We have had a lot of success over the years upgrading existing T8 fluorescent tubes with “plug and play” T8 LED tubes. Since rewiring is not required when one installs “plug and play” tubes, there is typically a lower labor cost associated with the project. In addition, keeping existing ballasts avoids future safety concerns surrounding accidental installation of fluorescent tubes after the fixture has been hardwired for LED.
While there are some proven monetary and safety benefits to plug and play tubes, there are also quite a few drawbacks. Ballast failure and ballast compatibility are two important factors to consider during the decision making process. If proper due diligence is not conducted prior to installation, the customer can end up spending more money on ballast replacement, negating any initial upfront cost savings.
Main Benefits of Plug and Play LED Tubes
- The upfront cost savings
Lower upfront cost is the number one reason our customers have upgraded their T8 fluorescent lamps to plug and play lamps. Plug and play lamps work off the existing ballast; thus, have lower upfront cost since a licensed electrician does not have to rewire the fixture. Another argument in favor of plug and play lamps surrounds safety. Ballasts are current regulators. When one removes the ballast and rewires the lamp directly into the tombstone ends, a fluorescent lamp should never be replaced in that fixture later down the road. A sticker must be placed on the fixture stating that the ballast has been removed to avoid the lamp malfunctioning or exploding due to the direct line current not being regulated.
Main Drawbacks of Plug and Play LED Tubes
- Ballast failure
- Ballast compatibility
Although plug and play lamps have been the right fit for some of our customers, it is important to be upfront about the drawbacks of this technology. First, many of our customers come to us because they are tired of changing ballasts and lamps. If one chooses to install plug and play lamps, then the ballasts will become the main point of failure. While the lamps may last over 10 years, the ballast could go out in less than 5 years. It is important to discuss the overall life expectancy of the fixture with the customer, not just the lamps. Next, it is important to research ballast compatibility. Different brands work with different types of ballasts. The main types of T8 ballasts you will find include: rapid start, instant start, program start ballasts. It is important to check the existing fixtures to verify the ballast type and to then check the manufacturer’s spec sheet to confirm that the lamp you are purchasing will work with that ballast.
Upgrading lights in one’s facility is an investment. At Urban Energy Group we work with our customers to find the most sensible and the cost effective solution. Since LED technology is constantly changing, it can be intimidating selecting the best solution. It is important to consult a lighting professional if you are unsure which product will work best for you.