Canada's Condominium Magazine
LED lighting continues to make inroads in the private residential market, thanks largely to bans on most incandescent bulbs in Canada, the United States, the EU and many other parts of the world. Manufacturers are constantly improving their bulbs while at the same time trying to come up with that magic blend of price and performance that will make consumers choose LEDs as a matter of course. The commercial market, especially for users where fluorescent bulbs have been the norm—office buildings, schools, hospitals, retail—presents its own peculiar challenges.
Since the beginning, LED makers have been trying to come up with a plug-and-play replacement for the standard T8 type fluorescent bulb. This is a big market. The US Energy Information Administration says there are approximately 2.3 billion fluorescent sockets, one billion of them of the T8 type, in the US commercial sector.
Getting past the ballast
But a big stumbling block to LED makers and adopters in the commercial market has been the ballast, a necessary part of fluorescent light fixtures. In order to take advantage of the energy- and cost-saving benefits of LED T8 lights, it would have been necessary for a school or hospital either to replace their existing fluorescent light fixtures, or find replacement bulbs that were compatible with the existing ballasts. The first scenario would be costly; the second has been next to impossible.
Now one US LED maker, Cree, has announced that it has solved that problem. It has introduced the “only” LED T8 bulb that’s compatible with existing fluorescent ballasts. This means that “retrofitting” an institution’s lighting would be as easy as literally changing the bulbs. The Cree bulbs simply snap into the existing fixtures.
Cree says its bulbs are compatible with 90 per cent of electronic T8 ballasts. Besides performance features like instant start and compatibility with dimmable ballasts, the bulbs offer 30 per cent in energy cost savings and a lifetime of 50,000 hours. The long life helps cut maintenance costs. The company claims the bulbs have a high colour rendering index of 90—the typical incandescent bulb is rated 100, but so far this has not been achieved with LEDs. The CRI describes how colours look under the light of the bulb. The “perfect” light is natural daylight. A rating of 90, the maker says, is “ideal” for classrooms, hospitals, and office spaces, as well as airports, warehouses—anywhere where fluorescent lights are now used.