Should You Use Ballast Compatible LED Bulbs Or Pay For Permanent Conversion?

Posted on: 4 October 2017


Metal halide lights were popular for decades throughout industrial and manufacturing settings due to the brightness and intensity of light produced by the bulbs. However, they're still very inefficient when compared to modern LED bulb technology, and the heat produced by halide bulbs can pose a fire hazard and increase cooling and ventilation costs. At one point, you couldn't simply plug in an LED bulb and expect it to work, but now plug-and-play LED bulbs are available. Choose between ballast compatible bulbs and hiring an electrician to rewire your metal halide fixtures by weighing the benefits of both options.

Continue the Ballast Benefits

The ballast on a metal halide fixture offers stabilization benefits that even LED bulbs benefit from, so buying bulbs that work with existing ballasts can help your new retrofitted units last longer. Ballasts absorb spikes in the electrical supply that can damage sensitive halide bulbs. While LED retrofitted bulbs are not as sensitive and can handle a little more fluctuation in voltage, it still helps the new light last as long as possible to keep the ballast in place.

Limited to Ballast Lifespan

Unfortunately, choosing plug-and-play LED lights that work with existing ballasts also means your light fixtures will go out when the ballasts reach the end of their lifespan. If you don't want to deal with future repairs that may come at the worst possible moment, it's better just to remove the ballasts now during the retrofitting. Once the metal halide fixtures are direct wired, there's no need for future changes to the fixture just to use a new type of bulb. All LED bulbs are compatible with your fixtures once the ballasts are removed by a professional.

Extra Tube Weight

Don't forget that the LED tubes that are designed to work as plug-as-play bulbs are heavier than those without the drivers for interfacing with old-fashioned ballasts. If you install these larger and heavier plug-and-play bulbs in older fixtures that are worn and starting to corrode, you may damage them to the point of requiring replacement. It's faster and easier to remove the ballasts on older lights so you can use light LED tubes that are less likely to cause damage. You'll spend a lot more on new fixtures and other timely repairs than you would for the upfront work of rewiring halide lights to circumvent the ballasts.

Increased Maintenance

Leaving the ballasts in place in your retrofitted metal halide fixtures increases the amount of maintenance the fixture requires for the rest of its lifespan. If you're choosing to retrofit existing fixtures in order to save money, the ongoing costs of routine maintenance visits continue to add up for years to come. Since using plug-and-play LED bulbs with existing ballasts also reduces the energy savings provided by the bulbs, you're losing out twice on an opportunity to save on long-term lighting costs. This is why it's essential to factor out the long-term cost of a change to your lighting plan rather than just considering the upfront cost for a retrofit or conversion project.

Consider the Total Cost

Plug-and-play bulbs cost more upfront because of the extra conversion equipment needed to make LEDs compatible with the existing ballasts. This alone is enough to make most facility owners wary of them. They also cost more in the long run due to extra maintenance needs and a shorter lifespan of the individual bulbs. You may think that ballast removal costs more after receiving a quote for the service from an electrician, but make sure you compare that cost to the total maintenance needs of plug-and-play lights before determining which plan is best for you.

To learn more, contact a company like Always Earth Friendly.