For years, lighting indoor commercial spaces was a no-brainer. Most folks simply went with linear fluorescent lights (LFLs) and for good reason. They have quality light output, are one of the most efficient light sources available, and have decent lifespans. This is especially true of the T8 lamps, which use about 40% less energy than the older, now phased-out T12 lamps. That being said, now there is a new player in the commercial lighting arena that promises even better efficiency: the linear LED replacement (T8 LED).
Does the T8 LED really have what it takes to make it worth swapping out your tried-and-true LFLs? To help you decide, take a look at some of the benefits of T8 LEDs:
Mercury Free Unlike fluorescents, LEDs contain no mercury. This makes them safe for the environment.
Dimmable Many LEDs have full dimming capabilities, whereas fluorescents are expensive to dim and do so poorly.
Directional Lighting LEDs offer directional light (illumination exactly where you need it). On the other hand, fluorescents have multi-directional light, which means some light is lost in the fixture and other unnecessary places.
Works Well with Controls Fluorescent lights tend to burn out faster when integrated with occupancy sensors and other controls. In contrast, LEDs work perfectly with control systems, since their life is not affected by turning them on/off.
Better Efficiency The newest T8 LEDs are around 30% more efficient than T8 LFLs.
Quality Light – Todays LEDs produce light in a variety of color temperatures similar to fluorescent, but dont have any flickering issues that can happen with fluorescent.
Lifespan The average life of a T8 LED is 50,000 hours, versus only 30,000 hours for an average T8 LFL. One thing to keep in mind though is that there are now linear fluorescent T8 lamps that last up to 84,000 hours.
Shatterproof (potentially) LED T8 tubes were traditionally made using plastic and aluminum meaning they are shatterproof. There are now glass options as well, which mimic the look of T8 fluorescent lamps, but they are not shatterproof. If you have an application where you need shatterproof lamps, the plastic LED T8 tube makes more sense than fluorescent.
Further Reading Replacing Shatterproof Fluorescent Tubes with LED T8 Tubes
While some may complain that LEDs have lower rated lumens than fluorescents, judging the two in this category is really like comparing apples and oranges. There simply is no direct comparison. This is because LEDs can get by with less lumens because their directional nature ensures you get a greater concentration of light exactly where you need it. And, as mentioned, fluorescents waste light within the fixture and illuminate unnecessary places. The bottom line is: dont get too hung up on lumens, if youre going to do a comparison, consider the delivered lumens of both the lamp and luminaire together.
The only major downside with T8 LEDs is their cost, which can be three to five times greater than the price of LFLs. Even so, with rebates, tax incentives, and energy savings, you might see an ROI faster than youd expect. Its important to crunch the numbers for your particular situation to see if the initial expense makes sense for your business. Premier Lighting can help you with a cost/benefit analysis and ensure you consider all factors when deciding between LFL and LED.
If you find that youre leaning towards retrofitting your linear fluorescents with T8 LEDs, you have several different options