LED Lamp Retrofits


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Three out of four lamps operating in commercial buildings are fluorescent, with the majority installed in recessed troffers, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This large base of lamps is ripe for retrofit to LED, with the main options being LED luminaires, lamps and retrofit kits.

New luminaires carry certain safety certifications. Replacing lamps and ballasts as part of ongoing maintenance is typically considered servicing and does not affect the validity of these certifications.

Retrofit to a different fluorescent lamp and ballast system (such as converting T12 to T8) or to LED lamps or retrofit kits, however, may, as the retrofit changes the luminaire’s electrical characteristics.

The result is the original safety certification may no longer be considered valid after installation. Ultimately, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) makes that determination and whether inspection is required.

If an LED retrofit kit is installed, the kit may be certified as “Classified” by a national recognized testing laboratory (NRTL) such as UL, ETL or CSA. The retrofitted luminaire is considered to meet the same safety level as before the retrofit. A label must be attached to the luminaire indicating the luminaire has been modified and can only be used with a specific LED lamp.

There are two options when installing LED replacement lamps. The first option is to install a lamp that does not require luminaire modification. These “drop in” lamps operate on compatible existing ballasts and lampholders. The lamp may be Listed by the NRTL as a Self-Ballasted LED Lamp.

The second option is to install a lamp that requires electrical modifications to the luminaire such as changing electrical wiring, replacing the ballast with an external driver and/or altering the lampholders. The majority of products are in this category. In this situation, on-site inspection and field safety certification by an NRTL is needed. Because line voltage may be fed to the sockets, depending on the solution, the luminaire must be labeled that it can’t be used with the originally intended fluorescent lamps, so as to prevent a shock hazard.

Otherwise, ensure the LED product is installed in appropriate applications in accordance with product markings and manufacturer instructions.

The information provided here is for general educational purposes only. For specific information applicable to your project, consult the manufacturer, AHJ and UL publications, including UL8750, UL1993 and UL1598C.

UL also publishes a guide, “Luminaire Ballast Retrofits and Conversions,” available here.

Article reposted with permission from Lighting Controls Association

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