I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Alfred LaSpina, LED product group marketing manager, LEDVANCE. The topic: options for upgrading fluorescent 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?

LaSpina: Building owners who want to upgrade existing troffer-based fluorescent lighting systems to LED have two options – using direct lamp replacements with the existing ballast or using retrofit kits which include their own driver and require ballast bypass.

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

LaSpina: LED troffer/panel products aimed at replacing fluorescent troffers can be easy to install, with some troffer retrofit kits done in under 4 minutes. They offer a variety of décor choices, meaning you can maintain the same look or create a new one, both while having the same light quality. These LED solutions can also easily give you dimming functionality and eliminate ballast incompatibility issues.

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

LaSpina: LED Panels and Troffer Retrofit Kits are energy-saving, environmentally-preferable LED alternatives for retrofitting traditional fluorescent lens troffers with an average energy savings of around 45 – 50 percent and cost savings between $300 – $400 over the lifetime of the product, depending on the existing system. These can also offer building owners the opportunity to change the look of the space if desired.

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

LaSpina: One of the main disadvantages of replacing a fluorescent troffer with an LED luminaire compared to an LED lamp or retrofit kit is cost, not just the higher initial cost of the luminaire but also labor costs. If you are replacing just the lamps, it can be done quickly and easily by following the instructions. Replacing the whole luminaire requires an electrician as you would need to bypass the existing ballast and wire in the new luminaire.

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

LaSpina: Replacing a luminaire would be ideal as opposed to replacing the lamp when you have an aging fixture that has reduced lumen efficacy because the fixture is absorbing more of the light. Replacing the luminaire is also an easy way to jump start the décor of the space and deliver a modern aesthetic. Another reason would be if you have ballasts that are reaching end of life possibly making it more cost effective to replace the entire luminaire.

Depending on the space and light needed there are multiple options including Edge-Lit Panel luminaires with a slim design for tight ceiling spaces or more traditional looking luminaires.

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

LaSpina: TLED lamp and retrofit kits are energy-saving replacements for fluorescent T12 or T8 lamps with innovative optical and mechanical designs that achieve a light distribution pattern that minimizes lumen loss when installed in fluorescent luminaires.

TLED lamps and retrofit kits are have three UL categories – Type A which are the replacement lamps which offer energy savings and minimal labor costs; Type B are the internal driver lamps that offer low long term maintenance and energy savings; and Type C which are the External Driver lamps (or Retrofit Kits) where you would replace both the lamp and ballast at the same time and typically have a higher LPW and longer life as well as low maintenance. Building owners would need to review their energy, design and budget objectives for the space to decide which option would work best for them.

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

LaSpina: TLED lamps have a long rated life of up to 60,000 hours (L70), reduce energy usage by up to 40 percent, contain no mercury or UV emissions, and provide instant light. Direct replacements for traditional fluorescent T8 lamps with no ballast replacement, like the SYLVANIA SubstiTUBE IPS LED T8 lamps, are plug and play, offer the quickest installation, and don’t require electrical or structural modification of the existing fixture.

LED Troffer Retrofit Kits are energy-saving, environmentally-preferable LED alternatives for retrofitting traditional fluorescent lens troffers with an average energy savings of 49 percent and $329 of the lifetime of the product. The kits also last up to 2 times longer than traditional fluorescent sources. The advantages of replacing fluorescent lamps with an LED troffer retrofit kit are that it utilizes the existing troffer which saves money, bypasses the existing ballast to eliminate ballast compatibility issues, and avoids the need to work above the ceiling. These factors make it an economic and fast replacement option. The best applications for this are existing and new construction settings when you don’t want to change the aesthetics.

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

LaSpina: One potential disadvantage of replacing fluorescent lamps with LED lamps instead of replacing the luminaire is the ballast compatibility. Working with a lighting manufacturer that provides an extensive ballast compatibility list for their TLEDs will ensure you have lamps that work with the existing ballasts.

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

LaSpina: If you are trying to maintain your current look in a space, are looking for a fast and easy installation, have budget restrictions, or are spot relamping in a massive building, TLED lamps are a great option. Our goal is to always find ways to better serve our distributor and contractor customers when they want to replace traditional tube lighting with LED.

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

LaSpina: TLED lamps can offer 0-10V dimming when using a dimmable ballast, and LED retrofit kits have wireless, 0-10V and phase cut dimming.

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

LaSpina: Know the goals of your customer. Are their main priorities energy savings, a new look for the space, or ROI options and total cost of ownership at end of life? This will help you pick the right solution for the application. If you tie it to utility rebates, it is even better for customer.

LED lamps are now being produced with optimized glass optics that mimic the light distribution and looks of traditional lamps. This offers customers the look they’ve come to know with the energy-saving features of LEDs.

LEDVANCE has expanded its award-winning SYLVANIA SubstiTUBE LED product line making it even easier for companies to save money by either replacing traditional tubes to reduce their energy costs or in new construction that want the latest lighting products, in addition to lower labor and recycling costs. SubstiTUBE LED solutions have a long rated life up to 60,000 hours (L70), reduce energy usage by up to 40 percent, contain no mercury or UV emissions, and provide instant light. New additions include a dimmable glass LED T8, a LED T5HO which offers the highest efficacy on the market of its kind, an LED Ubend replacement for traditional fluorescent T8 lamps, and DULUX L LED TT5 lamps. These are ideal for a wide range of applications including general illumination, cove lighting, display cases, parking garages, warehouses and tunnels.

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

LaSpina: Make sure you are working with a supplier with a proven history of quality and lighting expertise. As more and more startups are pouring LED lamps and retrofit kits into the market, it is easy to be overwhelmed or be tempted to have price be the deciding factor. Take into consideration warranty, quality of service, and commitment to your business.

Inventory control continues to be something to be mindful of in regards to LED products. While you are working with your end users, tie in your sales rep early to work together to make sure your supplier has the right products and qualities at the right time.