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There is a big debate regarding whether the Type A LED Tubes or the Type C LED Tubes should be used when retrofitting a facility, including high rise condominiums, warehouses, manufacturing plants and other types of buildings.
The technology behind ballasts and drivers are completely different. Ballasts were originally invented approximately 80 years ago for fluorescent technology. The purpose of the ballast was” to ignite” the gas and to maintain a steady electrical circuit that is in the fluorescent tube. LED Drivers were developed approximately 15 years ago with the purpose to regulate the power supply and heat control to the LED chips. LED’S are susceptible to heat and the drivers purpose is to make sure LED’S do not overheat.
Type A LED Tubes: Ballast Compatible with New Fluorescent Ballasts
- LED T8 tubes that work off existing or newly installed fluorescent ballast.
- Normal life expectancy for this tube is 5 years, but since the LED tube works off the ballast light output depends on the longevity of the ballast.
- Energy savings are dependent on the ballast and usually increase the wattage usage by approximately 30%. (eg. A 12-watt tube can become 16 watts +)
Type C LED Tubes: External Driver with LED tubes
- LED T8 tubes work with LED Drivers.
- Tube and driver have an expected longevity of min 5-10 years for light and product.
- Energy savings are constant and are about one watt (driver consumption) in addition to the tube wattage (eg. A 12 watt tube becomes 13 watts)
Which Product Combination should you use for your new Retrofit?
At first glance it may seem that installing Type A LED Tubes would be the least expensive solution for commercial facilities because the tubes fit into the existing ballast. In reality, however, the Type A LED Tubes may be much more expensive.
Buildings and facilities that are 10 years old or older will have a multitude of ballast from various manufacturers. Generally, ballasts only last 25,000 hours, which is approximately 3 years, based on 24-hour day usage. Therefore, even if one chooses to use an existing ballast, the ballast will need to be replaced during the lifetime of the LED tube. Exchanging the ballasts of a building piecemeal will become expensive and time consuming. For example, assuming a facility has 100 fixtures, during the 5 year life of the LED tube the owner will be exchanging the ballasts at least every second week.
Therefore, if one chooses Type A LED Tubes, all ballasts should be changed at the time of installation.
Project cost for TYPE A LED Tubes
(source: Home Depot)
$25+LED T8 x 2= $11.95 x 2= $48.90 (without installation)
Warranty is for 25,000 hours or maximum 3+ years
Project cost for TYPE C LED Tubes
Are equivalent to the above costs with up to a 10 year warranty and reduced energy costs.
Take away: From the initial investment point of view it is better to install 2 Type C LED Tubes with drivers.
Other Significant Information
- Using ballast with LED tubes is mixing two very different technologies. The ballast is a fluorescent technology driver while the tube LED technology, therefore one will never maximize longevity or energy savings due to the opposing technologies.
- Fluorescent ballast longevity is 25,000 hours while LED driver longevity is minimum 50,000 hours to 90,000 hours
- The energy consumption for two Type A LED tubes should be min 25w (by using tubes that consumes 12.5w each) this being the best case scenario. However, by using fluorescent ballast the consumption will increase by min 30% – 33-34 watts. The energy consumption for two Type C LED Tubes with drivers will be max 28 watts. (Rule of thumb: each watt that you can save is $1.00 of energy savings per tube per year)
- Sockets of existing fluorescent fixtures must be in very good condition. If the tubes are not firmly inserted in the sockets an electrical arc can be created with so much energy that it can melt the existing sockets.