The Basics of LED Retrofit Lights
What Is LED Retrofitting?
Light retrofitting is the process of replacing outdated lights, such as incandescents or fluorescents, with newer, energy-efficient LEDs. LED retrofit lights are designed to replace existing incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. In a retrofit installation, you will typically keep some part of the existing fixture and install new components compatible with the existing wiring, such as replacing old bulbs with new ones. Retrofitting your lights is a cost-effective way to improve energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs. This is a popular option for businesses and homeowners looking to upgrade their lighting systems and improve their quality of light since they do not have to replace the entire lighting fixture.
Why Choose LEDs To Retrofit Your Existing Light Fixtures?
There are many reasons why LEDs are the best choice for retrofitting your existing lights. Traditional lights such as HIDs (High-Intensity Discharge) came with many problems including slow turn-on times and heavy ballasts that were prone to failure. Most retrofit solutions, on the other hand, involve bypassing the ballast which eliminates this typical point of failure for traditional fixtures. LEDs also have a longer lifespan than traditional bulbs, so LED retrofits reduce maintenance costs and downtime associated with bulb replacements.
Additionally, upgrading to LEDs can save money. LEDs are more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, so retrofitting with LEDs results in energy savings and lower electricity bills. HID replacement lamps meeting DLC 5.1 requirements are also eligible for rebates. Finally, LED lights offer various color temperature and brightness options which makes them a versatile and adaptable lighting solution for retrofitting.
What Does It Mean When A Light Is Plug-And-Play?
Plug-and-play LEDs are lights designed to be installed into an existing fixture without the need for additional wiring or complex installation. These lights are user-friendly and safe, meaning anyone can choose plug-and-play LEDs for their lighting project without needing to hire an electrician. Type A retrofit fluorescent tube replacements are plug-and-play, so you don’t have to rewire or bypass the ballast. Before purchasing any replacement light, check the manual to ensure ballast compatibility.
Why Do I Need To Bypass The Ballast?
Fluorescent tubes and HID bulbs needed ballasts to provide the system with an initial high voltage and regulate the electrical current. Newer LED technology eliminates the need for ballasts and instead uses drivers which last considerably longer and are more reliable. When installing Type B tubes, you must always bypass the ballast. However, even if it is not required, it is recommended to bypass or remove the ballast* during any LED retrofit upgrade to avoid potential future ballast failure.
Types Of LED Retrofit Lights
LED Corn Bulbs
“LED corn bulbs” is an umbrella term for retrofit lights used to replace outdated HID (high-intensity discharge) lamps in street lights, high bays, cobra heads, wall packs, shoebox parking lot lights, and other outdoor area lighting fixtures. The term “corn bulbs” has also begun to be used to describe any retrofit bulb for high bay lights. Unlike HID lamps, LED corn cob bulbs do not contain mercury, metal-halide, or sodium and therefore are environmentally safer.
Many corn bulbs have EX39 bases which are compatible with both EX39 and E39 sockets. Once you have selected a compatible base type, choose the desired wattage, lumen output, and color temperature. If you are replacing an HID lamp, you will need to bypass the existing ballast*. Install your corn bulbs by screwing in the bulb like you would a regular light bulb.
Fluorescent Tube Light Replacements
LED fluorescent tube light replacements are LED light bulbs designed to replace traditional fluorescent tubes. They are commonly installed in commercial and industrial settings such as office buildings, schools, hospitals, warehouses, utility room troffers, or drop ceilings. The main fluorescent bulb types are T8 tubes (the most common), T5 tubes, T12 tubes, T9 circline lamps, and T8 U-bend lamps. For each type of retrofit tube, there are two main ballast types: Type A and Type B. Type A tube lights are ballast compatible, or plug-and-play, while Type B lights must bypass the ballast. Choose from Type A Dual-End, Type B Single-End, Type B Dual-End, Type A/B Hybrid, and Type A/B 3-In-1 Universal. Use our T5, T8, and T12 LED Tubes Explained Guide to determine the ballast compatibility and connection type you need.
Consult a licensed electrician before rewiring or bypassing any ballasts*. Shop our LED tube light replacements and learn more about tube light installation here.
Retrofit LED Downlights
Retrofit LED downlights are LED lights that can be installed in existing recessed can light fixtures without the need for any significant modification. Certain retrofit downlights are available with an E26 adapter that simply screws into the existing socket. Downlights also offer options for the design and look of your fixture: choose between gimbal, flush, beveled, and smooth trims to best match your interior space.
Different color temperatures, brightness, and CRI options are available to fit your design needs. Make sure your retrofit downlight fixture has an IC rating if it will come in contact with insulation. Find the correct downlight size by measuring the inside diameter of your can light housing. To install, screw your downlight into the existing socket* and push the downlight into the housing, the spring clips should hold the light firmly in place.
View our full range of retrofit downlights here.
LED PL retrofit lamps replace both fluorescent PL lamps and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) that use pin-based bulbs. PL lamps have a pin-based design that allows them to be easily plugged into the socket of an existing fixture. PL lamps are used for a variety of applications including commercial interiors, residential interiors, and sconce lighting in hotels, apartment complexes, and office lobbies.
There are two types of PL bulbs, 2-Pin and 4-Pin, and 5 main base types, G23, GX23, G24d, G24q, and GX24q. Select a compatible LED PL lamp by choosing one with the same base type. If your LED bulb does not work with the existing ballast, you will need to rewire and bypass the ballast*. Consult a licensed electrician before making any electrical changes.
LED Retrofit Kits
Complete LED retrofit kits are the fastest and most efficient way to upgrade troffer lights, drop ceilings, and strip fixtures in commercial interiors. These strips replace old fluorescent T8 bulbs and consume half the wattage of fluorescent tubes. Magnetic retrofit kits snap into the existing steel fixtures allowing you to install the lights you want regardless of the fixture tombstone or socket configuration (shunted or non-shunted). Complete retrofit kits simplify the decision making process and eliminate any guesswork in choosing the right bulbs. They are available in multiple color temperatures and brightnesses, so you can customize the look and feel of your office or workspace.
To install magnetic retrofit kits in existing troffer fixtures, remove any old bulbs, bypass the fixture ballast*, wire in the driver, and connect the strips to your fixture with the built-in magnets.
Retrofit options are also available for metal halide replacements that mount into the existing housing using an E39 screw base. These retrofit kits can replace outdated and inefficient fixtures in warehouses, parking lots, and industrial facilities.
Getting The Desired Effect With Your Retrofit Lights
Correlated color temperature, or CCT, refers to the yellow or blue tint of white light and ranges from warm tones to cool tones, measured in units called Kelvin (K). Color temperature mainly affects the ambiance and the mood of a space. Warm-toned lights create a comfortable feeling atmosphere ideal for restaurants, cafes, and hotels. Cool-toned lighting creates a brightly lit and task-focused atmosphere for offices, retail stores, and hospitals.
Traditional fluorescent bulbs emitted light in every direction, and some used reflectors to focus the light beam where it was needed. This made older lighting technologies less efficient since the reflectors wasted light and created glare. LEDs, on the other hand, are directional and feature secondary optics. These secondary optics better focus the light beam and allow for selectable beam angles, thus creating an efficient lighting system.
The lumen value measures the brightness of your light. In commercial and office lighting, the number of lumens recommended will depend on the type of space being lit and the activities taking place. For example, lights with a higher lumen output are ideal for task lighting, while lights with lower lumens are better for ambient lighting. LEDs with selectable wattage capabilities will allow you to control the brightness of your lights through step dimming. For a dimmer lumen output, select a lower wattage to draw less power and emit less light. To achieve a brighter light output, select a higher wattage.
Since LEDs consume less power, the wattage needed for your LED retrofit lights will be lower than that of your current fluorescent or incandescent lights. Therefore, when comparing incandescent and LED bulbs use the lumen output, not wattage, to ensure a similar lighting effect. Equivalent wattage compares the wattage needed for an LED light to emit the same lumens as an incandescent bulb. An LED bulb, for example, with an equivalent wattage of 60 watts would produce the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb but at a much lower wattage point. If you install an LED light fixture with the same wattage as your current lights, the lumen output may be significantly brighter than what you want. Therefore, find an LED light that has an equivalent wattage so that the brightness is the same.
Standards and Certifications
When purchasing LED lighting, make sure your lights have been certified and approved for safety and energy efficiency. One critical certification to look for is the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) certification, which verifies that the product has been tested and meets rigorous safety standards. The ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratory) tests lighting products for the same standards as the UL, so you should look for either certification if you are needing to pass a lighting inspection.
Another important certification to look for is the Energy Star certification which ensures that the product meets energy efficiency standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Energy Star certified products help to reduce energy consumption and can save on operating costs. Finally, look for the DLC (Design Lights Consortium) certification which verifies the product's energy efficiency and performance. All commercial use lighting fixtures must adhere to DLC standards, and meeting DLC requirements may allow certain lights to qualify for rebates. Visit the DLC website for more information on rebates. For more information on standards and certifications, read our blog post here.
*Before making any changes to your lighting, turn off the power supply and breakers. Install any warning labels that come with your retrofit light to notify future electricians that the lighting is retrofitted. Cap any unused wires after bypassing the ballast to prevent the risk of future electrical shock. It is always recommended to consult a licensed electrician when dealing with wiring and electrical systems.
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