Sustainability in Action

Refurbishment project? Considering LED Tubes? Let's discuss.....

We discuss the potential implications to warranty, emergency and meeting workplace lighting regulations

Tara Fisher & Peter Thorns

Think Refurbishment… but re-think using LED Tubes

When it comes to refurbishment, many businesses are faced with trying to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions whilst potentially looking to improve the use of the space as part of the refurbishment.

One key driver of refurbishment is the pending ban on the production of T8/T5 fluorescent tubes.

From August 2023, the production of T5 and T8 fluorescent lamps and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) will be phased out of the European market. This is in accordance with both the Ecodesign and RoHS directives and their UK equivalents. So lighting schemes and installed fixtures currently using the soon to be banned halogen or fluorescent lamps, will need new light sources. The ban on production of inefficient light sources and mercury in light sources will mean that from August 2023 the availability begins to reduce, and ultimately prices will increase.

Preparing the switch in good time can help to mitigate against rising costs, put simply those who plan and implement the switch to more energy-efficient alternatives now will save more energy. Just by switching to LED it’s possible to reduce energy consumption by nearly 50% and get a return on your investment within around two years.

So let’s talk the first option that is likely to come to mind.. LED tubes.

Yes there’s some quick wins by replacing the T8/T5 Tubes with LED retrofit lamps. It can be a quick fix and cost effective, but there’s a lot that should still be considered here before pressing the order button…

First of all the essence of going the LED tube route is often speed of replacement, however is the existing fitting suitable as due to plastic degradation it could very easily result in the mounting clips being broken whilst removing the existing tube or swapping in the replacement. The result? Well either a blue peter moment to make it work (which let’s be honest isn’t going to last too long or look great) extra cost for replacement parts suddenly making this quick fix not so quick or as cost effective as originally planned or even the need to move to a 1-1 / full refurbishment of the specific area. To note if the existing fitting has been in place for some time there is a chance of discolouration in and around the area due to the plastic degradation which again may mean there’s more to the job that just a replacement of the T8/T5 tubes.

So in short it’s important to check the integrity of the existing fitting and the space around it. LED retrofit lamps are frequently heavier than fluorescent equivalent so this is more critical. Also consider for older fittings replacement clips may not be available.

At this point it’s important to mention thermal and weight considerations!

A product will have been designed for a specific technology, its weight and thermal characteristics. However LED replacement technologies and fluorescent technologies can be significantly different in these aspects. LED technology requires a method of heatsinking to remove heat as it does not naturally radiate this heat in the same way as fluorescent lamps. The placement and operation of this heatsink can create localised heating within a luminaire as heat is not emitted across the entire surface of the lamp but only from the heatsink area. In addition the local ambient temperature within a luminaire is designed to be at a level that is optimal for the technology it is designed for, typically 25°C for older fluorescent technologies and 35°C for T16 lamp sizes.  So let’s be clear here - this is not optimal for LED technologies.

The heatsink itself can also add weight to the lamp. The lamp holders are specified based upon a specific lamp weight, and increasing this weight can result in them being insufficiently robust to hold the lamp, ultimately causing them to be damaged.

What about making it work for the users of the space?

LED Tubes don’t offer the same opportunity to make the lighting work for the users of the space. For example they may not offer the same directional light output (often not meeting EN1264:1 requirements) and therefore will struggle to provide comfortable conditions for classrooms and offices as an example. 

Also consider that the efficiency of an LED lamp is for the bare lamp. When you put it into the old fitting the efficiency immediately goes down by at least the LOR of the fitting.

The photometric performance of a product, how efficiently it produces and distributes light, is based around the light source technology it was designed for. Therefore when replacing fluorescent technology with LED replacement technology it should be checked whether the photometric performance is impaired, resulting in poor, non-uniform lighting or glare which can ultimately affect the experience of those using the space (consider a learning environment or office space here).

What about efficiency? In addition the efficiency of an LED product is generally declared for the full luminaire. For LED replacement lamps it is declared for the lamp and therefore requires de-rating to account for thermal and optical losses when operated within the product. Without this being correctly considered and accounted for expected efficiency savings may not happen.

And now let’s discuss controls and emergency?

On the theme of making the space work, LED tubes may be non-dimmable and/or non-compatible with the existing control system (if in place) as well as generally not offering emergency lighting compatibility. This could therefore require a new emergency lighting system meaning new wiring, fitting and labour costs which should be considered from the outset.

If any product being retrofitted with LED lamps has an emergency lighting function the correct operation of the new luminaire with respect to the requirements given in EN 60598-2-22, and relevant application requirements such as those given in EN1838 will need to be verified. Remember it is a legal requirement that emergency lighting is fitted and operates correctly within a building.

So the big question - is the warranty affected?

It’s difficult to give a yes or no at this stage but let’s discuss the installation of a LED tube onto a ballast previously used with a fluorescent tube.

When LED tubes first came out it was recommended to remove the ballast and starters in the existing fluorescent fittings, the ballast effectively reduces the long life of the led tubes and they are more likely to get to their expected life span of 30-50,000 hours if the ballast are removed. So in here lies the other consideration, yes you now have an energy efficient product but of course you should work with a qualified electrician to remove ballast and rewire to direct power. This naturally comes at a cost and the warranty on the fitting from the manufacturer is now void.  

Of course now LED tube manufacturers are making electronic ballast compatible LED tubes and providing starters to change out from the older ones. But the age of the existing ballast should be considered. If they have been operating for some time you may have seen that the fluorescent tubes have been flickering and assumed the problem was the tube. Well in fact it could well be that the ballast is failing due to power fluctuations and it goes without saying that this isn’t good for a fluorescent tube and certainly won’t be for a LED tube either. And to add to this point if your existing ballast is failing and potentially damages the LED Tubes, again the warranty on the tubes is now void. Let’s also again consider here the potential discolouration of any plastics and the area around the fitting which we mentioned earlier.

If the product is altered, for example rewiring to remove existing components from the electrical circuit, the safety tests become null and void and any marking on the product such as the UKCA / CE mark should be removed as well as the original manufacturers marking. Legally the product then has to be retested and re certified in its new configuration to the relevant safety standards before it can be operated.

Compliance to requirements cannot be assumed, formal testing is required with documented results that are held in the product technical file. Similarly when using a different lamp technology it is required that these lamps are checked to assure conformity with the EcoDesign and RoHS legal requirements.

An additional implication of modifying the original luminaire is that any existing warranties will become invalid. 

So in short, the likelihood is that the fitting has to be re-certified as all safety certification is void. It is effectively a new fitting.

Let’s summarise

So what we’re trying to say is that when it comes to a quick cost effective replacement for T8/T5 tubes, we get it LED tubes seem on the face of it like the quick win. But now you’ve considered the above is it the best option for you? 

At Thorn Lighting we have a team of experts ready to work with you to understand the space you’re looking to refurbish, the needs of the space and what needs to be achieved from an energy saving point of view.

We can work together to provide a lighting scheme that produces good light output, offers energy saving, C02 emission reduction, ease of install (as you’d expect from a Thorn fitting) and can work to improve the experience of those using the space.