Converting Fluorescent Shop Lights to LED

Do you still use fluorescent lights in your work shop? If yes, then are these lights any good? Do they light up dark and dim areas well? Can you work well in fluorescent lights or do you have to strain your eyes to see the fine details?

Have you switched your fluorescent lights out with more expensive lighting options? Are you sick and tired of those flickering bulbs and buzzing ballasts? Do you often change your faulty fluorescent ballast or tubes?

Do you have broken fluorescent lights that take up space in your shop? This is because fluorescent tubes need to be recycled properly because they contain mercury.

If you are disturbed by any of these situations, then you should consider changing your fluorescent lights over to LED. LED lights can make a huge difference for you in the short and long term. This applies to you even when you own a work shop, machine shop or repair store. You can lower your lighting bills by 50% or more as well as eliminate your operating costs. Since LED does not contain mercury, you can stop paying recycling fees on those old fluorescent tubes.

You might say that LED lights are expensive than fluorescent lights. But, even though LED bulbs are slightly more expensive than fluorescent tubes and fluorescent fixtures, they save you a lot money in reduced lighting costs. So, this means you can earn back the extra money you spend on buying LED lights. Plus, after you recoup the costs of your LED lights, you can save more on electricity bills for the life of the fixture. And LEDs last a very long time.

And did you know that every time you turn on on and off a fluorescent fixture, a tubes life decreases. So if you are in an area where tubes are turned on and off a lot, then you have dramatically reduced the life of the tube. That is why fluorescent tubes do not work well with motion sensors.

Two ways to convert fluorescent shop lights to LED

There are two ways in which you can change your fluorescent lights to LED lights in your shop. Retrofitting (using the same fixture) or replacing (swapping out the entire fixture). Below is a simple discussion of both.

Retrofitting your lights

If you don’t face any problems with your current lights and they are in good condition, the retrofitting may be a good option for you. There are two common retrofitting options: tubes and magnetic strip retrofit kits.

1. LED Tubes look like a fluorescent tube. They install inside the lamp holders of the fixture. There are essentially 2 types of tubes: direct connect or ballast compatible.

Direct connect bypasses the ballast, which means you are wiring ac directly to the lamp holder. Most direct connect tubes are single ended power, which means you need an unshunted lamp holder. 

Ballast compatible means that the tube can use the existing ballast. Two caveats – not every ballast will work, and at some point the ballast will fail.

There are some tubes that do both. This means you can start out with ballast compatible and then switch to direct connect when the ballast dies.

2. Magnetic Strip Retrofit Kits are the second and preferred option.  These led strips have magnets on the back that allows them to attack to the metal fixtures. They do not use the lamp holders. They have a LED Driver that is installed in place of the fluorescent ballast. This design is superior because the LED drivers are external to the LEDs, and are not affected by the heat of the LEDs. Also, the LED strips use the fixtures metal enclosure as a heat sink, which improves the life of the LEDs.


Replacing with LED fixtures

The second option is to install new LED light fixtures in your workshop. There are many options available with LED fixtures, linear style, low bay style, vapor tight fixtures and round UFO style LED High Bays. With this option, the old fixture is removed, and is replaced with the new fixture. Many advancements are available with a new fixture including better lensing that can help with light distribution.

Retrofit fluorescent fixtures to LED shop lights

If you want to keep your current shop lights and still want to use LED, then you have to decide to use tubes or magnetic strips. While its not complicated to re-wire a fixture, it may make sense to hire an electrician to do so. Removing a ballast and tube and rewiring for single ended powered tubes can be tricky if you are not an electrician.

However, converting to magnetic strip retrofit kits is much simpler. You are simply removing the tubes and ballast. Install the LED driver and connect the driver to the same 2 input wires that powered the ballast. Snap in the strips, and use the easy connectors to attach the strips to the driver. Its that simple.

Switching from fluorescent shop lights to LED fixtures

LED lights provide more lighting as compared to conventional lights in streamlined dimensions. The sealed housing of such lights keeps away flies and debris from the fixture. This reduces your work to maintain your shop lights.

The most lucrative and slimmest option to fluorescent lights is our LED shop lights. These have the same diameter as fluorescent fixtures typically, either 4 ft or 8 ft long. They have many power options, so you can effectively switch and keep or improve your existing light levels.


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