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This web exclusive comes from Paula D. Ziegenbein, LC, LEED AP, Application Marketing Manager, OSRAM SYLVANIA.
LED technology is quickly becoming the darling of the lighting industry, and LEDs are widely known for their long life and energy efficiency. But with the rapid evolution and growth of the solid state lighting market, many “traditional” light sources are receiving less consideration.
However, that does not mean more familiar lighting technologies should be considered relics. In the case of high efficiency linear fluorescent systems, for example, the same – or better – longevity and efficiency as that from an LED source can be achieved, but at a lower cost.
*Typical values for similar lumen fluorescent vs. LED lamps
Fluorescent systems may be a tried and true lighting solution; they are far from obsolete. Fluorescent technology has gone through many iterations since fluorescent systems made their commercial debut in the 1940s, and improvements are continuously being made.
The first fluorescent systems introduced were T12 lamps paired with magnetic ballasts. While these were highly efficient for their time, the introduction of the T8 lamp in the 1980s by OSRAM SYLVANIA offered an even more efficient option.
Electronic ballasts also improved system efficiency, as did the introduction of the T5 lamp in 1995. Fluorescent technology continued to improve and expand with the introduction of high efficiency T8/SS and T5/SS systems, and dimming features have recently been added to lamps and ballasts as well.
What today’s fluorescent systems offer
Today’s high efficiency fluorescent systems offer a more than viable lighting solution for general illumination. With systems featuring up to 100+ lumens per watt efficacy, high performance, quality color consistency, excellent color rendering, and up to 55,000-hour life ratings, fluorescent technology may be one of the best cost/value propositions in the market.
Considering the average fluorescent system has been installed for over 15 years, many existing T8 installations are reaching the end of their life cycle and are likely due for a lamp and ballast retrofit. Upgrading these systems to today’s high efficiency fluorescent systems could result in over 40% energy cost savings.
A closer look at energy savings
Today’s choices for fluorescent lamps offer incredible energy savings compared to earlier systems. By simply changing a T8 lamp in an existing installation to a high efficiency, energy saving version can save 7% to 20% instantly.
Combining these high performance lamps with high efficiency ballasts can deliver even more impressive results. Today’s electronic ballasts are far more energy efficient than their predecessors and are equipped with technology to help maximize energy savings and/or lamp life. Ballasts can be selected with either Instant Start (IS) technology (to maximize energy savings and for infrequent switching), or Programmed Rapid Start (to maximize the life of the system and for use on controls such as occupancy sensors).
Controls can help to reduce the energy consumption of fluorescent systems further. Bi-level systems tied to an occupancy sensor can be implemented to reduce the light level of a space when an area is not in use.
Continuous dimming is another option, which employs a photosensor to monitor an area’s light level, and dims the controlled system when enough natural light is present. Load curtailment controls can also be used with load shed systems to reduce demand for more power, thus yielding incentives from electric utilities to users who implement these systems.
The right high efficiency fluorescent system, paired with appropriate controls, can substantially reduce energy consumption and provide a high performance, highly efficient, long lasting system.
The ceiling ahead
Most of the lighting industry recognizes that LEDs and solid state lighting is the future of lighting. LEDs offer a new range of possibilities to illuminate almost any type of space and have the potential for even greater energy savings and flexibility in their controllability and sensing. However, LED technology still has a way to go in the area of general illumination, especially before it can be a truly cost-effective option. While the cost of solid state lighting is projected to decrease substantially in the future, fluorescent systems offer many of the same benefits as LED systems, but at an affordable cost today.
Fluorescent systems are one of the most viable and cost-effective solutions for general illumination currently available on the market. Fluorescent technology will continue to evolve, with more energy savings options becoming available and manufacturers pushing the boundaries of long life. For where we are in today’s lighting market, high efficiency fluorescent lamps and ballasts are an incredibly sound investment, offering just the right combination of cost and energy savings, maintenance cost reduction, color characteristics and replaceability.