Company Blog

Retrofitting Existing HID lamps to LED Technology

Posted by Frank Vaccariello on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 @ 07:06 AM

Retrofitting Existing Fixtures is a Challenge Because of the Different Technologies Used to Create Light

With the growing popularity of outdoor LED lighting, many cities and organizations want to take advantage of the benefits LEDs offer yet want to keep the look of their unique or historical fixture styles. Many are starting to research how that is possible.

While a quick “screw-in” retrofit LED light source may be convenient and low cost, it may not be the best long-term solution for the application. Because of the many technological differences between HID and LED lighting, certain precautions need to be met before considering an LED retrofit.

Retrofit current HID lamps to LED Technology: Important Factors to Consider

retrofit_animation.for_MO.2_resize.pngMetal Halide and High Pressure Sodium lamps run on alternating current with voltage supplied by a ballast. LEDs typically run on direct current with voltage supplied by a driver that converts AC to DC. These drivers are also more sensitive to the environment and the quality of the electricity being supplied. This is important to keep in mind when selecting an LED retrofit product. Because the electronics of the LED are sensitive to power surges, lightning strikes, and dirty power or motor loads on the same line, it is necessary to have the proper surge suppression in place.

Another important issue for creating a retrofit that will work correctly with the current fixture is to maintain the light center length of the original light source. This allows optimum light output and distribution from the luminaire, not just from the light source. Look for manufacturers who understand this concept when researching for a retrofit.

LEDioc_Retrofit_Louisville.pngWhat to Consider Regarding Heat and Surge Protection

Another difference between HID and LED is how each handles heat dissipation. HID lighting sources work better in a very hot environment. They essentially burn chemicals. Yet LEDs are like the chips in a computer. Though LEDs do not generate as much heat, it still has an effect on the life and performance of the system. Therefore, LEDs need an effective system to keep them cool. When retrofitting, one can build in specific components to leverage the advancements that are available in the technology. It is best to consult with the LED manufacturer to ensure the proper components are placed inline to provide adequate heat dispersion. Thermal testing should be conducted by the manufacturer to understand the thermal limits within a retrofitted luminaire. A robust thermal system is put in line to provide reliable, long-term performance.

While most HID lights run on ballasts, LED lamps run on electronics and should be built with surge protection in the system to absorb transient energy and protect the driver and LED downstream. With HID a good connection to
 a ground may not be important. However, with LED lighting the ground connection is very important to dissipate any discharges.

Conclusion

When a city manager or facility manager has aesthetically pleasing fixtures, such as post-tops, that are HID, but
wants to switch to LED, they should find an organization that designs a full system, not someone who just picks a driver, a surge protector and LED system and tries to assemble parts that don’t work together properly. RTA_with_caption.pngInstead, they should look for a system that has been vetted out to show those three things are properly working in concert. If devices are selected solely on ratings, it will not provide robust performance in the field.

While a quick “screw-in” retrofit LED light source may be convenient and low cost, it may not be the best long-term solution for the application. Because of the many technological differences between HID and LED lighting, certain precautions need to be met before considering an LED retrofit.

For more information, download our white paper:

How to Retrofit to LED Technology

Sources:

NEMA

EYE Lighting Professionals:

Tim Dorman

Karl Mansfield

Alan Toot

Topics: LED Lighting, LED Retrofit