LED Troffers & Flat Panels Offer Cost Effective Upgrade

According to the USDOE, there were 40,000 LED troffer units sold in the U.S. in 2010. By 2012 that number had increased to 700,000. Today, a major part of the troffer market in the U.S. consists of LED troffers or equivalent LED flat panels.

This dramatic transition to LED for the troffer fixture type has resulted in a flood of LED troffer and flat panel products from many manufacturers.

This post will look at the benefits of LED compared to fluorescent troffers as well as how to sort through the pros and cons of LED troffer and flat panel options.

Energy and Maintenance Savings With LED Troffers / Flat Panels

USDOE estimates that LED troffer replacements save about 25% on energy costs compared to fluorescent. With rated life typically at 50,000 hours up to 100,000 hours, the LED troffer replacements also provide longer life and lower maintenance costs than fluorescent.

Today, most LED troffers and flat panels have 0-10V dimming as a standard feature. This allows integration with daylight harvesting controls or centralized control systems for dimming to reduce demand charges during peak hours.

These LED fixtures also often offer optional built-in emergency backup and occupancy sensor equipped units.

Perhaps most surprisingly, in 2017, basic LED troffers and flat panels can be purchased at prices very close to the cost of equivalent fluorescent fixtures.

Available Types of LED Troffers and Flat Panels

Most LED troffers and flat panels use built-in LED light engines (not LED bulbs) and the fixtures install directly into the common 1×4, 2×2 and 2×4 drop ceiling grid systems used by fluorescent troffers.

LED Troffers

LED troffers are available in conventional configurations that range from basic lensed units to volumetric style to architectural grade fixtures featuring indirect distribution.

LED troffers come with flat lenses, louvers or open options to match the range of fluorescent systems already installed. For virtually every fluorescent troffer style currently installed, an LED troffer equivalent is on the market.

LED Flat Panels

LED flat panels offer a unique streamlined, thin profile alternative to the lensed recessed troffer. They are designed to provide similar light distribution as conventional troffers when installed in the grids of drop ceilings. The lumen packages for troffer replacement flat panels compare favorably to standard troffers.

Two styles of flat panels are manufactured: Edge Lit and Direct Lit.

As the name implies, Edge Lit panels have LEDs installed around the perimeter of the panel. The light is directed to the center of the panel and then down to the flat surface at the lens or diffuser. This produces an extremely even illumination across the panel. Edge Lit panels are very thin (as thin as 1/2”). They use slightly more energy than Direct Lit for the same light output and they are usually more expensive.

Direct Lit panels have the LEDs mounted on the back of the panel. Light is directed down to a diffusing medium on the surface of the panel producing a slightly more directional illumination than Edge Lit panels. Direct Lit panels are much thinner than standard troffers but not as thin as Edge Lit. The primary advantage of Direct Lit is the lower cost and higher efficiency.

Both Edge Lit and Direct Lit flat panels can be mounted into the same drop ceiling grid system as troffers. However, Direct Lit panels cannot be surface mounted onto ceilings (or walls) like Edge Lit.

As of 2017, the expanding market, improved technology and competition between brands have lowered the costs of LED troffers and flat panels into a range that can make this an easy decision for buyers. Attractive pricing combined with the energy and maintenance savings offered by LED, provide commercial and institutional buyers with compelling reasons to seriously consider the LED alternative.

Shop LED Alternatives for Fluorescent Troffers

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Dave Burtner

Dave has been active in the lighting industry since 1994. Formerly a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America and certified by the National Council On Qualifications for Lighting Professionals, Dave now writes blog posts, lighting tips and provides lighting product assistance for the Topbulb website.

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