LED retrofitting refers to the process of replacing an older lighting technology, like incandescent, halogen, CFL, fluorescent or metal halide, with LED lighting, and there are a few ways to do this.
OPTION 1 – SWAP IT OUT
Standard Light Bulbs
On a basic level, most incandescent or CFL medium-based bulbs that you’d find in common lamps, floor lights or vanities can be removed and replaced directly with LED bulbs. These bulbs use different technologies to create light, but because LED bulbs contain their own internal driver, no additional accessories are needed. Many lamps have a maximum wattage that should not be exceeded, which is not typically a concern since LED bulbs can produce the same amount of light as incandescent, halogen or CFL bulbs, while using much less wattage. LEDs are much more efficient than other technologies and last longer, which saves a lot of money and energy over time.
Fixtures with Tubes
When upgrading a light fixture, there are more options and often additional steps. Troffers and ceiling fixtures are common in all types of buildings and have generally used fluorescent tubes in the past. Today there are fixtures that contain tubes and also fixtures that contain integrated LED lighting. Starting with tubes, it is not always possible to simply swap out the fluorescent tubes for LED tubes and there are three main types of tubes to consider.
Type A LED Tubes
Type A LED tubes contain an LED driver that is able to use a ballast for power and often can work with the ballast that is currently in the fixture. These are sometimes called ballast compatible or plug-and-play tubes.
Type B LED Tubes
Type B LED tubes, often called ballast bypass, will not work with a ballast and will need to be directly wired to the power source. These tubes contain their own integrated driver.
Type A and B LED Tubes
There are also type A and B tubes, which can potentially work both ways, either using the fixture’s existing ballast or rewiring the fixture directly to the power source and utilizing the internal driver in the tube.
Type C LED Tubes
A final option are type C LED tubes. These tubes use a remote driver, instead of the internal driver, similarly to how the fluorescent tube uses the ballast. Type C tubes can provide additional functionality, like dimming.
Fixtures with Metal Halide Bulbs
Fixtures with high intensity discharge lighting like metal halide are generally used in areas that require a large amount of light, like warehouses, parking lots or building exteriors. A common upgrade for these applications is Corn Cob LEDs, given the name based on their appearance. Most Corn Cob LEDs include an internal driver, which will require the socket to be connected directly to the power source, meaning the fixture will need to be rewired. Corn Cob LEDs come in various shapes depending on the intended application. Because Corn Cob LEDs can sometimes be larger than metal halide bulbs and have different enclosure requirements, it’s important to consult a licensed electrician to determine if the bulb will be able to work safely and efficiently in the existing fixture.
OPTION 2 – REPLACE IT
Another retrofit option is to replace the entire fixture. There are a great number of indoor and outdoor LED fixtures available with integrated LED lighting and drivers. These include flat panels, strips, troffers, under cabinet lights, recessed lights, area lights, wall packs, sconces and much more. The benefit of these fixtures is that generally everything you need is contained in the unit. There may be circumstances where an LED driver is needed though. There are also many options that allow you to choose your color temperature or amount of light output (lumens). This allows you to truly customize the light to your specific application. The downside to these can be that if something does go wrong or the LED lights reach their end of life, the entire fixture will need to be replaced.
OPTION 3 – UPGRADE IT
If you aren’t interested in a complete lighting overhaul, there is an LED retrofit option that combines the other options, called retrofit kits. These kits allow you to keep your existing fixtures, but to update part of them with LED lighting. Some offer modules or components that just contain the LED light and replace the internal elements of existing fixtures, some offer LED lights and the “face” of the fixture, which allows you to keep the existing mechanics and fixture back in the ceiling and just update the outward part of it, along with the lighting. These can be a very efficient and economic option.
There are a vast number of LED options for every category and LED is an ever-evolving technology. It provides great savings in money and energy over older technologies. An additional, sometimes overlooked savings with LEDs refers to maintenance. Because LEDs last so much longer, they don’t need to be changed as often. That saves money on the maintenance side requiring less workers, lifts and delay of work when bulbs need to be changed.
With any lighting change, please be sure to consult a licensed electrician to ensure your upgrade is safe, efficient and the best option for your intended purpose. You can count on Lighting Supply to have an enormous selection of LED lighting with options sure to fit your application.