LED Drop Ceiling Lighting Guide
Large indoor spaces often use drop ceilings as a cost effective and aesthetically pleasing form of ceiling finishing. This accomplishes several engineering purposes, namely to provide insulative properties while allowing access to things such as plumbing, ventilation ducts, electrical lines, etc. In order to provide lighting for these spaces, specially designed light fixtures are intended to seamlessly integrate into these drop ceiling systems.
Traditionally these drop ceiling lights were of the fluorescent type, using T12 and T8 size tube lights. However in recent years, LED technology has come to dominate the drop ceiling marketplace with various designs intended to replicate traditional fixture types. There are several reasons for this, namely the increased energy efficiency as well as longer service life and a higher quality of light produced. Drop ceiling lighting comes in various options to fit a range of different applications, as described below.
One of the first factors in selecting a drop ceiling LED lighting fixture is the dimensions or mounting size required. Drop ceiling lights typically come in 2’x4’ and 2’x’2 sizes, and it is obvious that knowing which size the ceiling requires is the first step in selecting a new fixture. Certain ceilings may require retrofitting in order to properly mount modern LED fixtures, especially if they use an odd sized ceiling tile arrangement such as a 6”x48” or 5”x84”. If a brand new drop ceiling is being installed, this takes any headache out of the equation due to the tile configuration being set up from the beginning to work with modern lighting.
Secondly, it is important to know the lumen requirements for the fixtures, which varies depending on application. In the past this was relatively simple, as the output of fluorescent tubes was normally measured in watts. However, due to the dramatically increased energy efficiency of LED technology, this is no longer a relevant or accurate way of measuring light output. Instead, lumen ratings are the standard of measuring a light's output, providing an equal comparison regardless of the technology used.
A factor that most do not consider is the color temperature of the light itself. In the past, this was pretty limited due to the range of color options available with fluorescent lights. However, with LED lights there are a range of color temperatures available, allowing the user to tailor the lights to each specific environment. This is hugely beneficial for retail and office environments where the color temperature used can have a significant impact on customer sales as well as worker productivity.
Drop-Ceiling Troffer Lights
Our LED Troffers provide an excellent replacement for existing fluorescents. A perforated lens guard coupled with a Flex-Diffuser™ emits an ultra-soft light that is ideal for computer work. Use X-Series LED T8 lamps for optimum light levels, while saving up to 60% over traditional fluorescents.
Current Annual Lighting Cost
LED Annual Lighting Cost
LED Retrofit Cost
Annual Savings with LED
Commercial Office Lighting
By far the most popular use of drop ceiling lighting is in commercial applications, especially large scale operations such as corporate offices. Efficiency and ease of maintenance is the name of the game in these facilities, which makes drop ceilings a default choice for any building manager or interior designer. The use of LEDs in these drop ceiling lights is hugely beneficial, in that it provides not only higher energy efficiency but also a longer lifespan - both of which can save tremendous amounts of money overtime.
In addition to this, LED lights offer significant improvements in lighting accuracy, which is measured using the Color Rendering Index. This has multiple benefits, the first being a more pleasant work environment due to reduced eye strain as well as the absence of flickering associated with fluorescent lighting traditionally used in these applications. The increase in visibility not only increases worker productivity, it also has a major effect on improving safety by reducing the number of accidents resulting from poor visibility and eye fatigue.
Drop-Ceiling Lights Layout Design
As with any lighting setup, it is important that drop ceiling lighting is configured properly with a custom designed photometric layout. This will result in the best possible setup, ensuring both maximum energy efficiency and lighting effectiveness. There are several factors that come into play when setting up a drop ceiling photometric plan, namely the lumen requirements of the specific application, as well as ceiling height and the physical dimensions of the area being illuminated.
When ceiling height is known, a fixture with the appropriate foot candle rating and beam angle to provide optimal coverage can be selected. The next factor playing into this will be room dimensions, which is a bit more tricky - especially for rooms with irregular dimensions. Simply using the square footage of a room to calculate the number of fixtures is not sufficient - instead, it is key that the fixtures are orientated in the most effective manner for the particular space. This can sometimes result in different size or wattage fixtures for certain parts of a room in order to provide optimal coverage.
Because of the variance in these factors and how they interact with each other in each unique application, designing the ideal drop ceiling setup is a complex task with significant amounts of planning and calculations involved. Recognizing the challenge this poses for end users and the importance of a properly designed lighting plan, we offer our own in-house professional photometric planning in order to ensure our customers end up with the most efficient and effective lighting solution for their specific application.
To illustrate our photometric planning capabilities, below is an example of a drop ceiling lighting photometric design for a commercial office space that our photometric experts created for a building manager. This plan is specifically designed for a 15’ x 20’ area, with a 10 foot tall ceiling, covering 300 square feet in total.
This plan not only covers details such as the applications foot candle requirements, but also the number of fixtures required to achieve this as well as their total lumen output, fixture wattage, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Do drop ceiling LED lights require modifications to existing ceiling setups?
Generally speaking, these are direct replacements for any existing traditional lighting fixture, with the same dimensions and attachment methods. For ceilings where additional fixtures will be added, then there may be modifications required such as additional wiring or the removal of existing ceiling panels or other obstructions.
Q. Is it possible to convert existing drop ceiling fixtures to LED?
Yes, this is a popular option many choose. There are multiple types of LED T8 tubes that are available, with ballast ready or ballast bypass options. This gives end users the ability to have direct drop in tubes for easy installation or to rewire their fixture for ballast bypass, simplifying long term maintenance and eliminating the need for ballast replacement. Certain tubes have special circuitry that allows them to function with or without a ballast.
Q. How far apart should drop ceiling lights be mounted?
There are multiple ways in which this can be determined, the most accurate and precise method involving a proper photometric study. This will not only determine the correct spacing but also the number of overall fixtures as well as their placement and orientation within an area. However, a basic rule of thumb for drop ceilings in the lighting industry is to divide the mounting height by two and use that resulting number as a guideline for spacing. For instance, a ten foot mounting height would result in fixtures spaced five feet apart.
Q. How do I install drop ceiling lights in drop ceilings?
This is a pretty straightforward process, as most drop ceilings use standardized 2x2 or 2x4 size panel grids which a troffer, flat panel or other type of drop ceiling light fits directly into. In certain cases, modification of nonstandardized drop ceiling grids may be required, and if there is no pre-existing wiring present then a qualified electrician or lighting contractor will need to go through and wire the drop ceiling lights.