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PL Lamps: What Are They and How to Find the Right One

PL Lamps
PL Lamps

This post has been updated from its original 2013 version.

PL fluorescent lamps have been in the conservation game for a while. Specifically named for the original creator/manufacturer, this lighting solution is both easy on energy consumption while being a bit complicated to understand. To take the guess work of it, here are a few facts about PL lamps.

A Philips Brainchild
Philips Lighting took fluorescent lamps into their own hands with the development of PL lighting, twin-tube fluorescent lamps typically found in non-residential settings (office buildings, retail stores, schools, etc.). Other versions of the lamp come in triple and quad tubes and some can be used for more than just lighting, such as germicidal lamps – lamps used for disinfection.

All About the Base
PL bulbs are pin-based, with either two or four pins, and installing them requires a pin-based lighting fixture. There are many base types, like GX23, with the different names representing the pin configuration of the lamp. In order to find the right lamp for installation/replacement, check the base for details of the type, pin configuration, wattage and light color.

Lamp Brightness
The brightness level of PL lamps is determined by lumens, which measures how bright a bulb is. This is different than wattage, which measures the energy output of a lamp. PL bulbs have the upper hand on incandescents because they use up less energy to display the same or a higher level of brightness. For example, a GX23 PL bulb displaying 840 lumens uses only 13 watts of energy while the incandescent version uses 60.

Color Temp: Warm to Daylight
PL bulbs shine in varying light colors. From warm white to daylight, the specific temperatures are:

  • 2700k – warm white
  • 2500k – soft white
  • 4100k – cool white
  • 5000k+ – daylight

Maximum Overall Length
Sometimes a little more information is required to properly install/replace PL lamps. Some fixtures have size limitations known as the maximum overall length (MOL). To find the length of PL bulb, measure from the base to point of the bulb.

Though PL lighting has been around for a while, this cost-effective, energy efficient lamp continues to grow. With a life span between 10-13x their incandescent peers, PL bulbs don’t need to be replaced as often, and (thankfully) you won’t want to.

Maxlite 8W PL LED G24Q 3000K 8PLG24QLED30
Maxlite 8W PL LED G24Q 3000K 8PLG24QLED30
TopStar LED Horizontal Lamp 6W 4000K G24Q PLC18HG24Q-840-06P-P2-EB
TopStar LED Horizontal Lamp 6W 4000K G24Q PLC18HG24Q-840-06P-P2-EB
Maxlite 6W PL LED GX23 4000K 6PLGX23LED40
Maxlite 6W PL LED GX23 4000K 6PLGX23LED40
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CFL to LED Conversion for Pin Lamps

This post has been updated from its original version.CFL to LED Conversion for Pin Lamps

PL lamps, given their name by their originator, Philips Lighting, have been in the game for many years now. These pin-based lamps are widely used and installed in a variety of fixtures, from recessed cans, outdoor fixtures, and ceiling fans, to table lamps and wall sconces. They’re used in both residential and commercial buildings across the country. Like most energy efficient lamps, these were first introduced in compact fluorescent format. While CFLs will always be the better choice over incandescent lamps, by considering CFL to LED conversion, you’ll discover an entirely new range of benefits. Just think of it as leveling up.

Dollars and Sense

For starters, let’s look at wattage. The wattage amount used by a bulb measures how much energy it consumes to illuminate the room. LED PL lamps that use only 12 watts of energy can replace CFL PL lamps that consume 26 watts. By switching out just one bulb, you’re cutting the energy consumption, and equally the costs, for that one bulb by more than half. LED lamps have been made to replace 13, 18, 26 , 32 and 48-watt CFL bulbs.

In addition to saving money long-term, LED technology is such that it removes the glow and flicker that is so commonly associated with fluorescent lighting. The LED lights provide instant-on lighting, and warm up in no time at all. While CFLs typically come with a 5 year warranty and 10,000 hour lifetime rating, their LED counterparts have warranties upwards of 10 years, and are rated to last 50,000 hours on average.

Battle of the Ballast

When shopping for PL lamps, you may notice some are labeled Plug and Play while others are labeled Ballast Bypass. Plug and play lamps attach directly into the socket of your fixture and operate using the ballast that’s already there. No additional wiring is required, making the transition both smooth and simple.

Rewiring is necessary to install ballast bypass LED PL lamps, as the existing ballast has to be removed. They are, however, a great choice for anyone wanting a lamp that will call for less maintenance. Each type is available in horizontal and vertical design for illumination in both commercial and residential environments.

Bulb Base and Basics

PL lamps come in multiple color temperatures and either a 2-pin led bulb or 4-pin led bulb configuration. All have a base of either GU24, G24 or GX23. You’ll want to pay careful attention to these details in order to avoid getting the wrong bulb for your fixtures. They come in color temperatures that range from the warm 3000K to a cool 5000K. The warm, or soft glow at the beginning of the spectrum is ideal for living areas. The cooler light is what is typically found in office buildings, schools, and hospitals. Once you’ve chosen your wattage, ballast, base, and color, you’ll be good to go! You’ve already switched from incandescent to CFL. Now committing to CFL to LED conversion just got a little easier.

Maxlite 8W PL LED G24Q 3000K 8PLG24QLED30
Maxlite 8W PL LED G24Q 3000K 8PLG24QLED30
TopStar LED Horizontal Lamp 6W 4000K G24Q PLC18HG24Q-840-06P-P2-EB
TopStar LED Horizontal Lamp 6W 4000K G24Q PLC18HG24Q-840-06P-P2-EB
Maxlite 6W PL LED GX23 4000K 6PLGX23LED40
Maxlite 6W PL LED GX23 4000K 6PLGX23LED40
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Comparing the 13W GU24 Bulb to Incandescent Bulbs

This post has been updated from its original 2012 version.

Compact fluorescent lamps use significantly less energy than incandescent bulbs, and use energy to produce only light. In comparison, incandescents use a great deal of energy, with the majority of it being used to create heat. There are a variety of CFL bulbs available, with the GU24 base gaining in popularity. The 13w GU24 bulb is a great compact fluorescent replacement for 60 watt to 75 watt incandescent bulbs throughout the home.

When choosing to replace an incandescent light with a GU24 compact fluorescent, it is important to know a few basic facts about the bulb you are planning to buy. Let’s get into the major differences between these two types of bulbs.

Incandescent Bulbs

Energy used to create light: 10%
Energy used to create heat: 90%
Standard power used in a home: 60 watts to 75watts
Base type: Screw in, pin base

GU24 Bulbs

Energy used to create light: 100%
Energy used to create heat: 0%
Standard power used in a home: 13 watts
Base type: GU24

The GU24 base means the bulb has two pins protruding from the bottom that twist and lock only into a GU24 fixture. Also differing from incandescent lights is how light brightness is determined. The amount of light emitted from an incandescent bulb is determined by the amount of energy it uses. The brightness of a compact fluorescent GU24 is measured in lumens. This is how a 13w GU24 bulb with 950 lumens can replace a 60 watt incandescent bulb, and use approximately 78% less energy to do so.

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Maxlite 9W LED Omnidirectional A-Lamp GU24 A19 3000K 9A19GUDLED30
Maxlite 9W LED Omnidirectional A-Lamp GU24 A19 3000K 9A19GUDLED30
Maxlite 9W LED Omnidirectional A-Lamp GU24 A19 4000K 9A19GUDLED40
Maxlite 9W LED Omnidirectional A-Lamp GU24 A19 4000K 9A19GUDLED40
Green Watt 9W GU24 LED 5000k G-L4-A19D30C-9W-50-GU24
Green Watt 9W GU24 LED 5000k G-L4-A19D30C-9W-50-GU24
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What is an Omni Directional LED Bulb?

This post has been updated from its original 2014 version.

Omni Directional LEDs

Before the introduction of Omni Directional LED Bulbs, Single Directional LEDs seemed to be the ultimate answer to our energy efficient needs. But despite their brightness and power saving capabilities, single directional LEDs fail to offer light that spreads out in more than just one direction. While regular single directional LEDs project light to around a 230 degree angle, the Omni Directional LEDs give out light in a 270 to 300 degree angle. This pattern of light makes them well suited for anywhere that non-directional light is needed.

 

Omni Directional LEDs offers the same level of energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of the tried and true single directional LED. Both offer a long lifespan between 25,000 and 50,000 hours. Both are recyclable as they contain no chemicals that are harmful to the environment and are mercury free. The main difference between the two comes in the form of their ability to spread light. Single Directional LEDs lack the ability to light from all sides of the bulb, emitting light from only the top half. Omni Directional LED Bulbs emit light from the entire bulb, creating a more vast space of light. This ability to spread light in more than just one direction makes them LEDs perfect for a variety of purposes including residential, commercial, and industrial properties. These LEDs offer instant startup as well as the ability to dim anywhere between 10% and 100%. Though, like standard LEDs, the price upfront is a bit higher, you can be sure that with 78% less energy being used and a significantly longer lifespan, you’re saving money in the long haul.

When it comes to updating your incandescent or CFL bulbs to something a bit more energy efficient, Omni Directional LED Bulbs are perfect for the job. Because of their ability to spread light, these become a truly effective replacement for incandescent lamps at a variety of wattages. We no longer have to sacrifice quality of light for energy efficiency with Omni Directional LEDs you can have both. This one for one replacement makes the switch from incandescent to LED a breeze. In the same way, they are good replacements for CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) as well. With a three to four times longer life, much quicker start-up, and a spread out range of light, these LEDs are a great alternative to CFLs. If you’re in the market for an energy efficient LED with a wider illumination pattern, then Omni Directional LEDs might just be the right fit for you.

Shop for Omni Directional LED Bulbs>>>

Earthtronics A19 9W 810 Lumens 2700K Dimmable LED
Earthtronics A19 9W 810 Lumens 2700K Dimmable LED
Earthtronics A19 6W 810 Lumens 2700K Dimmable LED
Earthtronics A19 6W 810 Lumens 2700K Dimmable LED
Earthtronics A19 11W 1100 Lumens 2700K Dimmable LED
Earthtronics A19 11W 1100 Lumens 2700K Dimmable LED
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Understanding Circular Fluorescent Bulbs

This post has been updated from its original 2013 version.

These round bulbs pack a few more features than their fun design suggests, and if you are not savvy to the ways of circline lamps you may have a hard time incorporating them into your home’s lighting. To fully understand and get the best out of circular fluorescent bulbs, keep the following four facts in mind.

Pay Attention to Wattage

Just as with (the soon to be gone) standard incandescent light bulbs, circline lamps use wattages to measure how much power is used to light a bulb. By comparison, circular CFL bulbs emit the same amount of light (lumens) while using less power than incandescents. A circline light bulb of only 13 watts can replace a 60 watt incandescent bulb and has an output of 650-900 lumens. The wattage of the bulb also determines the diameter of the bulb which in turn determines if it will fit the fixture. So unlike standard spiral CFLs you may not be able to go up or down in wattage range because it will affect the size of the bulb possibly rendering it unusable with your fixture.

Color Temperatures Are the Same as Standard CFLs

Color temperatures represent how bright a bulb is. Circular fluorescent bulbs can range in color from warm white to the brightest daylight just like standard compact fluorescent lights. Color specifics are all varying shades of white:

  • 2700K: Warm, equivalent to what is typical in a bedroom or living room
  • 3000-3500K: Soft, suitable for bathrooms
  • 4100K: Cool, florescent-like in color
  • 5000K: Daylight, the brightest color, like sunlight at noon

Circular Bulbs Cannot be Used in Just Any Fixture

This is where using a circular CFL can get tricky. Depending on the manufacturer, some light fixtures only use bulbs from their own line. Yeah, I know it can be tempting sometimes to go with an off/generic brand, but in this case your generic circline lamp may not work in the fixture. When replacing a Circular Lamp, first make sure that there are no manufacturer specifics determining what bulb can be used. Next, determine what the lamp type (e.g. T6 , T9) and pin type is (e.g. 2 pin, 4 pin). When finding the right lamp for your fixture, you have to choose the same lamp type and pin types as these are not interchangeable.

Diameter Matters

For light fixtures that use circular CFLs, bulbs that are too big or too small will not work, even if it is from the right manufacturer. Make sure to replace circular fluorescent bulbs by measuring the diameter of an existing bulb then purchase the right size. If you would rather leave measuring alone, you can also use the manufacturer model number to find a replacement bulb.

While there is more to be taught and learned about circular CFLs, these four facts alone will allow you to make informed purchases and hassle-free replacements. See, it doesn’t take much to become savvy to the ways of circline lamps.

Shop for Circular Bulbs>>>

TCP 32020 20W T9 4-Pin Circular Lamp 27K
TCP 32020 20W T9 4-Pin Circular Lamp 27K
TCP 58W T-6 4 Pin Circular Lamp CFL Bulb 3205841K
TCP 58W T-6 4 Pin Circular Lamp CFL Bulb 3205841K
Philips 22w T5 4 Pin Circular CFL Bulb TL5C-22W830-1CT/1
Philips 22w T5 4 Pin Circular CFL Bulb TL5C-22W830-1CT/1

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Difference Between LED MR16 vs. GU10 vs. PAR16 Bulbs

This blog has been updated from its 2015 version

The main difference between a LED MR16, GU10, and PAR16 light is that the bases are different. Both MR16 and GU10 use pin bases that look and work differently. This is done so that bulbs do not get confused during installation. Since MR16 bulbs run on only 12 volts, they need external transformers to convert the building’s main 240 voltage supply to the 12 volts needed to run these bulbs. On the other hand, GU10 based bulbs can simply be plugged in and are ready for action. Some MR16 bulbs also come with other pin bases such as GU5.3.

As far as MR16 vs. PAR16, the main difference is the size, variety, and heat. Unlike MR16 type halogen bulbs which have dichroic glass reflectors, the PAR bulbs have aluminized glass reflectors which direct the heat generated by the bulb to the front of the bulb. Because of this, PAR16 bulbs are usually not suitable for ceiling installations of 8 feet or lower. PAR16 bulbs also produce more directional yet duller lighting and have a standard, medium screw-in type of base and work in medium sized E26 sockets. MR16, on the other hand, generates heat to the rear of the bulb and produce a lot more light for the wattage because of the multi-faceted reflector (hence, MR).

Although these three types of bulbs are different and should not be confused for correct installation, they will all save energy and minimize replacement and maintenance costs. Switching to any of these bulbs today can show you savings in as little as one year!

Shop for LED GU10, PAR16 and MR16 Bulbs>>>

Green Watt G-GU53-7W-30EP25 7W 25Deg GU5.3 MR16 LED 3000K
Green Watt G-GU53-7W-30EP25 7W 25Deg GU5.3 MR16 LED 3000K
Green Watt G-GU10D-7W-30EP-40 7W Dimmable GU10 MR16 LED 3000K
Green Watt 7W Dimmable GU10 MR16 LED 3000K 40 Degree
TCP LED712VMR16V27KFL 7W Dimmable 40Deg 12V MR16 LED 2700K
TCP LED712VMR16V27KFL 7W Dimmable 40Deg 12V MR16 LED 2700K

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Understanding the Difference Between a PAR 30 and BR 30 Bulb

This post has been updated from it’s 2012 version

Being namesakes of their halogen and incandescent counterparts, PAR 30 and BR (or R) 30 LEDs are the green solution to outdoor and indoor lighting. Though they bear some similarities, understanding their differences will help you make better decisions about which one of these bulbs works best for your needs.

Angles
BR (for bulged reflector) bulbs are lamps with “wide flood” beam angles, which means that they provide more than a 45 degree angle when lighting an area.

PAR (short for Parabolic Aluminized Reflector) bulbs are available in these angles:

  • Narrow spot, 5-15 degrees
  • Spot, 16-22 degrees
  • Narrow flood, 23-32 degrees
  • Flood, 33-45 degrees
  • Wide flood beam, over 45 degrees

Similarities
Though PAR 30 bulbs offer more options for lighting, both PAR and BR LED lamps are made to easily replace the energy-stealing halogen and incandescent lights. Because of this, both bulbs have the same medium (E26) base for North American sockets.

The numbers after PAR and BR, like 30, stand for 1/8th of an inch. To find the diameter of the lamp, just divide the number after it by 8: e.g., the diameter of a BR 30 bulb is 30/8ths of an inch, or 3.75 inches in diameter.

Lighting and Application
BR30 light bulbs deliver soft-edged, directional light and can typically be found in general household light fixtures, recessed can lighting, and/or track lighting. Their lighting is less precise and produces less shadow than PAR bulbs, but they are great for fixtures that use dimmer switches.

PAR lamps deliver strong, narrow to wide, directional light. They are traditionally used outdoors as aircraft landing lights, security lighting, or indoors for concerts, movie production, and theater.

Similarities
PAR and BR bulbs share the same voltage of 120VAC and have the same Kelvin degree color code as all light bulbs:

  • 2700K (warm white)
  • 4100K-5000K (cool white)
  • +5000K (daylight color)

One of the most popular is models is the BR30 LED 2700k

Energy Savings and Average Bulb Lifetime
Some LED PAR 30  bulbs offer nearly 90% in savings in comparison to halogen bulbs. They emit low heat, and can last for up to 70,000 hours.

BR-shaped LED lamps are much cheaper than PAR LED lamps, but they have a lower average lifetime of 25,000 hours.

Similarities
Up to 25% of your energy bill is being burned with traditional light bulbs, and though the specifics may differ, switching to energy efficient lighting throughout the home can save you tons off your energy bill.

Further, with longer bulb life than their halogen and incandescent friends, both the PAR and BR LED light bulbs last longer and therefore require less changing.

These differences and similarities are also applied to other Par/R combinations as well, such as the Par20 and R20 LED bulbs. When searching for the perfect PAR or BR light bulb for your fixture, be sure to keep in mind the different angles, lighting, cost, and average bulb lifetime.

Shop for LED PAR30 and BR30 Bulbs>>>

BR30 8W LED 2700K
Maxlite BR30 8W LED 2700K 8BR30DLED27
Dimmable LED PAR30 10W 3000K Long Neck
Maxlite Dimmable LED PAR30 10W 3000K Long Neck
11W Dimmable Par30 Short Neck 2700K
Greenwatt 11W Dimmable Par30 Short Neck

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What is a Ceiling Occupancy Sensor

Ceiling Occupancy Sensor High Bay SensorOne of the easiest ways to save energy when it comes to lighting is to simply turn the lights off when leaving a room. While this sounds simple enough, it’s also one of the easiest tasks to forget. As time goes on, lighting technology continues to advance. Also advancing is the technology being used with light bulbs and fixtures. Installing a ceiling occupancy sensor or a high bay sensor is a quick way to start cutting energy use and costs in any building, especially in commercial spaces that undoubtedly consume more energy than residential properties.

How do sensors work?

The sensors use what is known as passive infrared technology (PIR) that turn lights on and off based on two factors: ambient light levels and occupancy. As long as the ambient light is at a certain level, the sensor will keep the lights from turning on. They can also be set to turn the lights on and keep them on as long as occupancy, or movement, is detected. After the allotted time has passed, or no movement is picked up by the sensor, the lights will be turned off.

Where should I install it?

Buildings with high energy usage, such as hotel locations, warehouses, and other commercial and industrial buildings are ideal spaces for occupancy sensors. No intense or extremely difficult programming is required. The sensors are designed to be compatible with standard lighting systems. Additionally, they are programmed to work with CFLs, LEDs, and new fixture/retrofit installations.

How much can I save?

In buildings with high energy usage, lighting accounts for up to 25% of all energy that is being used. The sensors have been tested by the manufacturers to ensure they not only perform at the highest quality, but will last for years. Installing the ceiling occupancy sensor and the high bay sensor saves not only energy and money, but also helps add to the overall lifetime of your lights, as they’ll no longer be in use when they don’t need to be. Installing sensors leads to automatically reduced energy consumption, energy costs, and your carbon footprint.

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Retrofitting Parking and Canopy HIDs with LED Canopy Light Fixtures

LED Canopy Light Fixtures
LED Canopy Light Fixtures

For many business, indoor lighting is one of the most important decisions to be made. Equally important, however, should be how the outside is illuminated. For potential customers passing the building at night, or walking through the parking garage, the outside will be their first impression of your establishment. While HID lamps have been the standard outdoor lighting option for years, LED canopy light fixtures help provide many options to create a safe and inviting environment while greatly reducing both energy use and lighting costs.

Light Distribution

LED manufacturers made sure to provide many options to address a myriad of commercial lighting needs. The LED fixtures are available in two different types: Parking Garage Distribution and Canopy Distribution. The lamps also come in different shapes (round and square) to make the switch simple. The shapes allow multiple choices for mounting: ceiling, arm, and wall mount to name a few. HID lamps generally emit a somewhat orange light color. Their LED counterparts however, provide a cool white light. This gives them a much brighter appearance, and helps foster feelings of safety and comfort where installed.

Switching and Saving

Regardless of where the new lights are being installed, you’ll want to make sure the old ones are being properly replaced. LED canopy light fixtures are available in 20 to 53 watt options as replacements for the following HID lights:

  • 20W LED – 100W Metal Halide
  • 30W LED – 150W Metal Halide
  • 40W LED – 175W Metal Halide
  • 53W LED – 250W Metal Halide

The LED technology allows these lamps to use such low amounts of energy while still maintaining brightness. This is because the brightness is not dependent on wattage, but lumens. The higher the lumen count on a lamp is, the brighter the light emitted from will be. Further opportunities for savings are realized through dimmable and motion sensing lamps. By installing the LED canopy light fixtures, you’ll be cutting energy usage per fixture by up to 80% and as a result, energy costs.

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Does Ballast Compatibility Matter When Choosing LED T8 Lamps?

Plug and Play LED T8Traditionally, fluorescent T8 linear lamps have been used as the main light source in commercial buildings such as hospitals, warehouses, schools, and more. LED T8 lamps are quickly replacing their fluorescent counterparts. The LED technology provides higher efficiency, many color and lumen options, and sizes. Advancements in lighting capabilities have also led to more options for installation. When deciding on which lamps to replace your fluorescent T8s with, one of the main things to consider is the ballast type. Knowing the difference between a Plug and Play LED T8 and a Ballast Bypass T8 will make the process of switching even easier.

Type A

Ballast compatibility absolutely matters when the LED lamp you’ve chosen is of the UL Type A variety. The Plug and Play LED T8, also referred to as direct fit, is the easiest of the two types to install. This lamp works directly with the existing ballast to quickly replace the fluorescent T8. While this is the simplest installation method, the LED lamp must be compatible with the ballast of the fluorescent it is replacing in order for the new lamp to work. The makers of the LED T8 typically provide a list of compatible ballasts. Make sure to check out this list before purchasing your replacement lamps.

Type B

LED lamps classified as ballast bypass, direct wire, or UL Type B do have a more involved installation. As a result, it is best to hire an expert electrician to complete the process. The Ballast Bypass T8 does just that. The technology of these lamps works straight from the line voltage that flows through the sockets.The process of retrofitting fluorescent fixtures for this LED type entails the removal of any electrical ballasts as well as verifying non-shunted sockets are in the fixture. The initial installation costs of the lamp is made up for by getting rid of the maintenance costs the ballast would otherwise need.

Both Plug and Play LED T8 and Ballast Bypass T8 options provide as much as 40% more savings in energy use and costs when compared to fluorescent lamps. Having an understanding of how the ballasts impact your fixture, installation process, and overall maintenance can help you better choose which lighting option will work best for you.