Don’t get burned with substandard TLED lighting

By: Rose Southwell

TLED / tubular LED technology can be traced back to the early 2000s at a time where the development of white LEDs made it possible to use LEDs for general lighting.

Traditionally designed to be a retrofit replacement for flourescent tubes in compatible luminaries, LED tubes (TLEDs) were an attractive option offering significant cost and energy savings. When specified and installed correctly they can reduce electricity consumption by over 50% compared to T8 fluorescent lamp technology.

But not all LEDs are created equal. Despite the generations of improvement to both the technology and manufacturing there are still many substandard TLEDs on the market.

TLED Safety Concerns

In fact, a number of these continue to experience massive recalls due to melting tubes that have caused fires and mass failure issues. These recalls also apply to tubes made by well known LED lighting manufacturers.

Additionally, many LED tubes require a complete rewiring of the fixture and/or the direct use of circuit power (bypassing the driver), thus, improper installation is often also a cause of fires or severe injury.

Dangers of TLED Upgrades

Real Stories: TLED retrofits gone bad

We have a number of stories from customers who came to us after having bad experiences with TLEDs and substandard LED “solutions” – here are their stories:

A local Steel manufacturing plant story

A large multi-site Steel Company, had 6 Lamp T5 light fixtures throughout their facility. They decided to upgrade lighting by replacing the fluorescent bulbs with TLED tubes while utilizing the existing ballast. The facility hours were 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, which quickly caused the TLEDs to fail. The failure was due to the TLEDs inability to manage the heat produced, also known as poor thermal management. The facility had to shut down production again while the second round of TLEDs was installed as the manufacturer stated the wide failure rate was due to a “bad batch”.

During this second round, the fixtures than began to melt, which resulted in a fire at the facility. The fire spread to their wood roof. Luckily the fire department was able to contain the spread. They then shut production down for a third time to remove of the TLED lamps and replace them with the original T5 lamps.

Thus they have shut production down 3 times, almost burnt the building down, and ended up with the same lamps they started with. Thankfully we got a call and worked together to solve their lighting problem once and for all. Here’s what their facility looks like now!

The Clearwater paper story

This large industrial manufacturing company experienced similar melting TLED tubes and disruption to propduction and eventually decided to pursue only full fixture replacement.

The Costco Wholesale story

When we first started working with Costco they requested we use a specific TLED tube retrofit, that TLED ultimately started melting and causing issues, we provided a much better replacement (new fixture) and ended up going back through their previously “upgraded” facilities to replace all of the already installed TLED tubes. Since then we have rolled out over 600+ Costco upgrades with full luminaire fixture replacements.

Other things to consider

In addition to the many associated safety concerns, TLED tubes retrofits also often:

  1. Result in lower light levels than the T8 or T5 lamps they are replacing.
  2. Have a relatively short rated life of 30,000-50,000 hours so they often depreciate and fail at around the same rate as your current T8 lamps.

All-in-all a sub-par solution when evaluating an LED lighting upgrade.

The Wild West of LED

The LED lighting market is often referred to as the “Wild West” and it’s true. There are a lot of fly-by-night companies swooping in with poor quality products hoping to make a quick profit and then disappearing before those products start to fail.

How can you spot a fly-by-nighter?

  1. Extremely low pricing is one clue and,
  2. Exorbitant claims “backed” by warranties filled with exclusions is another.

Without knowing the quality of the fixture, tube or LED driver you’re installing you may be putting your facility, staff and customers at risk. Don’t take a chance by putting unknown quality LED tubes into an older fixture.

Avoid the hassle and liability… Get in touch