES: A Fluorescent Alternative

Today, LED lighting technology is evolving at a break-neck pace compared to other lighting technologies.  During and following WWII, Fluorescent lighting began to overtake incandescent as the most prolific electric light source in America.  And over the following decades, fluorescents gradually improved in light output and color rendering.  LED technology on the other hand, though it has been around since the 1960s, has jumped leaps and bounds in recent years.  It has gone from hardly being a viable lighting technology across the industry just 10 years ago, to overtaking incandescent, fluorescent and HID technology in current projects throughout the world.  Thanks to the solid state makeup of LEDs, they are tracking with the rapid changes and developments in the semiconductor industry, only to become brighter, more efficient, more economical, and have better color rendering in days to come.

“But,” you may be asking, “What do I have to gain by retrofitting to LED T8 technology at this stage in the game?”  Well, you may be surprised to learn that there are many reasons that now is the time to retrofit those fluorescent T8s with LED.  Here are several of them that may just change the game for you.

LEDs run cooler than other lighting technologies.  Fluorescent lamps convert only 21% of their energy to light, while the rest (79%) is released as radiated, conducted or convectional heat.  LEDs on the other hand can convert as much as 40% of their energy to light, with a remaining 60% as only conducted or convectional heat.  This does not even take into account the heat produced by fluorescent ballasts, nor the continued growth in the efficiency of LEDs leading them to become brighter and cooler.

Lifespan and Maintenance
LED T8s can have a rated effective life of 50,000 hours or more.  This is slightly better than the lifetime of the most efficient, long-lasting fluorescent lamps, and over 5 times greater than the life of standard T8s equipped with instant start ballasts.  Longer life means less bulb purchases, as well as less man/hours of bulb-changing labor.  Cutting labor and product expenses can save significant amounts of revenue for businesses with substantial lighting needs.  And, LEDs love the cold weather that typically shorten the life of fluorescent tubes and ballasts.

Energy Savings
If the money saved in maintenance costs were not enough LEDs are more energy efficient than fluorescent.  For example, a standard 4 ft. fluorescent T8 uses about 32 Watts of energy along with a few watts from the ballast for a grand total of about 35W per lamp.  The same lumen-equivalent LED lamp can use as little as 18-20 Watts.  That is almost half the power consumption.  Now, this is not as significant as the savings associated with incandescent retrofit, but payback period on LED T8 retrofits can be a couple years down to a handful of months.  By just changing your light bulbs to a different technology, you could be seeing cash back in your pockets in short order.

Fluorescents have built a reputation as a light source that provide bright white light.  In recent decades the colors have even expanded to include warmer incandescent type light.  Also the ability of the light to accurately reflect true color (CRI) has improved in fluorescent light.  All these things and more can be said of LED lighting.  All of the standard colors of the kelvin temperature scale can be reproduced with LED technology, and the color rendering index is quickly approaching that of incandescent and true sunlight as the technology advances.  LEDs are also producing over 100 lumens/Watt in many applications which is an efficiency rivaled by few lighting sources. In addition, Kobi Electric Led tubes have a unique 320° beam angle, which provides nearly omnidirectional coverage.

Environmental Pollutants
And lastly, a topic that has become more in the light in recent years, is the issue of health and environment.  Fluorescent technology at its core, is founded on the principle of exciting mercury vapor until it fluoresces light.  It is a little more complicated than that, but the fact remains that every one of the several billion fluorescent tubes now burning in American lighting systems contains mercury gas.  Couple that with the fragile nature of fluorescents, and you have a recipe for toxic contamination.  The unfortunate thing about this problem is that fluorescents bulbs are often broken or cracked in enclosed indoor spaces, exposing humans to mercury gas.  LED technology is most often coupled with plastic lenses, but even where glass is used, no toxic gases are released when broken.  Efficient lighting should not be an environmental health concern.

The time has come when LED technology has overtaken the field, and it would be unwise not to consider retrofitting fluorescent T8 technology.  The technology is in fact getting better and cheaper, but the savings to be had at the present overshadow the desire to “hold out” for the technology to improve.  Get your hands on LED T8s now and start saving your money, your quality of light, and your health.

Josh Williams
Product Manager
Kobi Electric