Think refurbishment… but re-think using LED Tubes | Zumtobel Group

Think refurbishment… but re-think using LED Tubes | Zumtobel Group

With the imminent T8/T5 ban, LED Tubes appear a quick win for refurbishment projects. Graeme Shaw, Technical Director at Zumtobel Group UK & Ireland, discusses the key considerations before ordering.

Building operators carrying out lighting refurbishments are faced with reducing energy costs and carbon emissions alongside improving the use of the space. One key driver is the pending T8/T5 fluorescent tube ban.

From September 2023, the sale of inefficient T5/T8 fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) will be phased out of the European and UK market. This is in accordance with the Ecodesign and RoHS directives (and UK equivalents). Lighting schemes currently using the soon-to-be-banned halogen or fluorescent lamps will need new light sources.

Preparing the switch in good time can help to mitigate inevitable availability issues and rising costs. With those who switch now, saving more.

LED tubes – a quick win?

There are some quick wins retrofitting LED lamps, but there is a lot to consider before pressing the order button.

Many choose LED tubes for cost or speed of replacement. However, is the existing fitting suitable? If it has been in place for some time, there is the risk of plastic degradation – which could easily result in breakages whilst removing the existing tube or swapping in the replacement. The result? A bodged job or extra costs for replacement parts: making a ‘quick fix’ slower and more expensive than planned.

Thermal and weight considerations

A product will have been designed for a specific technology’s weight and thermal characteristics: aspects that significantly differ between LED and fluorescent technologies. LEDs require a method of heatsinking to remove heat. Which adds weight. The lamp holders are specified based on a specific lamp weight and increasing this weight can result in them being insufficiently robust to hold the LED tube.

Consider users of the space

The photometric performance of a product: how efficiently it produces and distributes light, is based on the light source it was designed for. Calculations will need to be re-run when replacing fluorescent with LED. LED Tubes may not provide the same directional light output: often not meeting EN1264:1 2021 legislation.

Impaired, poor, non-uniform lighting or glare will affect the experience and comfort of those using the space.


Efficiency is generally declared for the complete luminaire. For LED replacement lamps it is declared for the lamp and therefore requires de-rating to account for thermal and optical losses when operated within the product. This must be correctly considered to realise expected efficiency savings.

Controls and emergency 

Usually non-dimmable and non-compatible with the existing control system (if in place) LED tubes generally do not offer emergency lighting compatibility – which means a new emergency lighting system – fitting and labour costs.

If any product being retrofitted with LED lamps has an emergency lighting function, the correct operation of the new luminaire concerning requirements of EN 60598-2-22 and relevant application requirements, such as EN1838, will need to be verified.

Correctly fitted emergency lighting is a legal requirement.

Will your warranty be intact?

When LED tubes were first launched, removing the ballast and starters in the existing fluorescent fittings was recommended. The ballast reduces the long life of the led tubes, and they are more likely to reach their expected 30-50,000 hours life if removed but working with a qualified electrician to remove the ballast and rewire it to direct power naturally comes at a cost: the warranty on the fitting from the manufacturer is now void.

Today LED tube manufacturers are making electronic ballast-compatible LED tubes and providing starters to change out from the older ones. But the age of the existing ballast should be considered. If they have been operating for some time, you may have seen flickering and assumed the tube was the problem. When the ballast could be failing due to power fluctuations. This isn’t good for a fluorescent tube and certainly won’t be for a LED tube either. If your existing ballast is failing and potentially damaging the LED Tubes, the warranty on the tubes is now void.

Suppose the product is altered: for example rewiring to remove existing components from the electrical circuit, the safety tests become null and void, and any marking on the product, such as the UKCA / CE mark, should be removed, as well as the original manufacturer marking.

Legally, the product must be retested and recertified in its new configuration to the relevant safety standards before it can be operated.

Compliance cannot be assumed

Formal testing, to ensure conformity with the EcoDesign and RoHS legal requirements, is required with documented results in the technical product file.

An additional implication of modifying the original luminaire is that any existing warranties will become invalid.

So, in short, the likelihood is that the fitting has to be re-certified as all safety certification is void. It is effectively a new fitting.

In conclusion, when it comes to a quick, cost-effective replacement for T8/T5 tubes, LED tubes seem like a quick win. But if you consider the above, is it your best option?

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