Updated: Aug 10, 2019
2x2, 2x4 and 1x4 foot ceiling troffers with fluorescent tube lamps are ubiquitous fixtures in office, school, medical and retail facilities. There are many options for replacing these fluorescent tubes with longer lasting, more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly LED lights, and each option has different installation procedures, advantages and pitfalls. Here is a basic comparison of the various methods available for your consideration.
1. Replacing only the fluorescent tubes with "ballast compatible" LED tubes - This is the easiest (and laziest) method of switching to LED. Many manufacturers offer ballast compatible LED T5 & T8 tube lamps that can be used with existing fluorescent ballasts. However, to go with this option you have to know what type of ballast is in your fluorescent fixtures; is it a magnetic ballast, an electronic ballast, or a pulse start or rapid start ballast? Only LED tubes built to be compatible with that type of ballast will work, so you have to look closely at the specs. Also, using LED tubes with fluorescent ballasts misses out on energy savings, as the ballasts will continue consuming energy completely needlessly. And the ballasts will eventually burn out too and need replacing anyways, which will require another maintenance job with wiring work. Another pitfall is that energy rebates may not apply to simple re-lamping because it isn't permanent and the LED tubes could in the future be replaced with fluorescent tubes again. We at Green Site Products recommend against using "ballast compatible" LED tube lights.
2. Removing the ballast and connecting AC to the sockets - This method eliminates the needless fluorescent ballast and the need to ever again mess with the wiring in the fixture. You wire AC to the sockets and put in "direct wire" (AKA "ballast bypass") LED tubes. These are made to operate directly on line voltage. When wiring AC to the sockets, you'll have to decide whether to use existing sockets or replace the sockets. Many existing sockets in older fixtures might be getting corroded and should be replaced, and most LED tubes on the market don't come with new sockets, so you might need additional hardware. Also you'll have to decide whether to wire power to a single end of each socket, or double end, then make sure to use either a "single end power" or "double end power" LED tube to match.
3. Removing all the fluorescent hardware with an LED retrofit kit - This method gets rid of all the old fluorescent hardware (ballast, ballast housing, sockets) so you can simply connect AC to an LED retrofit kit that can be attached in the fixture either with screws or with magnets for rapid installation and easy replacement. This is the method that we at Green Site Products recommend for upgrading fluorescent fixtures to LED in a commercial environment. Once all the old hardware is out, you have a clean slate for a variety of LED luminaires to be installed, such as magnetic strips that run the length of the fixture just like the tubes, but don't rely on sockets and can be removed at any time if you wish to put in a different type of kit. Circular, square, all different shapes of LED boards could fit into ceiling troffers. With LED kits, you don't rely on hardware that was designed for fluorescent technology.
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