There are many differences between LED lighting and the traditional fluorescent lighting that is used in most commercial buildings today. I want to share with you the top four advantages LEDs have over traditional florescent lighting.
1. Energy Efficiency
Most traditional florescent tubes have a lumens per watt (lm/W) measurement of somewhere between 80 and 100. What that means is that for every watt of electricity consumed there is a certain number of lumens (i.e. light output) from that light source.
To give you an example, a traditional 32W T8 fluorescent four-foot tube light puts out about 3000 lm +/-. Comparable LED four-foot tube lights have a lm/W rating of somewhere between120 and 190. That means you can get the same 3000 lm from an LED tube with only 15W. Pretty amazing difference!
A traditional linear fluorescent light has a lifespan of somewhere around 21,000 hours. That means if that light was left on 24 hours a day it would last approximately 2.4 years.
By way of comparison, an LED tube light has a lifespan between 50 and 100,000 hours. That means if the LED was left on 24 hours a day it would last approximately 5.7 years on the low end.
SPECIAL NOTE: Lifespan of traditional legacy light sources is calculated based on when the light actually does not work any longer. (e.g. You turn on the switch and nothing happens. The bulb is burned out.) Since LEDs are silicone chips covered in phosphor that don’t ever “burn out”, lighting engineers had to come up with a different way to rate the “lifespan” of LED lights. The method they chose to determine “lifespan” for LED lights was directly correlated to lumen output. They settled on 70% since the human eye cannot readily detect a drop in lumen output until the light source reaches 70% of original lumens. What this means is that an LED light that is rated to last 50,000 hours will likely put out light for well over 150,000 hours; however, at about 50,000 hours the original lumen output will have deteriorated to below 70%.
3. Versatility & Adaptability
While fluorescent ballasts have come a long way from the old magnetic versions 50 years ago, they still are quite limited in their abilities to control the fluorescent tubes. For example, there are dimmable ballasts that allow the lights to be dimmed, but there’s not much else (besides on/off control) that can be accomplished with them. Furthermore, fluorescent lights come only in a limited array of colors (CCTs). They have warm, neutral and cool versions that range from yellowish to bluish, but that’s about it. The only way to change the fluorescent light color is with plastic or polycarbonate lens covers, which obstructs lumen output.
On the other hand, LEDs are amazingly versatile. They require no ballasts. Instead, they operate through a driver made up of what are essentially computer circuit boards. These drivers can be controlled wirelessly, can be programmed to turn off and on based on many different factors, and can be dimmed or even change the color of the lights. LEDs can be adapted to fit nearly all commercial applications. Finally, since they are not breakable due to their construction materials (e.g. aluminum, plastic, polycarbonate, nano-plastic, etc.), they can be safely used in areas that glass fluorescent tubes would be hazardous.
4. Quality of Light
It is almost a cliche, but most people associate fluorescent lighting with buzzing, flickering, yellow light. Just watch any horror movie and see the buzzing, flickering lights–they’re all fluorescent. The color rendering index (CRI) of most fluorescent lights do not exceed 85. CRI is important because it indicates how colors are perceived by the human eye. In very low CRI lighting, the human eye cannot distinguish colors. The CRI scale goes to 100, so the closer to 100, the better.
LED lights can be manufactured to provide at least 90 CRI and sometimes even closer to 100. This means that the way we see colors (including flesh tones in the people with work with) are more natural, similar to what it would be like if we were outside in the sunlight. On top of that, LEDs do not produce the flickering or buzzing that fluorescents do. And, of course, they can be manufactured to produce natural colors (CCT) in just about any temperature.
As with anything, there are exceptions to the rule. There are a lot of bad, poor quality LEDs on the market. But that doesn’t mean that LEDs are any less amazing. There are some bad automobiles that have been manufactured over the years, but that doesn’t diminish their superiority over the horse and buggy. LEDs are a superior light source in every way over legacy light sources such as fluorescents. These few advantages are only scratching the surface when it comes to how much better they are.
What other advantages can you think of? Leave them in the comments below….