Replacing Standard T12 Fixtures with LEDs|
Article - February 21, 2016 By LarsonElectronics.com
Replacing Standard T12 Fixtures with LEDs
Incandescent T12 bulbs are being phased out on a federal level by the US Department of Energy. The agency implemented a restriction on the manufacturing and importing of inefficient T12 lamps of various models and sizes, such as standard four-foot T12 units, eight-foot variants and two-foot models typically found in commercial establishments.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends replacing standard T12 fixtures with energy efficient options, such as LEDs. In order to ease the transition, local utility districts have provided upgrade incentives to encourage compliance with the measure. But now, since T12 bulbs have become largely unavailable, most businesses have no other option but to seek out alternative lighting options when replacing T12 fluorescents.
Things to Consider
T8 bulbs, or fluorescent lights that are one inch in diameter, use around 35 percent less power to produce the same amount of light as a T12 fixture. T5, or lamps that are five-eighths of an inch in diameter, are even more efficient at 45 percent less power. The main concern during replacement is ballast compatibility. T12 fixtures rely on magnetic ballasts, while T8 and T5 lights mostly use electronic ballasts during operation. LEDs are the top choice for replacing T12 fixtures. A traditional T12 fixture with four lamps uses roughly 172 watts of power, compared to around 50 watts (and 71 percent less energy per unit) for LED equivalents. With a lifespan of 50,000+ hours, LEDs can last up to 3.5 times longer than T8 fluorescent bulbs.
Options for Replacing Standard T12 Fixtures
There are currently several options for replacing outdated T12 bulbs, which come with their own respective pros and cons. The first option is to replace the T12 bulbs with T8 or T5 bulbs and compatible ballasts. Although cost effective, the drawback with this method is that the tubes are filled with hazardous compounds- mercury and phosphorus. With an average lifespan of 36,000-42,000 hours, the replacement is only a short-term solution compared to LEDs. It is possible to use the same light socket, but the ballast will need to be replaced.
The next option is to replace the fixtures with LEDs. There are three ways to achieve this:
• Direct Fits: Considered as the easiest method for replacing T12 fixtures. Individuals would simply need to remove the outdated light and pop in the corresponding LED tube (no wiring required). The new bulb will use the existing fluorescent ballast during operation. It is important to consider that T8 LEDs require less power from the existing ballast, compared to their fluorescent counterparts. The downside to this option is that the old ballast is likely to fail before the LED tube. When this happens, you will have to replace the failing ballast to sustain operation.
• Internal Drivers: LED units with built-in drivers can also be used to replace outdated T12 lights. The method bypasses the traditional ballast; and the internal driver is connected directly to the main voltage. This is a superior long-term solution because the old ballast is not being used, and does not need to be maintained. Installation may take longer due to re-wiring. This option is ideal for facilities that are using lamps with magnetic ballasts or units without drivers built into the fixture.
• External Drivers: The last option involves the use of external LED drivers. This configuration is similar to the way a fluorescent light uses a fluorescent ballast. During installation, the old ballast is removed from the system, and the driver is hooked up to the sockets. Initially, using a remote driver is the most expensive option; but it boasts the highest efficiency rate when it comes to lumens per watt. It is also less risky in terms of compatibility with standard lighting control systems. Businesses that rely on dimming features would likely opt to use this method.