I have a lot of T12 fluorescent lights in my house that are now obsolete because of the 2014 ban on all T12 fluorescent lamps (as well as inefficient T8s). So what should I replace them with? I am taking a tour of currently available linear LED lights. I’ve already checked out the Hyperikon LED retrofit lamp LED replacement lamp that works in a re-wired T8 fixture, and the Cree LS series Surface Ambient light, and the Hollywood Light T8 retrofit light.
The next LED linear light I evaluated was a 48-in. FEIT shop light, which, as far as I know, is sold only by Costco. (If you don’t have a Costco membership, or if your Costco is out, you can get the FEIT shop light from Amazon for $49.)
A shop light differs from a regular fluorescent fixture in that it has its own power cord that you plug into a power outlet. If you currently have fluorescent lights in your shop or garage that are suspended from the ceiling and have a ceiling plug close by that the light can plug into, these are the fixtures that the FEIT targets.
Because a shop light isn’t hardwired into the building’s ac power, it’s a good candidate for LED lighting: you get away from the need to mess with the building wiring as you do in in a retrofit light, but you aren’t stuck with legacy fluorescent ballasts the way you are with replacement LED T8 tube lights.
You can see why Costco/FEIT is going after this market with its aggressive pricing of $38 for the fixture/lights combination: Fluorescent lights are the most common lighting for workshop lights. And the person who put up those original fluorescent lights has the skill set needed to replace them with the FEIT. More importantly, this type of light also simplifies FEIT’s design challenges: The power source is a straight-forward 120 Vac power outlet that you simply plug the cord into. FEIT doesn’t have to support a zillion different possible fluorescent lamp ballasts, as the Cree T8 or Philips InstantFit T8 lamps must do.]
The table below lists FEIT’s specs for the light, compared to a common fluorescent T8:
|FEIT Workshop Light (48-in.)||T8 fluorescent*|
|Lumens||3700 lm||2470 lm|
|lm/W||97 lm/W||77 lm/W|
|Claimed lifetime||50000||24,000 hrs|
(Dimming is not important for shop lights, and the FEIT doesn’t support it.)
These are good specs — especially the price. And 5 years is a good warranty period (especially compared to just about any other electronics product warranty). Feit claims a 50,000-hour lifetime (that is, 45 years at 3-hrs ev very day.)
But how does it actually perform? Quite well, it turns out: When I plugged it in, it turned on instantly. There was a slight hum when I put my ear right up next to the light, but it disappeared at a few inches; you can’t hear it when it’s suspended from the ceiling. The light itself is more than acceptable for garage and workshop lighting, as you can see in the spectral power distribution (SPD) below. I measured it, as usual, with a MK350 spectrometer with the MoreSpectra software from Moreland Lighting.
The R9 (red) of 12 may not seem very high, until you consider that fluorescent shop lights often have a negative R9 value. At the other end of the spectrum the R12 (blue) is a respectable 67. The overall CRI of 83 is a heck of a lot better than what you may currently be getting from your fluorescent shop lights. So in terms of light quality, the FEIT shop light performs well.
To recap — the light quality and performance are good for a shop light. What about the design and construction?
The light is easy to take apart with four screws holding each end cover on. As mentioned before, while it may look like a conventional fixture at first glance, the FEIT doesn’t have replaceable tube lamps. This is a good design decision: By making the tubes integral to the fixture, FEIT can take advantage of the long life of LEDs. Why make a part replaceable, with all the attendant connectors and access issues, when the light source (the LEDs) are no no longer the weakest link?
Each tube lamp consists of a long skinny metal-core pc board with 60 medium power LEDs.
In the photo below, the bottom tube has been completely removed with its innards pulled out, while the top tube is just resting on the metal clamp that it fits into.
The LEDs are in two series strings in parallel, each string having 30 LEDs. The dc voltage across each string is 92 Vdc, with each LED dropping about 3V, as you’d expect. The light makes use of connectors, rather than hand-soldering, to attach the drive electronics to the LED pc board.
Here’s a photo that gives a better look at how the LED pc board slides into a slot on the inside of the plastic tube. The tube itself is opaque white on the back, and a frosted plastic on the light-emitting side that serves as a diffuser. The slot is an inexpensive, yet effective way to hold the LEDs inside the tube.
As you can see, the LEDs are conventionally mounted on the pc board. It’s interesting to contrast this approach with the LED module approach used in the previous tear-down of the Hollywood Lights T8 LED retrofit lights. (To save you clicking back, here’s the Hollywood Lights module close-up.)
The Hollywood Lights approach is a more reliable, manufacturing-friendly approach, while the FEIT LEDs are the cheaper approach. But the FEIT is, after all an inexpensive shop light, while the HL light is a high-CRI dimmable indoor light. Different horses for different courses.
In summary, the FEIT light is a good candidate for your garage, workshop, or barn, and is backed by a good guarantee. For a medium CRI, non-dimming light, it’s my favorite shop light to date.