Plug-and-Play LED Replacement Tubes
Electric lighting accounts for 21% of the energy used in the commercial sector, and most businesses use fluorescent tubes as their light source. LEDs use 40% less energy than fluorescent lights for the same amount of light production. Unfortunately, LED tubes can’t simply be placed into fluorescent fixtures. Well, they couldn’t, until now.
First a little background: A fluorescent light requires a high start-up voltage in order to overcome its large initial resistance. A fluorescent fixture includes a ballast – an inductor, similar to the ignition coil in a car – to produce this high starting voltage. Once the light is on its resistance decreases and the ballast simply prevents large changes in current, in effect, regulating the current through the tube.
Incandescent lights and LEDs don’t require a ballast. While many LED tubes are available as fluorescent replacements, those tubes necessitate the removal of the ballast. This involves an electrician and about 15 minutes of labor per fixture. As you can imagine, that time and cost adds up when you’re talking about a commercial establishment. Some experts on sustainability estimate that labor represents about 40% of the cost of replacing fluorescents with LEDs, and that’s the largest obstacle in making the transition to LEDs.
RAISE Energy Solutions recently introduced an LED tube that compensates for the ballast, meaning that the tube can simply replace the fluorescent tube without removing the ballast. This saves a great deal of time and the job can be done by a maintenance worker instead of a licensed electrician, both of which drastically reduce the payback period on the investment. I contacted Tom VanZeeland, Chief Technology Officer at RAISE Energy, to ask about the product. Not surprisingly, he wouldn’t tell me how the tubes work around the ballast issue, but my guess is that there is a circuit that absorbs the short high-voltage burst that the ballast provides. Although the ballast itself remains in the circuit and uses a small amount of power, Tom assured me that the loss is less than 5W. A typical fixture that used 64 Watts with fluorescent tubes will use 36 Watts with the replacement LED tubes, ballast and all. Here he is describing the tube:
In addition to the improved energy efficiency, LEDs will last 2-3 times as long as fluorescents, resulting in lower overall maintenance costs, less waste, and lower inventories. Also, LEDs don’t use mercury like fluorescent lights, so they don’t need to be treated as hazardous materials. And as shown in the video, LED tubes are much less fragile than fluorescent light tubes.
LEDs and fluorescent lights have had a bad reputation for producing light that’s not a desirable color temperature. Recent advances in LED technology have made this a non-issue. RAISE Energy’s lights come in a variety of color temperatures, ranging from 3000 K (similar to incandescents) to 6000 K (approximating natural daylight.)
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