Philips Lighting has developed the InstantFit family of LED-based T8 tubes designed for direct installation into fluorescent fixtures without requiring removal of the fluorescent ballast. Philips hasn't formally announced the InstantFit product family, but distributor LED Source has the products in stock and is promoting the availability of what it calls a plug-and-play tube. As long as the fixture in question has an electronic ballast, the retrofit to solid-state lighting (SSL) is as simple as changing a tube.
InstantFit is not the first LED T8 retrofit tube on the market that will work with existing ballasts. As we covered in our article on the exhibits at The LED Show, Luxul Technology offers such functionality in the EazyLux line. Moreover, on our LEDs Magazine website, we covered an LED project at a famous burger restaurant in San Diego, CA in March 2012 that used Duracell LED tubes that worked with existing ballasts. Still, Philips Lighting is the first of the major lighting companies to offer such a product.
Philips executives have hinted at the imminent availability of the InstantFit technology going back to at least Lightfair. The company will likely make a formal announcement on the products in the coming days. But thanks to the LED Source announcement, we have many of the details.
The InstantFit tubes are rated for 40,000 hours of life and will deliver 41% energy savings relative to fluorescent T8 tubes. The tubes will come with a four-year warranty, and LED Source says they operate with no flicker or buzz and power on instantly. Philips will offer the tubes over a range of 3000K to 5000K CCT with a CRI of 83 across the range. Based on that CRI spec, the lamps should produce superior light to typical fluorescent tubes.
LED Source says that its close relationship with Philips led to the early announcement of InstantFit availability. "Due to our close partnership with Philips, we have been given early access to the InstantFit Tubes," said Marcel Fairbairn, founder and CEO of LED Source. "These are one of the first LED tubes on the market offering plug-and-play compatibility with existing ballasts. That reduces install costs to zero. In fact, it's less of a retrofit than a simple change of habit with huge benefits. We plan to market the new tubes heavily toward end-user clients and contractors, who will be able to immediately offer this new product to their own clients."
The real advantage of a tube that works with existing ballasts is the ability to phase in a transition to LED lighting. Companies that choose to install tubes requiring removal of the old ballast and/or installation of an external driver would tend to undertake an expensive renovation of an entire building or facility. The InstantFit tubes can simply be installed as the fluorescent tubes fail on what LED Source says is typically a 5000–10,000-hour cycle.