Ballast-Compatible LED Lamps: Are they right for you?December 16, 2014 12:43 am, Leave your thoughts
Ballast-compatible LED lamps have been flooding the market due to their ease and low cost of initial installation. There are some situations in which a ballast-compatible LED lamp may indeed be the best option due to excessively high installation costs or costs associated with work stoppages—for such situations, Green Ray LED offers the T8J ballast-compatible LED tube. In the vast majority of cases, however, those solutions overlook the limitations of ballast compatibility, and ultimately do not deliver the greatest savings or reliability over the full lifecycle of the lamp.
Listed here is a summary of the drawbacks of ballast-compatible LED lamps:
- Compatibility: There is no way to ensure 100% compatibility across all ballast types. Each ballast has different output characteristics, based on the type of ballast, manufacturer, wattage, and other considerations. There are hundreds of different types of ballasts currently installed, and the only way to ensure compatibility is to perform a test of the combination (Green Ray has tested over 200 different ballasts to be compatible with our T8J offering).
- Performance: Power supplies all experience efficiency losses as the power supply converts the input voltage to the appropriate output. A ballast-compatible LED system has both a ballast and a LED driver, meaning there are two conversion steps, each with efficiency losses. A fully retrofitted LED system, on the other hand, has only one power supply, and one point of efficiency loss. Practically, this means approximately a 10-20% increase in efficiency and energy savings.
- Light Quality: Following from above, depending on the ballast factor of the ballast the tube is installed with, not only will there be efficiency losses, but the wattage could be anywhere from 4% to nearly 50% more than the nominal wattage of the lamp. This means potentially drastic changes in lumen output of the lamp, and must be factored in to lighting design analyses and financial models to ensure accuracy. If the installation ends up being under-lit due to lower than expected wattage and lumen output, then changing the tubes or ballasts will be necessary to reach the desired light level. Alternatively, if the wattage and lumen output of the lamp is higher than expected, over-lighting the space creates visual discomfort for users and wastes energy.
- Reliability and Maintenance: Inevitably, the ballast in a ballast-compatible LED system will fail long before the LED lamp does, thanks to the lamp’s long rated life. When the ballast fails, in order for most ballast-compatible LED tubes to keep functioning, the ballast will need to be replaced, incurring additional labor and materials costs. This may happen more than once over the lifetime of the LED lamp. Alternatively, some ballast-compatible LED lamps can work on direct AC (such as the Green Ray T8J), but this will require bypassing the failed ballast—work that would have already been done in the initial installation for a regular LED lamp. Ultimately, these install costs are simply delayed, and will likely end up being more than a full retrofit in the first place. (note: some rebate incentives only apply to full retrofits, not just a ballast-compatible LED lamp swap-outs).
For these reasons, while the T8J and other ballast-compatible LED solutions make sense in some special circumstances, Green Ray recommends our clients perform complete LED retrofits from the start for the lowest total cost of ownership, and greatest energy savings. We will work with you to determine the best solution that fits your needs.
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This post was written by gradmin