I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jon Zelinsky, PE, Contractor Marketing Director, Philips Lighting. The topic: upgrading troffers to LED. I’m happy to share his responses with you here. The interview informed an article I wrote for the May 2017 issue of tED Magazine.

DiLouie: What basic choices do building owners have to upgrade existing troffer-based fluorescent lighting systems to LED?

Zelinsky: Building owners can choose from a few different product categories with a variety of performance features. There is a wide range of TLEDs if a customer wants to keep a more traditional “socket” approach, including smart TLEDs, such as Philips InstantFit TLED with EasySmart Technology, that allow for wireless independent dimming and regrouping of fixtures for greater flexibility in the room. Philips InstantFit TLEDs are compatible with over 184 existing fluorescent ballasts used in the field today to simplify the retrofit. To drive even higher performance and greater energy savings with socket solutions, new TLEDs can be installed with new LED Drivers as well.

The next rung up would be LED retrofit kits, such as Philips EvoKit. These retrofit kits provide a greater level of energy savings and performance, and have the ability to add individual daylight harvesting and occupancy controls wirelessly to drive added energy savings. Moreover, when the controls option is utilized, the individual fixture(s) can be set to a lower level light output on day 1 to capture additional savings and prevent a space from being over lighted. The flexibility an owner has with this product family is greater, and the fixture settings and groupings can be easily changed with a smart phone app.

And finally, there are new LED troffer fixtures for those customers who want a completely new fixture. Philips EvoGrid matches the look and feel of the EvoKit when a combination of retrofit kits and new fixtures are needed. Additionally, there are new LED troffer fixtures with air handling capabilities for those specialty requirements.

DiLouie: How would you categorize LED troffer/panel products aimed at replacing fluorescent troffers?

Zelinsky: There is a quantifiable performance upgrade with the LED retrofit panels, in addition to an improved look and feel of the space itself. From an aesthetic perspective, a building owner can transform their space from a 1990’s, or older, office look to a modern facility. Moreover, it takes a static lighting environment with basic on/off functionality to a dynamic, adaptable environment when the wireless controls are added.

DiLouie: What are typical energy savings and other advantages of replacing fluorescent troffers with LED troffers/panels?

Zelinsky: By utilizing an LED troffer only solution, an owner can expect to achieve energy savings in the 50% range. Adding the controls options can generally capture an additional 25%.

For example, when Philips Lighting first introduced our LED retrofit solution, our product was installed at the GSA’s Metcalf Building in Chicago. By using an LED troffer/panel retrofit and the wireless controls, we achieved a 75% measured energy reduction which was also independently validated by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs.

DiLouie: What are the disadvantages of replacing the troffer with an LED luminaire compared to TLED lamps and retrofit kits?

Zelinsky: Looking at a new fixture solution versus a retrofit kit or TLED lamps is generally an increase in labor to complete the renovation. Generally it would be important to know what the objectives are by the customer and then to design the most appropriate solution for them.

DiLouie: What are conditions under which replacing the luminaire would be ideal as opposed to replacing the lamps?

Zelinsky: There are different options for consideration, and each one has a different cost consideration. Troffers may have any number of lamps, 1, 2, 3, 4, so one would have to consider the number of lamps and ballasts that an owner has. A four lamp and two ballast fixture may be more expensive to replace individual components instead of putting in a LED retrofit kit or new luminaire.

Additionally, there could be other factors such as utility incentives that could drive preference for one solution over another.

DiLouie: How would you categorize TLED lamps and retrofit kits aimed at replacing fluorescent lamps in fluorescent troffers?

Zelinsky: There is a wide range of products in both the TLED and retrofit kit categories. It is important to match the right light with the right application and customer objectives. Sometimes a combination of different solutions from different categories is appropriate. It might make sense to use EvoKits in general office spaces, and InstantFit TLEDs in storage rooms as an example.

DiLouie: What are typical energy savings and other advantages of replacing fluorescent lamps with TLED lamps and retrofit kits?

Zelinsky: TLEDs can generate energy savings in the 40% range when paired with a traditional fluorescent ballast, and can generate additional energy savings when paired with a dedicated LED driver. Smart TLEDs that can be dimmed can generate even more savings.

As mentioned before, retrofit kits can drive energy savings in the 50% to 75% range.

DiLouie: What are the disadvantages of replacing the lamps in a fluorescent troffer with TLED lamps instead of replacing the luminaire?

Zelinsky: The greatest risk can be compatibility issues with an existing fluorescent ballast. It is critical to know if the TLED has been tested by the manufacturer to ensure that the TLED will perform as expected. The contractor and the owner lose time, money and resources when callbacks occur to figure out why something isn’t working properly.

Additionally, it is worthwhile to consider the age or expected remaining life of the ballast in the fixture. A ballast that may need to be replaced in the near term anyway would wind up adding additional labor costs.

DiLouie: What are conditions under which replacing the lamps with TLED lamps instead of replacing the luminaire would be ideal?

Zelinsky: If the compatibility of the ballast is verified, and a TLED lamp retrofit is in line with the owner’s expectations of how the space will look, feel, and perform in terms of energy consumption, then it is a good match. A lot will depend on the type and age of the existing fixture, and how happy is that owner, or the owner’s tenants, with the existing lighting system.

To help simplify and support the decision making process, Philips Lighting developed a lighting retrofit tool that helps a contractor or even an owner evaluate the different lighting systems from an energy perspective. Then, it would be easy to do a mock up in the space to see how the different solutions would look in the owner’s space.

DiLouie: What control options exist for TLED lamps and retrofit kits?

Zelinsky: Philips Lighting developed EasySense and SpaceWise wireless controls that are an option for any LED retrofit kit or new LED fixture.

Additionally, the Philips InstantFit TLED with EasySmart Technology can be controlled wirelessly and grouped independently. This can be a real game changer for someone with limited resources.

DiLouie: If you could tell all electrical distributors just one thing about retrofitting fluorescent troffers to LED, what would it be?

Zelinsky: The best decisions are made when contractors to talk to their customers and propose a solution that meets their needs. Your customer’s customer will be happier, and you will become a valued resource offering solutions that fulfil the owner’s needs and wants.

DiLouie: Is there anything else you’d like to add about this topic?

Zelinsky: The Philips Lighting Retrofit Tool is a flexible and easy way to develop and test different options in order to identify the best solution possible. It is an excellent resource that can empirically support decisions made in the field.