The Value Proposition
Background: Upgrading Linear Fluorescent Fixtures to LED Technology The vast majority of lighting in commercial and industrial spaces (estimated to be 80% by Department of Energy reports) is linear fluorescent lighting (LFL), a form of lighting that uses gas-filled tubes that fluoresce under the right power conditions. Unlike other forms of lighting such as screw-in bulbs that use sockets that connect directly to line voltage, LFL employs a ballast – a brick-shaped piece of electronics in a fixture that converts the power coming to the fixture into a current-controlled, high-voltage form that causes the lamps to fluoresce. LFL has been more difficult than other forms of lighting to convert to the more energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) technology because of the technical and economic challenges of dealing with the ballast. The options have been as follows:
- Replace the fixture with an LED fixture – the option with the highest material and labor costs and the most waste (disposing of the old fixture) but one that performs well in terms of light quality, ability to dim, and sensor integration.
- Modify the fixture by bypassing or removing the ballast to install tubular LED (TLED) tubes that work off of line voltage; this option introduces safety concerns of having line voltage at the lamp connection points in such a way that could pass electricity through the heart of the person installing the lamps if he/she were to touch both connections. Another modification is installing a retrofit kit that also bypasses the ballast. Another option is to replace the standard ballast (estimated $10) with a dimming ballast (estimated between $50-$100) and use TLEDs that can dim with that ballast. All of these options involve high costs but perform relatively well in terms of light quality, ability to dim, and sensor integration.
- Use plug-and-play tubes (another form of TLED tubes) that work with the ballast. In theory, this is the lowest-cost way to upgrade to LED but historically has had the major drawbacks of an inability to dim while powered by a ballast (since a dimming signal cannot be transmitted through a ballast) and an inability to produce consistent light output between different ballast types in fixtures (hence, a fixture with one ballast type could be as much as 50% brighter or dimmer than another fixture).
Ballast Compatibility iLumens lamps work with the majority of electronic (not magnetic – though we have the technology to do magnetic if demand is high enough) ballasts. There are two major categories of electronic ballasts: “instant start” and “rapid start” (also called “programmed start”). Instant start ballasts are the most common electronic ballast. iLumens lamps have a compatibility rate of approximately 98% with instant-start ballasts and about 60% with rapid/programmed-start ballasts. Generally, the type of ballast can be identified by turning on the light switch. If the linear fluorescent lights immediately come on, the ballast is an instant-start ballast, and if there is a brief delay, it is a rapid-start ballast. The only way to be sure, however, is to open the fixture and look at the ballast. Benefits The purpose of plug-and-play technology is to reduce costs and improve installation speed and convenience. It eliminates, or at least reduces, the frequency at which ballast change-outs are required. Installation simply involves removing the LFL lamps and installing the LED lamps. Using the lamps with a ballast in place provides two other benefits:
- The ballast acts as a “surge protector,” leveling out surges, spikes, and other electrical anomalies that could damage the lamp driver (the electronic board inside the lamp that gives the lamp is various functionalities).
- Leaving the ballast in place keeps the installation process more safe, as bringing line voltage directly to the tombstones, such as would be done in a ballast bypass/removal situation, increases the chance of dangerous electrocution (some groups, such as the Department of Defense, do not allow ballast bypass or removal).
Constant Lumens is a current-control technology. Lumen output from LEDs is directly proportional to current. Unless corrected, different ballasts lead to different current outputs from the drivers of LED lamps. This can result from different ballast factors, different manufacturers, or other factors. As seen in the image above, one study of 31 ballasts showed a swing in current output of a competitor’s lamp to be as high as 50%. By comparison, the iLumens lamp, under the same test, only had a swing of 3%.
The ability for an iLumens LED lamp to dim in a linear fluorescent fixture with a standard ballast won the Utah Innovation Award for Cleantech; iLumens is the first-ever lamp able to do this. There are other ways to get dimming LEDs in a linear fluorescent fixture, but all require fixture modifications and have serious drawbacks:
- Bypass or remove the ballast. DRAWBACKS: 1) Introduction of a safety risk with line voltage at the tombstones; 2) Exposing the lamp electronics to electrical anomalies (surges, spikes, etc.), thus being at the mercy of the quality of power coming to the fixture; 3) Higher labor.
- Use an LED lamp that dims with a dimming ballast. DRAWBACKS: 1) A dimming ballast is required, which costs anywhere from 5 to 10 times more than a standard ballast; 2) Higher labor.
- Install a retrofit kit. DRAWBACKS: 1) Higher labor and material costs.
The ability for iLumens lamps to integrate with 3rd-party controls systems greatly adds to its value and versatility. “Controls,” in general, can include switches, dimmers, sensors, and energy/building management systems.
- Daylight harvesting involves a photocell sensor, which observes the light coming in through a window (“open-loop”), the light illuminating a surface (“closed loop), or a combination. The sensor sends a signal to which the lamps respond. If the light is above a set level, the lamps dim; if the lamps are below that set level, the lamps brighten. This can both save energy and increase user comfort.
- Occupancy sensors turn lights on when people enter a space, and turn them off when they leave, saving energy. Certain occupancy sensors have partial-on functionality in which the sensor tells the lights to turn on to a preset level (e.g., 70%); if people need more light, they can turn the lights up, and if they don’t, they can continue to save energy.
- Vacancy sensors only turn lights off when people exit a space; they do not turn lights on. This saves energy but is less convenient than occupancy sensors. These sensors are typically used in small spaces, such as private offices, and are typically not recommended for open spaces, where someone would have to walk to a switch in the dark if the sensor gave a “false alarm.”
- High-end trimming involves setting a “new maximum” for the lights such that they cannot be turned on any higher without reprogramming. Certain controls allow this functionality, and it is a clever way to save energy. A common high-end trimming level, for example, is 80% of maximum, since the human eye can barely tell a difference between 100%-on and 80%-on with LEDs.
- Low-end trimming involves setting a “new minimum.” Certain control systems are able to do this, with a common reason for doing so is to always ensure adequate lighting for safety or for a specific task.
How Much Energy is Saved with iLumens? The energy saved with iLumens depends on the prior system efficiency. Without any de-lamping (the removal of lamps and their sockets from a fixture), the upgrade to LED alone saves 50% over T8 LFLs (the most common LFL today) and 60% over the older T12 LFLs. Adding intelligence capabilities such as dimming, smart (communicating) controls, sensors (daylight harvesting, occupancy and vacancy sensors, etc.) can add up to another 35% energy savings over a T8 system. One common approach is to de-lamp from three lamps to two lamps, such as shown in the picture in the Plug-and-Play section above of an iLumens installation in an office suit. This approach typically reduces energy consumption from ~100W (three 32W LFL lamps plus the wattage from a ballast) to 36W at full brightness (two 15.5W LED lamps plus a ballast). Dimming the lamps reduces the power consumption even further. Thus, between 50-85% energy savings is possible with an iLumens system. How Does This Affect Payback? The payback period depends on several things: material costs, labor costs, incentive rebates, energy savings, the energy rate (cost), and annual maintenance cost savings. The equation is as follows: payback period = (material costs + labor costs – incentive rebates) / ((annual kW savings)(energy rate) + annual maintenance cost savings) Incentive rebates of any kind can make a big difference, so you should definitely pursue any rebates possible from utility companies, government energy efficiency programs, and other sources. As LED costs go down, so do incentive rebates. Payback period is also highly sensitive to hours of use and energy rate. Energy rate ($/kWh) depends on location (the USA national average is about $0.10/kWh). State averages range from $0.0684/kWh (Oklahoma) to $0.2474/kWh (Hawaii), but rates can also be very city-dependent. Don’t forget to include maintenance-cost savings, which can make a big difference in payback. iLumens lamps are rated to last 50,000 hours, which is five times longer than the typical 10,000-hour lifetime of a LFL; this eliminates the costs of four lamp change-outs (lamp cost, labor time, and legal lamp disposal costs). Is Quality Sacrificed for Efficiency? No – in fact, the opposite is true; quality is greatly enhanced with iLumens technology, which can improve worker comfort and therefore productivity, which some groups value much higher (one study showed 11 times higher) than energy savings. Unlike linear fluorescent lamps, iLumens light intensity and quality does not degrade with frequent switching. The dimming and integration with sensors and advanced (both software and hardware) controls allow a level of control and experience not possible with LFLs.
A “future-proof” technology is one that remains relevant or is able to increase in usefulness over time and/or with future technology developments. As technology advances, the pace at which it advances increases. This includes lighting. Better sensors, better controls, and better software are being developed that allows people to get more and more out of their lighting system. In addition to traditional “lighting” technologies, technologies are being introduced which will allow people to get functionalities from their lights beyond “lighting” (e.g., Li-Fi internet). Examples of approaches to future-proofing include using well-established, common protocols or building in upgradeable firmware (similar to upgrading a smartphone) to allow advanced functionality. The first iLumens product, the iLumens Ally lamp, uses the very common 0-10V dimming protocol – one that is sure to have compatibility far into the future.
Installation InstructionsBelow are two common installation methods, which assumes the installer is familiar with how to access fluorescent lamps and fixtures. If you are not comfortable performing the work desribed below, consult an experienced professional or electrician. For special situations/configurations, please contact iLumens.
One-for-One Lamp Replacements
- Turn off power to the lamp.
- Remove fluorescent lamps carefully (contains mercury).
- If using existing ballast (must be an electronic ballast), make no modifications.
- If replacing ballast, consult qualified electrician to wire according to ballast manufacturer instructions. Instant-start ballasts are recommended.
- Install iLumens lamps. If using lamps with low-voltage wires, install them with wires at same end.
- If using lamps with low-voltage wires, feed the wires through a hole in the fixture to the outside of the fixture. Ensure wires do not come in contact with sharp metal edges. Connect the low-voltage wires of each lamp to create a common fixture connection. Connect each fixture together and bring to a common room/space control (power pack, dimmer switch, etc.).
- Dispose of fluorescent lamps properly. Go to search.earth911.com and search “fluorescent tubes” and your zip code to find location.
- Turn off power to the lamps.
- Remove fluorescent lamps carefully (contain mercury).
- Identify whether the ballast is an instant-start or rapid/programmed start ballast and if more than one ballast is being used. If using an instant-start ballast, fewer lamps can be used than the ballast rating (e.g., 2 lamps can be used with a 3-lamp ballast). For rapid/programmed ballasts, please contact iLumens.
- Decide how many lamps will be used in the fixture and ensure the number of lamps will work with the ballast configuration. If ballast reconfiguration is required, consult a qualified electrician to wire according to ballast manufacturer instructions.
- Proceed with the “One-for-One Replacements” instructions on the left, beginning at Step 5.