The Evolving ABCs of LED Tube Lights

The Evolving ABCs of LED Tube Lights

The History Tube Lights

Florescent Tube Lights have been a dominant light source for the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) building sector for many years. Beginning in the 1930’s, the 50-55 watt four foot long T12 model was most common tube format. Beginning in the 1980’s, these T12s were displaced by more energy efficient 32 watt T8 tubes which had identical sizes, making facilitating swapping out of older tubes. By 2000 even more efficient T5 light tubes were introduced but widespread adoption of this model was limited because the were slightly shorter and had a different contact pin arrangement so that existing fixtures had to be modified or replaced. The current array of even more efficient LED tube lights have the same lengths and pin arrangements as the earlier T8 and T12 tubes. They do differ from the earlier lights in how they are powered.

Tube lighting retrofits should among the very the first conservation measures adopted by virtually all facilities since they easy to undertake, they can be can be implemented gradually over time, they often have paybacks of less that 1 1/2 years, and can deliver huge long term energy savings.  In addition, well made LED tube lights can last up to 5 years, reducing long term maintenance costs. Over the past year, however, new performance and safety issues have arisen with tube lights that are influencing how both power utilities and informed facility managers view the various alternative tube lighting technologies current on the market. At its very core these concerns revolve around how these lights are powered, an issue we call the ABCs of Tube Lighting.

The ABCs of LED Tube Lights

Contemporary LED Tube Lights fall into three basic categories based on how they deal with the conversion of power from the building’s power supply, typically 110, 220 or 347 volts in Canada, to the 24 volts that tube lights are designed to operate with. These categories are termed Type A, Type B and Type C LED Tube Lights.

Historically florescent tube lights were supplied with a external ballast mounted inside the fixture which safely converted power to the power required by the florescent tubes. Over time there have been a large number of ballast technologies including standard, fast start and electronic.

Type A “Universal” LED Tube Lights

Type A LED Tube Lights, which some call “Universal” or “Plug and Play” LED Tube Light, use sophisticated electronics to manage and adapt the power delivered by existing ballasts to the power voltage and quality required by by the LED tubes. This results in very little labour and disruption compared to other retrofit options. These lights need to be highly engineered since they must work with a wide variety of ballasts deployed in the market. Type A tubes generally operate with half the power of equivalent T8 Light Tubes.

We are excited to announce the introduction of Pure Bright brand Type A Tube Lights, which have been uniquely tested by in the USA by New York Power Authority for performance with numerous types of ballasts. These lights also qualify for incentives Ontario, Manitoba and many other Canadian jurisdictions. Read more about Pure Bright Tube Lights here.

Type B Built-In Driver Tube Lights

Type B LED Lights, commonly called “Built In Driver” Tube Lights incorporate a driver within each tube to reduce the line power. In order to do this, the fixture’s existing ballasts have to be bypassed or removed. The high voltage line power is then delivered directly to the fixture sockets where it needs to be reduced in the light tube. Concerns have been raised about whether this is the safest way to handle this power conversion. It is critically important to label the retrofitted fixtures prominently so that standard 24 florescent tube lights are not accidentally installed in the now high voltage fixtures, another safety concern. Some Type B LED Tube Lights also use the contact pins at one end to supply power to these tubes, introducing a further long term risk of use of tube replacement error. As a consequence of these risk factors some utilities including most Ontario power utilities and Manitoba Hydro have begun to discourage Type B LED Tube Light retrofits by not offering conservation incentives. We can supply Type B LED tube lights for projects that require these as discussed here.

Type C External Driver External Driver Tube Lights

Type C LED Light Tubes , commonly called “External Driver” LED Tube Lights replace the fixture’s existing ballast with a similarly sized electronic Driver. More labour is required to retrofit ballasts to new electronic drivers, but this solution provides building managers complete confidence in the lighting system since all components are brand new and designed as a complete system. We sell three types of Type C LED Tube Lights which are described in full here. Our most popular form of this style of lighting are our ProxiLights which incorporate many unique features including built in proximity controls and dual light levels.

Final Considerations

Converting existing Tube Lights to LED lighting is a wise management decision because energy savings of 50% to 85% are achievable. In addition, high quality LED Light Tubes should last 5 years, dramatically cutting lighting replacement maintenance costs. The lighting quality of new LED tubes is generally higher than that provided by older florescent tubes and their ballasts. Finally, most Canadian power utilities strongly encourage retrofitting lighting, including tube light retrofits, by offering very generous incentives.

 We look forward to hearing from you to discuss your particular lighting needs soon.
(416) 473-4614  
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