The introduction of integrated LED bulbs in 2010 revolutionized the lighting market.
No longer are consumers simply choosing between different types of bulbs. They now also have a choice between integrated and bulb-ready fixtures.
Unlike traditional bulbs that can easily be detached from their fixtures, integrated LED bulbs are built into multiple electrical circuit boards. This means that it cannot easily be replaced if a bulb blows, especially not by the average person. Instead, the whole integrated fixture must be replaced.
Since the light bulb was first invented by Thomas Edison in the late 1870s, bulbs and fixtures have traditionally been manufactured as two separate entities.
So it’s easy to understand why integrated LED bulbs are being met with consumer skepticism.
But surely it’s not all bad news? Would manufacturers continue producing integrated LEDs despite them having no real benefits?
In this article, I’ll be delving into the world of integrated LEDs and putting them head-to-head with traditional retrofit bulbs. I’ll be discussing the pros and cons of integrated LEDs, their typical lifespan, whether they can be replaced, and why they might flicker.
Stay tuned to find out more!
What Does An Integrated LED Fixture Mean?
Put simply, integrated LEDs are all-in-one fittings that contain both a light source and an external fixture. They typically connect directly to mainline voltage without needing any other components or accessories.
Retrofit LEDs are standard bulbs that look similar to traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs and screw directly into existing fixtures.
Approximately 70% of light fixtures were using LEDs in 2017, with most of these being retrofit bulbs. However, integrated LEDs are quickly gaining traction, and they are expected to surpass retrofit lighting in popularity by 2022.
But why is this?
In the past, it made sense to manufacture light bulbs and fixtures separately because traditional lamps had short lifespans. Keeping the parts of the product separate allowed blown-out bulbs to be replaced without wasting a perfectly healthy fitting.
With LEDs, however, this is no longer the case. LED bulbs are and will not need replacing for many years. It’s more convenient for consumers, therefore, if manufacturers produce LEDs as complete, integrated fixtures.
Pros And Cons Of Integrated LED Fixtures
If it’s time to upgrade your home or property lights, integrated LEDs are a strong contender. Before you make a purchase, let’s weigh up the advantages and disadvantages.
Before we get to each point in more detail, here is the summary table.
Pro: Long Lasting
Integrated LEDs are a complete fixture. Not only are they made up of a higher number of components than retrofit options, but these are also designed to last, which makes them more expensive to produce.
Although the upfront cost of an integrated LED may seem intimidating, they will need replacing much less frequently than retrofit bulbs. After installation, there’ll be no maintenance to worry about for years. This means that integrated LEDs offer better value for money in the long run.
Arguably the main advantage of integrated LEDs is their convenience. You simply purchase one fixture and fit it in your home. You can then leave it alone for many years until it eventually dies.
This is an ideal solution for difficult-to-reach areas, such as the top of the stairs, where it’s hard to constantly replace blown-out lamps.
Pro: Modern Designs
Retrofit LEDs are limited in design as they have to be compatible with traditional light fixtures. This isn’t a problem for integrated lights, which means they can be designed in modern shapes and designs.
This is advantageous for areas without clearance between the ceiling and the floor above, as integrated LED fixtures can be much more compact than retrofit bulbs.
Whether you’re looking to purchase track lights, downlights, or troffers, the integrated LED versions are much more expensive than the retrofit equivalent.
Traditional LED track head typically costs between $25 and $75, but integrated LED track head costs around $110 to $350. This is a huge difference and suggests that integrated LEDs may not be suitable for those on a budget.
LED light bulbs don’t last forever. When an integrated LED bulb blows, it cannot easily be separated from the fixtures and replaced the same way that a retrofit bulb can. Even avid DIYers will struggle to find a solution.
Instead, the entire integrated fixture will need to be disconnected from the mains and replaced.
This ultimately puts an expiration date on the LED fixtures themselves, which may still be healthy when the diode dies. As well as being inconvenient, this is extremely wasteful.
Con: Lack of Customization
With retrofit bulbs, you can choose the exact shape, size, color, and wattage of bulb they want, providing it is compatible with their fixture.
This freedom is taken away with integrated fixtures, as manufacturers have full control over their features. They cannot be changed after purchase. This means it may be difficult to find a perfect integrated LED lighting solution.
You’ll still get a lot of the same technologies in both types of light though, including the options to find the right color temperatures for your space.
Lifespan of Integrated LEDs
Integrated LEDs are designed holistically. This means that all components are designed to be compatible with one another, which drastically increases their lifespan.
When it comes to longevity, heat is the number one cause of LED failure. Whether it’s integrated or retrofit, it’s important that LEDs have effective heat sinks that draw heat away from the diode and disperse it externally.
With retrofit bulbs, the efficiency of heat sinks is restricted since the lamps have to be compatible with traditional light fixtures.
But an integrated fixture benefits from design flexibility, which means they have much better heat management systems and can deal with heat dissipation more effectively.
For this reason, the average lifespan of an integrated LED is 50,000 hours. This is 20,000 hours more than the average life of a retrofit LED bulb, which has an average lifespan of 15,000 to 30,000 hours.
Are Integrated LED Lights Replaceable?
Unlike retrofit LEDs, integrated ones are built using circuits on board techniques. This means that if a diode in LED fixtures stops working, it cannot easily be removed and replaced.
So does this mean that an integrated LED has to be thrown away as soon as it stops working? No.
The first thing you should do is check your warranty. Manufacturers understand that LED bulbs are incredibly long-lasting, so they tend to offer a longer warranty period than with standard retrofit LEDs.
If the warranty is still valid, the manufacturer should replace or repair the faulty fixture.
When your warranty has run out, it may still be worth having a play-around with your fixture. Defective LED lighting can sometimes be revived quite easily.
This YouTube video may be useful:
Is An Integrated LED Faulty When It Starts To Flicker?
Integrated LEDs are intended to be a healthy, stable lighting choice. The compatibility of their internal components means that they are unlikely to flicker. Still, I understand that this may not always be the case.
The main reason that integrated LEDs flicker is due to voltage surges. All LED lighting operates at a very low voltage, so they come equipped with a transformer that reduces the electricity’s voltage.
As appliances in a circuit are turned on and off, the voltage is flowing around the circuit increases and decreases. Transformers are designed to protect against these fluctuations, so a flickering light suggests that the transformer is not working correctly.
This could be because the transformer is old or because there are many appliances in the circuit using a heavy power load. It may be worth calling an electrician to check that your electrics are set up optimally.
There is more to flickering than just a transformer, though. You can find much more information on flickering in my other post.
Despite being irreplaceable, integrated LEDs are a long-lasting and brighter alternative to traditional light bulbs and retrofit lamps. This makes them an attractive design choice for your home, office, and garden.
Over the next few years, I expect that the integrated LED market will take off. There will be a variety of purpose lighting with different design choices and innovations for customers to buy.
In fact, more and more manufacturers are starting to integrate LED technology directly into their lighting fixtures.
Have you ever tried to replace a bulb in your integrated LED light fixtures? Was it successful?
Drop me a message down below. It would be great to hear your input.