What is the thinking about LED retrofit bulbs?

Sparksbob

New User
Location
Brighton Co.
Occupation
Electrician
With the retrofit T8 bulbs put in old fixtures and making the sockets line voltage (120/277) usually on a 20 amp breaker and often times replaced by a untrained maintenance person and over 40 years as a licensed Electrician have seen fluorescent sockets destroyed by people installing lamps what is the main opinion about the liability of putting in these retrofits with line voltage on sockets with no amp/ voltage rating I can find.
 

LarryFine

Master Electrician Electric Contractor Richmond VA
Location
Henrico County, VA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
I have installed many, and seen no issues. 8' T-12s have had line voltage directly to the disconnect ends for decades, and fluorescent-ballast open-circuit voltages have been as much as the high hundreds for as long.
 

paulengr

Senior Member
Overall it’s a waste of money. A dedicated LED fixture, lumen for lumen, is cheaper.

A fluorescent bulb emits a radial light pattern and the fixture needs a reflector and a diffuser lense to be efficient. The reflector is not very efficient and the lenses throw off goofy patterns with “corn cob” LEDs. And you have to go in and disable the ballast so you are already rewiring and hacking it. It is far cheaper to just replace the whole thing in the long run.

The confusion is usually the LED fixtures have two “downsides”. The first is they have little ur no light “spillage”. You get light where you want it, no more or less. So don’t expect to light up “fringes”. That’s a good/bad thing. Second is the physical size and light patterns are adjustable by the manufacturer. A square 2x2 fixture can generate a rectangular light pattern like the old tube because it uses lenses instead of a reflector. So relighting with LEDs might require a little rethinking.
 

hillbilly1

Senior Member
Location
Atlanta,Ga
Occupation
Field coordinator/ technical support
It’s the way the tax code is written, they get a bigger bang for the buck when retrofitting vs new. Something about capital improvements. I’m not an accountant, and don’t play one on tv either! LOL!
 

paulengr

Senior Member
It’s the way the tax code is written, they get a bigger bang for the buck when retrofitting vs new. Something about capital improvements. I’m not an accountant, and don’t play one on tv either! LOL!
Capital improvements have little to do with it. As long as the dollar figure is large enough and it’s some kind of modification or upgrade it can be capitalized. If you are just “replacing” lamps that doesn’t count because it’s just normal maintenance for wear and tear but if you are “upgrading” to LED no matter how you actually do it, it does.

So either one counts as capital improvements. It’s all in how you document it.
 

Fred B

Senior Member
Location
Upstate, NY
Occupation
Electrician
There are reasons to use either, if throughers in a suspended ceiling just replace vs the rewire of existing, if in a sheetrock ceiling it might be better to rewire for LED replacement bulb. If "corncobbing" is a concern get bulbs with more diodes per inch, and greater diffusion. There are a lot of options available for various applications. I do know when we've done replacement for a large number of fixtures it made a huge impact on costs for electric supply. Also we were able to go from 10 circuits to supply load to 3 circuits and 3 was so that we were able to zone the lighting and not due to load.
 

retirede

Senior Member
Location
Illinois
Capital improvements have little to do with it. As long as the dollar figure is large enough and it’s some kind of modification or upgrade it can be capitalized. If you are just “replacing” lamps that doesn’t count because it’s just normal maintenance for wear and tear but if you are “upgrading” to LED no matter how you actually do it, it does.

So either one counts as capital improvements. It’s all in how you document it.
The maximum, immediate tax benefit would be to expense it, not capitalize.

Changing bulbs is expense. Replacing fixtures may require one to capitalize. Only God and the tax man know for sure .
 

Dennis Alwon

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Chapel Hill, NC
Occupation
Retired Electrical Contractor
If we are retro fitting an existing fluorescent then we always just by pass the ballast and install led bulbs. I see nothing wrong with that. They work great.
 

paulengr

Senior Member
If we are retro fitting an existing fluorescent then we always just by pass the ballast and install led bulbs. I see nothing wrong with that. They work great.
The fluorescent reflector is about 70% efficient and you lose some through the diffuser too. That’s why the high efficiency T5-HO stuff has almost a mirror reflector and no lense at all. It is competitive with LED fixtures. You lose the same lumens (about 30%) retrofitting with LEDs.

If you go with an LED fixture (not retrofit) you lose 3-5% through the lenses, about the same as the fluorescent diffuser, but that is it plus you keep all the “fringe” light in the area it is aimed at. So you get about 50% more usable light per Watt. That’s huge.

Also if you go for 3500k instead of fluorescent 4500k the light is closer to optimal for human eyes (natural sunlight, 3500k) which makes everything more visible even if the foot candles say otherwise. This is light efficacy, good for another 20-25% although as I said the FC meter doesn’t measure lighting efficacy.

On a lighting efficiency point of view retrofitting is not more efficient except maybe on old crappy fixtures that are better off replaced. If efficiency is the goal, replace. But if longevity is the goal then it should be in favor of LED retrofits but the issue is that corncobs are not well built. They claim 10 year life but frequently only make 3-5. I’m not sure but ventilation in a troffer may be non-optimal. LEDs must stay room temperature or less or they fail very quickly.
 

Dennis Alwon

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Chapel Hill, NC
Occupation
Retired Electrical Contractor
Paul mostly we do residential and the led bulbs put out more light, IMO than the T-8 fluorescents that where in there. I don't see the issue. Sure for new installs I get it or if someone needed more light than what they had.
 

hillbilly1

Senior Member
Location
Atlanta,Ga
Occupation
Field coordinator/ technical support
Capital improvements have little to do with it. As long as the dollar figure is large enough and it’s some kind of modification or upgrade it can be capitalized. If you are just “replacing” lamps that doesn’t count because it’s just normal maintenance for wear and tear but if you are “upgrading” to LED no matter how you actually do it, it does.

So either one counts as capital improvements. It’s all in how you document it.
That’s not what our large customers say, they get a bigger tax advantage by retrofitting than replacing.
 

romex jockey

Senior Member
Location
Vermont
the thing i've seen is all the 'retrofit' companies who, because it's 'maintenance' , throw a crew of kids w/zero electrical anything in the doors of public establishments ~RJ~
 

Todd0x1

Senior Member
Location
CA
You all can pry my 841s from my cold dead hands.....(or give me some retrofit t8 tubes that can accurately reproduce colors.....)
 

LarryFine

Master Electrician Electric Contractor Richmond VA
Location
Henrico County, VA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
Natural sunlight is up around 6500K, if I'm not mistaken. Many people don't realize how "blue" sunlight really is.
 

Todd0x1

Senior Member
Location
CA
Also if you go for 3500k instead of fluorescent 4500k the light is closer to optimal for human eyes (natural sunlight, 3500k) which makes everything more visible even if the foot candles say otherwise. This is light efficacy, good for another 20-25% although as I said the FC meter doesn’t measure lighting efficacy.
wait what? 3500K is warm white, just a hair above tungsten which is 3200K. 4000k/4100k is 'neutral white' which is the one that makes everything most visible. Above 4000K it starts getting blue. Direct sunlight is closer to 5000K.
 
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