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Apr 5, 2016

How To Retrofit LEDs For Use In Standard Fixtures

Sponsored Content provided by Joe Marston - President, Wilmington Winlectric

A note of warning to the reader: The title of this article is a bit deceiving. In reality, the topic of retrofitting LED bulbs is much more complex than it appears on the surface. To fully explore the subject would require more space than I have here; the title is therefore a little too ambitious.
One of the many advantages to LED bulbs, aside from their incredible efficiency ratings, is that they basically function as “plug-and-play” technology, meaning they work with existing fixtures and ballasts. This is true for most residential applications and some commercial applications, including wall packs and high- and low-bay LED lights.
Since these new lights work with existing metal halide ballasts, installation is a breeze. Adding to their appeal is the fact that they require less than half the wattage to produce the same light intensity. Further, the wall pack LEDs, high-bay LEDs and low-bay LEDs emit substantially less heat compared to traditional metal halide bulbs. This can help you save on cooling costs.
Though the entry point is higher for these new LED bulbs compared to a standard metal halide bulb, their life span is much longer, so the savings they provide in terms of energy have a chance to add up significantly over the long-term. For example, the LED equivalent to a 400-watt metal halide only requires 146 watts to operate and is rated to last up to 50,000 hours. This can translate into a 60 percent to 80 percent savings in energy over the life of the bulb.
Metal halides are an extremely popular choice for illuminating large facilities, such as warehouses, recreation centers and big retail stores, but linear fluorescents have a broader range of applications. In fact, fluorescent tubes have been the predominant choice for commercial lighting in American ceilings for more than 50 years.
LED tubes can deliver a 50 percent cost savings over their fluorescent counterparts, so it’s easy to see why there is so much interest in retrofitting existing fluorescent fixtures to accommodate the new innovations in LED technology.
Making the shift to LEDs isn’t as simple as swapping out a bulb, unfortunately. Fluorescent tubes require a ballast to provide the high voltage burst of electricity they need to get started. Ballasts also are necessary for regulating the power that comes into the tube.
Since LED bulbs do not require a ballast to operate, the manufacturers have elected to solve the problem in different ways. As a result, there are currently three different types of LED tubes:

  • Type A LED tubes. These work with existing fluorescent ballasts, facilitating an easy installation process. However, their life span isn’t as long and they aren’t as efficient as other LED tubes.
  • Type B LED tubes. Bypassing the ballast or removing it altogether allows these tubes to achieve a higher degree of efficiency.
  • Type C LED tubes. These are the safest and most efficient LED tubes, since a remote driver provides the power.
In the graph below, Direct Fit refers to Type A, Internal Driver refers to Type B, and External Driver refers to Type C.

There are many factors to consider with retrofitting LED bulbs into your existing applications. To schedule a consultation, please call (910) 742-7029, email [email protected], or visit
Joe Marston is a seasoned entrepreneur and the president of Wilmington Winlectric, a leading distributor of lighting solutions and electrical supplies. Offering reliable guidance and trusted insights, Wilmington Winlectric serves clients in the industrial, commercial, and residential markets. Wilmington Winlectric is a locally-based provider of consultation services as well as lighting solutions, controls and electrical equipment. To find out how Wilmington Winlectric can benefit your business, call (910) 790-1909, email [email protected], or visit

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