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, and the Cree LS series Surface Ambient light.
Next on my list of T8 florescent tube LED retrofit lights is the Hollywood Lights (HL) lamp. The HL is a retrofit version — meaning that you will need to have your existing T8 fixture re-wired to remove its fluorescent ballast, and direct-wire it into the building’s ac mains. (Only take on this job on if you feel comfortable and competent working with ac building wiring. Otherwise, hire an electrician for the job, which will take about 10 minutes/fixture.)
The lights I tested have a clear cover; it also comes in a frosted version. I wanted the clear because, on average, you lose about 10% of your lumens when the light goes through a diffuser. In my house, most of the fixtures already have a diffuser, so no need to go with a frosted cover and lose all that light. If I didn’t have fixtures that incorporate a diffuser panel, I would go with frosted lamps because the individual LEDs have a pixelation effect that can be annoying.
|Hollywood Lights LED T8 tube lamps||T8 fluorescent*|
|lm/W||100 lm/W||77 lm/W|
|Claimed lifetime||75,000 hrs||24,000 hrs|
The HL’s specs are good: CRI </= 92 and 1900 lms per lamp, and cost a reasonable $
27 each. [UPDATE: Hollywood Lights is running a special deal where you can test the lights in a room/office — up to 12 tubes — for 30 days. If you want to purchase them, HL will sell those tubes at $27 each; after that they are $34.] In addition, this light has a unique feature for a LED tube replacement light in that it is compatible with TRIAC dimmer switches. Since I discovered how the expense of adding the control equipment for 0-10V dimming of LED lights when researching the Cree LS series dimmability, I have a new-found respect for TRIACs. I used to think TRIACs were electrically noisy and a crude way to dim a light, but I now understand the advantage of not having to string a separate line for dimming control information.
I used a fixture salvaged from the garage which has not only been re-wired to remove the ballast, but now has a power cord included so that it could run off of two kinds of dimmer switches: The older, and more common triac switch, with its round control knob, and the Lutron Mastro switch, which is intended for CFLs and LEDs rather than incandescent bulbs.
When used with a simple on-off switch, the lamps turned on instantly at full intensity and were silent.
Excellent TRIAC dimming
The HLs performed the best of any LED light I have used with the TRIAC dimmer, dimming almost all the way down with no flicker. There was a very faint buzz when on the triac switch, which disappeared when the lamp was a few feet away, as it would be when mounted on the ceiling.
I also tried the lights with the Lutron Maestro dimmer switch, even though the HL lights are only specified for TRIAC switches. After hunting around in the dimming range I was able to find a slight flicker with the Maestro, so if you already have a Maestro you may want to swap it out for a TRIAC dimmer. However, few people had their fluorescent lights on any kind of a dimmer circuit, so you’re probably installing one just for your new LED replacement lights. If that’s the case, go with the TRIAC switch for these Hollywood Lights.
OK, on to the light quality itself, as measured with a MK350 spectrometer with the MoreSpectra software from Moreland Lighting. These lights have excellent light quality, measured not only by their CRI of 90, but also by their R9 (red) measurement of 54 and R12 (blue) measurement of 62.
This is an interesting spectral power distribution (SPD). It almost has a notch in the yellow-green region such as you’d find in a light with an neodymium optical filter — like the Cree 13.5W TrueWhite bulb. (This post has an example of what this notch looks like in the Cree 13.5W bulb.) But there is no optical notch filter here — what you see is what you get, as we’ll find below in the tear-down photos.
Also, I’ve again taken advantage of the MoreSpectra software’s ability to overlay one light’s SPD over another. Look at the figure above for the HL lights and you’ll see a red line superimposed: This is the SPD for the Cree LS series light I reviewed a few days ago. As you can see from the red line, the blue spectrum is less strong and peaks at a shorter wavelength. This is excellent color quality, comparable to the Cree LS Series, but at a fraction of the price, and more cheaply dimmable to boot.
Hollywood Lights invests in its own LED packaging technique
So let’s see what’s inside these lights and see how Hollywood lights has been able to get such a rich light.
This photo show that the lamp is completely enclosed by a clear tube; some tube lamps have a separate cover for the lights that attaches to an aluminum heat sink on the back. The design also makes liberal use of connectors, which are more reliable than hand-soldering for mass production.
The first thing you’ll notice in a Hollywood Lights (HL) T8 retrofit LED tube light is that the LEDs are not the usual discrete LED mounted on a long thin pc-board. Instead, the HL’s internal LEDs come six to a module, where each module is a combination leadframe and heat sink. Hollywood Lights has applied for a patent on this, and calls it chip on lead frame/heat sink (CoLH.) The advantage of this approach is that the LEDs are much closer contact with the heat sink, allowing them to dissipate more heat and put out more light per Watt. In addition, modules makes for a more reliable packaging design, since there are fewer discrete LED components to be assembled and each additional component in a design in general increases the potential for failure.
Modularization of the LEDs and their lead frame/heat sinks also makes for easy, automated assembly, since each module snaps together with its fellow modules. This makes for not only easy assembly, but also repairability and even upgrading of the lamps, something that’s to be applauded in a throw-away culture.
Getting the green out
The LED modules are also tuned to color, with a noticeable dip in the green spectrum (as seen in the SPD figure above), resulting in its high CRI. What appears at first glance to be a single LED under its yellow phosphor cover is probably several different LEDs. This may be how the HLs are tuned for color, allowing for a combination of LED chips with different light characteristics that share the same phosphor in each yellow well.
The combination of excellent dimming, high CRI, and reasonable price make the Hollywood Lights an excellent choice for replacing your T8 fluorescents. Of the LED T8s I’ve tested so far, it’s my favorite.