Energy Efficiency Makes Us Hoppy
lincoln park

Beer can be pretty energy intensive. Lifting a 16 ounce glass repeatedly…bicep really feels the burn, amiright…

No but really kids – tons of energy input to create that delicious beverage that we love so much. We got two categories – thermal energy and electrical energy. According to the EPA and the Brewers Association, “Thermal sources average 70% of the energy consumed in the brewery…but only accounts for 30% of the actual energy cost.” (Read more of that here)

Energy Consumption in Breweries

That means the remaining 70% of the cost of producing yummy fizzy goodness can be mitigated. Hooray!

There are some insane opportunities out there to drastically reduce the energy used to power things like the walk-in cooler where they store the silver vessels of golden goodness. Easy peasy with some super cool EC motors with Evaporative controls. Walk-in cooler (and freezer) strip curtains are also available through the energy efficiency programs and can save up to 2974 kilowatts per hour annually. In normal person terms, that’s about 2,974,000 watts or picture 49,567 light bulbs that are in 60w incandescents – which, of course, we can’t condone. (330,444 LED bulbs but that’s just an insane amount bulbs to imagine.)

Other than the chilly place the kegs live, there is a lot more savings to be had in replacing older lighting with new efficient LED lighting, installing occupancy sensors and much much more.

Where Are the Best Places for Linear LEDs in Commercial Offices?
sales commission structure

Let me turn the tables a bit and ask you a question, buster. Do you currently have linear fluorescent fixtures in your office lighting? You do? Well badda bing bada boom, there you go.

You have successfully identified the absolute best place for linear LEDs. And ya know what else, smarty pants? You have also identified the worst place for linear fluorescents. Two birds. One stone.

I have heard people comment about how fluorescent lights give them a headache or bothers their eyes. Doesn’t sound crazy at all. Think about it. A fluorescent light is a big ol’ tube filled with gas molecules jazzercising over your head. Those excited little electrons are bouncin’ all over the place. As those suckers age, you are going to get an annoying flickering of light and a change in color. Not to mention a hum as soothing as your 7 year old niece learning the recorder.

A linear LED, however, is made up of a strip of little dots housed in something that’s almost identical to a fluorescent T8 lamp. Each dot contains something like a little teensy weensy toy train track. And, just like that track your neighbor needs to stop playing with because he’s an adult, the train runs the same direction every time along the same path. Pretty predictably. Electrons are doing the same thing on each one of those little dots. Running a very consistent route. Unlike your neighbor’s track, which gives off weird smells from those liquid engine smoke drops, these dots give off a steady light. No flickering. No color change with age. And best yet, no hum.

Do You Need a Ballast for LED Lights?
ballast for led lights

The water fountain spigot kind of acts like a ballast in this situation. A ballast regulates the current that’s coming at a lamp. It gives an initial burst just to get things going, then it makes sure the electric current is controlled and steady. Not getting the lamp’s shoes all wet. A ballast for LED lights is not required – instead a driver is required.

There are two types of ballasts we deal with for existing fluorescent lights- magnetic and electronic. The difference is the mechanism they use to transform the incoming voltage.

  • Magnetic ballasts – heavier than bad news on a rainy day. Average 3.5 lbs. These bad boys are also why you associate a “humming” noise with fluorescent lights – they have a transformer consisting of a magnetic core and wire wrapped around it.
  • Electronic ballasts – use solid state circuitry to operate – no hum. Lighter and more efficient, they have been encouraged by energy efficient legislation dating back to the late 80s.

Alright so now that we know fluorescent lamps are like toddlers that need their food blended before they can eat it, what about LED lamps?

LEDs are from the future! Surely they don’t need an archaic metaphoric blender!”, you say.  LED lamps and fixtures use a different type of power source, in what is referred to as an LED driver. 

Type A – ballast for led lights compatible

Can LED lamps work off of existing ballasts?  Yes, if they have an internal driver than can work off that ballast.  Philips, for example, has designed a tube that is compatible with an existing electronic ballast. Cue buzzword plug-and-play. Super cost effective because it brings down the labor cost of changing the fixture.  This is referred to as a Type A lamp, and can come with a $4 to $5 Instant Discount.

This solution is ideal for well maintained electronic fluorescent ballasts.  If ballast are less than 10 years old, or there are staff on hand that can change a ballast, this is a good opportunity.  Energy savings can be achieved quickly, with lower labor and material costs.  

Type C – Driver, not ballast for LED

If you don’t have tubes that are compatible, then you will need an LED driver.  You do not need a ballast for LED lights, but instead a driver.  This is called a Type C application, with a tube and driver that work together.

Verde often uses this approach to replace T12 magnetic ballasts, as well as older T8 systems with aging electronic ballasts. The Type C system will typically last 70,000 hours in a system, so there is a huge benefit to replace the entire system at one time.  This can be more expensive due to the higher labor costs, but this can at times be offset by incentives from the local utility.

Type B – Hard wire to socket

Finally, there are hard wired fluorescent LEDs, which take 110v electricity right to the socket.  These lamps have a driver inside the tube.  These are called Type B applications.

This system approach is increasingly popular around the country, as it removes a failure point (ballast or external driver) from the equation.  However, it is commonly faced with safety concerns, and has less incentives available in some utility programs.


So, the moral of the story, kids….you’re going to need some way to control the current coming into your LED tube. It all depends on the type of tube ya got.

Can You “Plug & Play” with Led Tubes?

Tube LED or not Tube LED…That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to change a ballast or….I’ll stop there.

When staring at a fluorescent fixture you will typically be staring at either T8 or T12 tubes.

Few distinctions:

  • T12 fluorescent tube – Big dude. Diameter of a delicious sausage. Invented around 1930s (Yup. That’s how advanced they are.) Needs to run off of a magnetic ballast.
  • T8 fluorescent tube – Much skinnier than it’s cousin. More like a hot dog if we’re going to stick with the cylindrical food analogies. Popular in the US starting in the early 1980s. Runs off an electronic ballast.

The difference in ballast, among some other logistical differences, is a key actor in whether or not you just“plug and play” with an LED retrofit or if you have to completely change everything when retrofitting.

Things that can’t run off of a magnetic ballast:

  • T8 tubes
  • LED tubes (TLEDs)
  • Your cat

PSA: Mixing cats with electricity is not condoned by Verde Energy Efficiency Experts or their employees.

Some people try to just stick a T8 next to a T12 and let me tell you….your T8 is not going to be happy about that. Anytime you need to retrofit a T12 fixture you are always going to take that magnetic ballast out of there.

On the other hand, if you have yourself a T8 situation, that means there’s an electronic ballast in there. The least labor-intensive option for you then is to get an LED tube light that can run off of an electronic ballast. In the biz these are called TYPE A. Type A’s are easy – look at the ends of the tubes in the picture. You can see how it could easily fit where a T8 once lived. Similar looking ends, similar tube diameter. Type A tubes can live a happy life running off an electronic ballast.

Their cousin is the TYPE C tube. The Type C can only be happy if it’s got an LED driver in place of a ballast. Once you remove a magnetic ballast then you can put an LED driver in its place and get yourself some good ol’ Type C LED tubes.

2019 IL Grant Guide

If you’re lighting up your business with T12 or T8 fluorescents, you might be qualified for a utility rebate or incentive!It all starts with a FREE assessment. Or, if you live and work in Chicago and care about energy efficiency and sustainability, join Environmental Chicago and be a part of the movement.