Good lighting provides the right ambiance and can elevate the appearance of a space. Traditional troffers using fluorescents are often dim, unsightly, and are known to flicker. Not to forget, they require frequent troffer removal from the ceilings to change the lamps and clean out dust and insects. LED Panel lighting, on the other hand, are newer lighting technologies as compared to these legacy systems and much better in terms of light output and energy use.

LED Panel Lights have become a major contributor to energy savings in the corporate sector. The shift to LED flat panel fixtures from fluorescent-based troffers is on a rapid rise. This growth has been widely attributed to the numerous benefits these fixtures come to offer like high efficiencies, better aesthetics, high light uniformity, no flicker, and a high lifespan. Rebates and other federal and local level incentives have further aided its adoption.

However, deciding to use LED Panel Lights is only the first step. These fixtures are available in Backlit and Edgelit variants, and they both differ in some key aspects. In this blog, we will look at the key differences between the two that should be considered before you choose them for a project.

Appearance

Back-lit LED Panel

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Edge-lit LED Panel

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As evident from the pictures above, the most noticeable difference in the two fixtures is in their cross-sectional thickness. Edgelit Panels are thinner (usually 30mm or more for some current products) than Backlit Panel Lights.

In Edgelit LED Panels the light is produced from the LED chips positioned on the sides of the panel. The light passes through the light guide panel(LGP) and is then refracted downwards. Although this is an inefficient way to get light out of a fixture, it’s a very cost-effective one and makes Edge-lit panels easy to manufacture and transport. The advantage of the edge-lit LED Panel Lights is undoubtedly their thinner cross-section. Its minimal thickness allows them to be mounted on a variety of surfaces.

In Backlit LED Panels, the light source is on the back of the panel, so there is some gap between the light source and the panel. This system on arrangement allows a uniform brightness from the light-emitting surface of the panel. For this reason, the Backlit Panel Lights are a bit thicker than Edge-lit panel lights.

Backlit LED panel lights look similar to their Edge-lit counterparts when mounted on a false ceiling. However, when they are not mounted, you will notice its back, where the LEDs are housed, sticking out. When you consider the fact that many operators are looking to replace a majority of or all of their thicker legacy ceiling troffers with LED flat panels, Backlit LED panel lights becomes a better choice, at least from a purely monetary point of view.

Light Output

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In Edgelit Panels, the LED chips are arranged on the inner edge of the luminaire. The light is bounced downwards through a diffuser. Edgelit Panels were the most popular format in the LED panel category during the introductory stage of the LED lighting market. But, truth be told, these initial models featured low efficacies (75-80 lm/W in some old products).

In more recent versions, the fixtures comprise a Light Guide Panel (LGP) to evenly distribute the incoming lights from LED chips lining the edges. This LGP often composed of PMMA (Polymethyl methacrylate / Acrylic) has a light transmittance rate of 92%. It allows for more light to pass through while requiring less power, resulting in higher lumens per watt for the fixtures that use it. Even though Edgelit Panels with PMMA LGP feature a slightly higher unit cost. But, its high cost is evened-up by durability and high efficacy it offers.

Backlit LED Panels are always more efficient than their Edgelit counterparts. The light from the LED chips placed on the inner edges has to travel through the entire volume between the back and the diffusing panel. In the case of Backlit Panels, light from the matrix of LED chips only travels through the thickness of the diffuser material. Light losses within the fixture are much lower, meaning a higher lumen output.

Which one's the best?

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At the end of the day, Edgelit and Backlit Panels are both great light sources. They provide bright, high-quality light and offer over 80% cost savings in comparison to legacy fluorescent lighting systems. It is important to consider all the factors of these light fixtures, including their appearance, utility, efficiency, and the cost to determine which is a better fit for your application area.

When it comes to Backlit vs. Edgelit LED Panel Lights, the decision often comes down to what works best for your space. Some office or commercial building operators might prefer the thinner design and shadowless lighting effect that Edgelit Panels offer. Edgelit retains a market share where unit costs are a higher priority than running costs, and where there is an aesthetic preference. On the other hand, some users might prefer the lower operational costs delivered by Backlit Panels.

The bottom line

Choosing to switch from fluorescent lighting systems to LED panels is a no-brainer for both commercial spaces and business owners. Increasingly, the need to replace less efficient legacy LED panels with newer, more efficient models will be something to expect in the near future as more breakthroughs in technology continue to up the efficacies in LED lighting products.

It's quite obvious that corporate cost savings are hard-nosed decisions. With high efficacy LED Panel lights, the payback time on installation shortens. IKIO's Astral Panel Lights are one of a kind Edge-lit LED Panels with a superb efficacy of 125 lm/W. Plus, they come with PMMA light guide panels, which has a high heat tolerance and strong resistance to UV light, making them yellow-proof (Read more about PMMA LGP). On the other hand, IKIO's Delphi Panel Lights offer a more long term cost-efficient and practical source of lighting.