Retrofitting Building Lights: T8, T5 Versus LED

Retrofitting Building Lights: T8, T5 Versus LEDUp until recently, lighting indoor commercial buildings have been pretty much a ‘no-brainer’, as most went with fluorescent lighting as the most economical option. However, with the phasing out of T12 lamps  that started back in July of 2012, many commercial spaces are finding themselves in the position of having to retrofit their lighting and control systems for the more efficient and energy saving fluorescent technologies.

The reason the Department of Energy (DOE) mandated the phase out of production of magnetic ballasts, most commonly used for the operation of T12 lamps for commercial and industrial applications, to electronic ballast is because they are inefficient. In addition, the T12 lamps were not environmentally friendly, as their high mercury content were invariably landing up in landfills instead of being recycled properly.

Today’s high performance T8 and T5 lamps and ballasts, compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and light emitting diode(LED) technologies make retrofitting older fixtures a beneficial endeavor. For one, there will be an increase in light levels and enhanced light quality while decreasing energy use by 40% or more.  Such upgrades not only provide better quality illumination, but they deliver short and long-term savings through rebates, tax incentives and lower energy costs.

While the switch to T8 and T5 linear fluorescent lighting (LFLs) does save energy and have less mercury content, the T8 LED are mercury free, dimmable and offer directional lighting. This allows them to illuminate exactly where you need, unlike fluorescents that have multi-directional lighting, which means some light is lost in the fixture and other unnecessary places.

Unlike the fluorescent lights that tend to burn out faster when integrated with occupancy sensors and other controls, LEDs work well with control systems and their life span is not affected by turning them on and off. The newest T8 LEDs are 30% more efficient than T8 LFLs, provide 50,000 hours versus 30,000 and are shatterproof because of their plastic and aluminum make up.

Ultimately, when determining whether LED or T8, T5 lamping is more cost-effective, it is best to get a qualified lighting engineer to give you a cost comparison. Keep in mind that you might qualify for some rebates or incentives, so that should also be worked into the equation.


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