energy savings compared to standard fluorescent troffers, which can be ac- celerated with controls. LED luminaires are purpose- built for the light source’s unique characteristics, potentially resulting in higher-efficacy quality lighting with a modern aesthetic. However, lumi- naire replacement typically poses a higher cost than replacing the lamps with TLEDs. A third option is a retrofit kit, which packages the lamp or a light engine assembly with optics and electrical components to produce a repeatable solution. By incorporating optics, retrofit kits can improve light distrib- ution and aesthetics while expanding control options, achieving a solution close to a new luminaire. Retrofit kits offer a middle-of-the-road option in terms of cost and lighting quality. Here are several considerations for selecting an option that is optimal for a given application:
• Existing conditions.
TLED lamps and retrofit kits lend them- selves better to applications where the existing luminaires are relatively new and in good condition, and/or where working above the ceiling is prohibi- tive. New luminaires and retrofit kits lend themselves well to applications where the luminaires are older and showing wear and tear.
• Number of lamps.
“Troffers may have any number of lamps—one, two, three, four—so one would have to consider the number of lamps and ballasts that an owner has,” said Jon Zelinsky, contractor marketing direc- tor at Philips Lighting (philipslighting. com). “A four-lamp and two-ballast fixture may be more expensive to re- place individual components instead of putting in an LED retrofit kit or new luminaire.”
• Compatibility with ballasts.
“One potential disadvantage of replac- ing fluorescent lamps with LED lamps instead of replacing the luminaire is ballast compatibility,” said Alfred LaSpina, LED product group market- ing manager, LEDVANCE (sylvania. com). “Working with a lighting manu- facturer that provides an extensive ballast compatibility list for its TLEDs will ensure that the lamps will work with existing ballasts.” “Additionally, it is worthwhile to consider the age or expected remain- ing life of the ballast in the fixture,” Zelinsky said. “A ballast that may need to be replaced in the near term anyway would wind up adding labor costs.”
• Light level and distribution.
The new lighting must satisfy the ap- plication’s maintained light-level re- quirements. Lower-output lamps and luminaires are available for spaces that are overlighted. Alternately, the space could be redesigned for fewer luminaires. In applications requiring uniformity, light level must be evenly distributed across the workplane. TLED lamps are directional (some with light emission as narrow as 105˚), while fluorescent lamps are omnidirectional, which may result in dark spots between installed lumi- naires. While energy is important, the designer should ensure at a minimum that the new lighting maintains exist- ing lighting quality in terms of light level, uniformity, and glare.
• Space appearance.
“A full fix- ture replacement is ideal for projects in which the goal is to transform the space,” said Jeff Hungarter, senior manager, product marketing, Cree ( cree.com). “Replacing the luminaire enhances the look of the ceiling to be modern and up to date. Other benefits include efficacy performance enhance- ments, improved dimming and con- trol systems, better light quality, and longer warranty.” Eric Marsh, product portfolio man- ager at Cree, advised retrofit kits over TLED lamps when the owner rules out new luminaires. “A retrofit kit basically looks like an entirely new LED troffer in the space, providing a fresh new look. At this point, it’s hard to think of a situation where TLED lamps make much sense,” he said.
• Lighting controls.
“It’s always a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity to include controls as part of the retrofit,” said Ethan Biery, LED engineering leader, Lutron Elec- tronics ( lutron.com). “Controls can significantly increase the flexibility and comfort of space lighting, and in all cases, control will increase energy savings.” Biery added that the ultimate op- tion is new dimmable luminaires with high-quality drivers, combined with an integrated intelligent lighting con- trol system that provides robust con- trol capabilities. The next level would be dimmable retrofit kits with com- patible controls. If TLED lamps will be installed, the first step is to ensure compatibility with the existing con- trols, if present. He advised against pairing a UL Type A TLED retrofit with existing fluorescent dimming ballasts. In Biery’s view, TLED retrofits are ideal for applications requiring only switching and that will never require dimming. “No matter which option is chosen, the same concerns with control of all LED fixtures apply: ensuring com- patibility and good dimming perfor- mance with any control system being used,” he said. “Poor performance can result if a seemingly quick, lowest-cost TLED lamp retrofit is chosen.” ;
, LC, principal of Zing Com- munications ( zinginc.com), is a lighting industry journalist, analyst, marketing consultant, and author. Reach him at email@example.com.
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