One of the most common ways to illuminate large indoor spaces like warehouses, schools and offices has been the linear fluorescent Tube. Given that this has been the trend for several decades, most facilities are already configured with recessed troffers that accommodate mostly T5, T8 and T12 fluorescent lamps.
When you’re planning for a way to upgrade from linear fluorescent lamps to their LED counterparts, one of the decisions you’ll have to make is whether it’s better to replace your existing fluorescent tubes with linear LED tubes or simply go for a new LED fixture. To make a clear cut decision for choosing LED Linear Lamps / LED Tube Lights over Integrated LED Lights, you would need to understand that both product segments have their own optimal operating environments. In order to consider both the options, let's review them from their cost perspective, right from their initial investment and lifecycle costs and from the perspective of practical use.
1. Similar Lighting Infrastructure
When an area is already lit with fluorescent fixtures, upgrading to compatible LED tube lights is an affordable solution. If you choose to go for integrated LED fixtures, you would first need to remove the old lighting infrastructure with the help of a trained professional. For users who are on a strict budget and wish to avoid high costs, LED tube lights are a better option. This difference in initial costs would have been minimal if there were no lighting systems installed initially.
2. Labor-free installation
LED Linear lamps are sold using similar names to their fluorescent counterparts. Most manufacturers LED tube lights are compatible with instant start ballasts as well as some emergency ballasts, essentially making them plug and play lamps, that you can just fix yourself without needing the help of an electrician or a trained professional. Installing integrated LED lights or fixtures for use in recessed troffers, surface mount, or in high bay / low bay applications generally requires dismantling the entire infrastructure for linear lamps, which requires a high capital expenditure on labor.
Expenditure on labor aside, an LED upgrade project with LED tubes can be carried out relatively quickly, since it requires only to disconnect lamps that are currently in place and install their energy-efficient equivalents.
3. Consistent Lighting Theme
Integrated LED fixtures have all their components packed into a single assembly which is then installed into the building's electrical grid by a trained professional.
When they stop working, there's a risk that the same fixture or the required replacement component is no longer available. In that case, the fixture needs to be replaced with a different one. This results in the building not having a unified lighting concept and to retain the unified look, all the fixtures need to be replaced, which is often economically unfeasible.
To solve this problem, some manufacturers have come up with module-based LED lighting solutions, and there have been attempts to formulate shared module standards, but so far these have not been much popular in the market.
LED Linear Lamps in this regard can be a complete lifesaver as they are easy to replace. Anybody can replace the tube and when old fluorescent tubes are replaced with LED Tubes that have the same CCT, the lighting concept stays unchanged.
4. Guaranteed Availability
Market analysis by Credence Research Inc “LED Tube Lights Market - Growth, Share, Opportunities, Competitive Analysis, and Forecast, 2016 - 2026,” shows that the global LED Tube Light market worldwide was valued at US$ 3,705.0 Mn in 2017 and is set to cross US$ 13,000.0 Mn by 2026, growing with a CAGR of 15.2% during the forecast from 2018 to 2026. In 2017, the U.S. LED tube light market was mostly dominated by the ‘up to 5 feet' segment. We have firm grounds to believe that LED tube lights are the first choice to replace old fluorescent installations, as they allow the end-user to replace their traditional inefficient lighting with an affordable solution that also has low lifecycle costs. Furthermore, the continuing availability of LED tubes is backed up by the international IEC 62776 Standard, published in Dec 2014.
So, when is an Integrated LED Light a better option?
Well, there are three major scenarios where we recommend upgrading with Integrated LED Lamps:
- When a user has the capital for a high initial investment in return for maximizing the performance (better efficiency and controls) and longevity of their lighting system.
- When a new lighting project is being executed, it makes better sense to invest in the most efficient, long-lasting and better-looking lamp than to invest in installing Linear Lamp infrastructure from scratch.
- When aesthetics hold great importance in a lighting project, upgrading linear lamps and retaining the old infrastructure is definitely not the best option. Integrated LED Lamps come in various shapes, forms and designs to allow users to have graceful interiors as well as highly efficient lighting.
To sum up...
Choosing between an upgrade with LED Tube or an Integrated LED Light is essentially a matter of cost and benefit. While upgrading with the former is more affordable and faster to implement, the latter gives better energy optimization and service life. In the end, it is prudent to understand what works for you doesn't necessarily work for the other user. So we've compiled a brief pros and cons list of both to help you make the right choice for yourself:
LED Tube Light
- Quick and easy installation.
- Over 65% efficient as compared to existing fluorescent tubes.
- Rated life of over 50,000 hours.
- Easy and economical access to LED-centric lighting rebate programs in most regions of the US.
- Doesn't require fixture modifications as long as you're only considering plug-and-play options.
- Less expensive than upgrading to a new fixture.
- A large range of LED tube options, like plug-and-play, ballast-bypass, remote driver, and some combinations of these makes choosing them an uphill task.
- Reducing the overall wattage rating of the building becomes a difficulty as there's no change in the maximum fixture wattage.
- Improving the aesthetics of your lighting fixtures remains an unfinished business as just replacing LED Tubes won't change the look of old and faded fixtures.
Integrated LED Lights
- Offers maximum efficacy.
- Increased operating life. Some LED fixtures have a lifespan of over 100,000 hours.
- Offers an aesthetic upgrade over current fixtures.
- Allows reducing the overall wattage rating of a building which can help in meeting building codes like Title24 and LEED certification requirements.
- Requires a higher up-front cost for installation.
- Prohibits easy upgrade to newer lamps which might offer better benefits.