Plug & Play vs. Ballast-Bypass LED T8 Replacement Lamps
One of the hottest topics that consistently gets discussed in our office is the pros and cons of Plug & Play vs. Ballast Bypass LED T8 lamps. We talk to potential customers every day who have read about Ballast Bypass lamps, been quoted Ballast Bypass lamps, or are asking to buy them from us. Adventure Lighting’s stance on Ballast Bypass Linear LED has always been to stay away from them. MANY of our competitors, colleagues and vendors swear by them- But we believe there are serious long term risks associated with this LED Solution. Here are a few points that may help you and your business decide which option is best for you.
- With Ballast Bypass Lamps, you must re-wire the entire fixture. This is obvious, but if you’re going to go to the effort (as easy as it may be) of re-wiring a fixture, just replace the fixture. Ballast Bypass along with Plug & Play LED T8 lamps are a simple fix to go from Fluorescent to LED. Re-wiring the fixture takes away from the simplicity of the process.
- “You eliminate the ballast as a failure point in the fixture”. True. But I would argue that replacing a ballast is a pretty simple, fairly cheap process. Electricians, maintenance professionals and building owners have been replacing ballasts for decades. It’s just not that big of deal. Generally speaking, they outlast the LED lamps anyways.
- Safety Risk of Line Voltage running on a LED Lamp. This problem has been addressed for the most part by companies adding surge protection and safety devices to LED lamps to ensure the safety of the installers of the lamps. That said, there are lamps out there that don’t have the protections that others have. It’s common practice to place a finger on the lamp pins for alignment while installing. This is risky with 120v. Let alone 277v, or 347v in Canada.
- Long term safety issues. Lets assume that the Bypass Lamps are installed and working correctly. You’ve gone to the trouble of re-wiring a fixture, and installing the lamps safely. The manufacturers have addressed a lot of safety issues for install, I won’t argue that the already installed bypass lamps are going to be okay to use. The real issue is how to replace failed lamps in the future. The UL states that you must place a sticker in the modified fixture to warn future installers that “this fixture has been modified from its original configuration”. This is the ONLY thing that notifies someone that they need to make sure they know what they’re doing. Let’s be honest, no one is going to read that sticker. There are two different ways to wire a bypass led tube. Single Ended, where the hot and neutral are on one end of the lamp- and Double Ended, where the hot is one side and the neutral is on the other. We have had multiple instances where electricians walk into our shop and tell us about putting the wrong lamp into a bypass fixture. One instance involved shorting a system and taking out a floor of computers in an office. Now, this is an extreme case. But I would ask if your installer replacing lamps 4 or 5 years down the road is going to be capable of matching up the correct lamp with the existing wiring configuration of the modified fixture, or if they’re going to grab the most accessible lamp on their way back from lunch and slap it up there. Perhaps they’ll grab a fluorescent lamp and put it in. That lamp has a pretty strong possibility of literally exploding in their hand.
If your goal is to easily, cheaply and safely change from fluorescent T8 to LED T8, we recommend instant fit, plug & play LED T8 lamps. It is the simplest way to save energy, while preserving the long term safety of the fixture and the installers.
President, Adventure Lighting Inc.
Adventure Lighting has been in the wholesale lighting business since 1980 in Des Moines, Iowa. Brian has been with the company since 2008 and has fully owned Adventure Lighting since 2017