LED Technology Is Changing Faster than the Building Industry Can Keep Up

UL Type B TLEDs, on the other hand, bypass the ballast entirely and eliminate some compatibility issues because they are hardwired directly into electrical boxes. The benefit of Type B products is there’s no loss of power by removing the ballast, but control and dimming are limited, as well.

Among the most flexible and cost-effective options are LED retrofit kits, which use the existing fixture without sacrificing controls. “There are some wonderful retrofit troffer kits out there that incorporate some configuration of an array of LED chips and a driver,” Breske says, noting many of them incorporate dimming, as well. “Most of these retrofit kits will use the existing fixture body of the fluorescent fixture. Many of them not only save energy and give you the controllability and flexibility, they also enhance the appearance. Most of them are of a volumetric nature, so they’re architecturally very pleasing.”

Of course, ballasts and fixtures can be completely replaced with new ones, but the costs are significantly higher. As such, Breske says retrofit kits have a distinct advantage because they cost much less to install. While kits appraise less than new fixtures, Breske says the decision is ultimately based on what the customer wants and finds practical.

According to Israel, it comes down to making informed decisions: “It’s really about understanding the technology.” He says it’s important to test all components beforehand to ensure the lighting modules, drivers, and dimmers are all compatible and have proper controls to avoid flickering, which some LEDs have been known to do. “It’s not to scare people away, it’s just, do your homework and make sure you have the correct system,” he explains.

Future Proofing

Speaking of compatibility, there’s a harsh reality to face: facility executives will likely need to replace existing fixtures or lighting components in the near future that have been rendered obsolete or aren’t available in the same wattage or color outputs. And with the speed of change in LED technology, “future proofing” an existing facility to accommodate these advancements will be increasingly challenging. But there are a few things building owners and facility managers should—and shouldn’t—do.

“If you have a five-year project, it is true [an LED] you bought is probably going to be replaced by a newer model,” Israel says. “That’s why we like going with big, established companies, so you can have consistency across products. What you don’t want to do is try different manufacturers and then all of a sudden the color qualities don’t match up or the controls don’t all match up.”

Breske describes the LED market today as “the Wild West” because there are so many manufacturers in the market without much standardization across products. He says that will change in time, however, as the number of players in the market “weed themselves out” and regulations come into play.

“Right now, there’s not a lot of standardization. There are some requirements, but it’s just not heavily regulated,” he explains. “As those regulations and standards become adopted, it will make components more compatible with each other.”

In the meantime, Israel says facility owners and managers would be wise to ensure any fixtures purchased are well documented. Look for barcodes on each fixture and know what type of LED boards are being used, the controls that are put in, as well as the types of drivers the fixtures are running on. When those fixtures or components come up for replacement, there will be more options available, he says.

For example, if a replacement LED is brighter in spite of using the same watt- age as the existing fixture because technology has already advanced, Israel says the manufacturer can match the lumen outputs at a lower wattage, which will actually save more energy. (This is contingent upon good documentation, he emphasizes.)

Alternatively, Israel suggests facility executives invest in modular fixtures with quick connectors and light engines and drivers that are easily removable so upgrades and replacements are easy to do and avoid waste.

“There are some fixtures right now that if the fixture dies, you throw away the entire fixture,” he says. “That’s the housing, the heat sink—all the parts that are still good, you have to get rid of, so we really prefer the modular type of solution.”

Ultimately, Israel says retrofitting with LEDs “is a learning process”, and documentation and modularity are the best bets today to ensure a bright tomorrow.



The above chart compares the efficacy of TLEDs to other product categories. Lamp categories are shown on the left and luminaire categories are shown on the right. The typical efficacy of TLEDs substantially exceeds the efficacy of A lamps and PAR lamps.

To appropriately compare the efficacy of TLEDs to that of other LED luminaires, a multiplier of 0.8 was applied, representing the efficiency of a typical troffer luminaire in which a
TLED might be operated. When this is done, TLEDs tend to have lower efficacies than the dedicated LED luminaires against which they might compete.

Products listed by LED Lighting Facts are classified by the submitting manufacturer. There is some ambiguity between categories, and the variation within any given category may be substantial.

About the Author

Robert Nieminen
Robert Nieminen is a freelance writer; the former editor of Interiors & Sources magazine; and retrofit’s editor at large, specializing in interiors. Under his direction, Interiors & Sources was the recipient of several publishing awards, as well as a pioneer of sustainability reporting.

Be the first to comment on "LED Technology Is Changing Faster than the Building Industry Can Keep Up"

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: