BR Shape LEDs or Wafer LEDs to replace recessed can lights?

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Educating customers about energy efficiency and optimal lighting within homes and commercial spaces is a big part of my job. The debate between using BR-shaped LEDs as a simple bulb replacement or opting for integrated wafer LEDs for a complete retrofit has become increasingly relevant. Both options offer all the LED advantages in terms of energy savings, quality of light, and longer life hours. This article explorers the pros and cons of installation, helping you make an informed decision for your lighting needs.

BR-Shaped LEDs: The Bulb Replacement Option  

Ease of Installation: Compatible with existing recessed can light fixtures. LED form factor design (same shape as an incandescent) make BR LEDs an easy plug-N-play solution. No wiring and no electrician needed. BR-shaped LEDs present a lower upfront cost compared to LED wafer retrofits. If you plan into the future, you are only replacing the bulb for light bulbs burn out, even GoodBulb’s will eventually need to be replaced.

The BR30 does have limited design and aesthetic options, constrained by the shape of their body in a recessed can. This may not align with the modern, sleek, and slim line specs we see on many lighting projects. Some customers don’t want to see a bulb, they want that flat panel to be flush with the ceiling because they believe it looks nicer and yes, it does look good.

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Integrated Wafer LEDs: The Retrofit Solution

  • Sleek Design: Integrated wafer LEDs offer a modern, slim profile that can give any space a more updated look. Their design is especially beneficial in spaces with limited ceiling space where traditional recessed cans might not fit.
  • Better Light Distribution: Integrated wafers are designed to provide a more uniform light distribution, flush with the ceiling, and minimizing shadows. 

My kids rooms used to have one light in the center of the room and it just wasn’t bright enough. I was able to cut 6 inch holes into the ceiling drywall, piggy back off the existing line voltage, select the lumens and color of light, then snap the Integrated LED wafers into the holes. The finished product is a sleek 6-inch panel fixture that is flush with the ceiling. It looks good and now they have plenty of light.  You can install wafers anywhere you can connect line voltage.

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Higher Initial Cost: The cost of purchasing and installing integrated wafer LEDs is higher than replacing bulbs, especially if you need professional installation. If you are not comfortable working with electricity, hire an electrician. I was zapped once while installing wafer LEDs in my children’s bedroom and the clips that mount the wafer to the drywall hurts when it snaps back on your fingers. Be careful during the installation process and make sure to shut off the power.

Complexity in Replacement: This is the most significant drawback to wafer LEDs retrofits and it’s why I will never use them to replace the existing recessed can lights in my home. When an integrated LED fixture fails, the entire fixture must be replaced, which is more complex and costly than screwing in a bulb. Integrated LED fixtures are going to be an environmental disaster in 5 to 7 years when they start burning out.  Rather than recycling a bulb, we need to dispose and replace an entire fixture.

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  •  The choice between BR-shaped LEDs and integrated wafer LEDs depends on a variety of factors, including budget, aesthetic preferences, and installation considerations. BR-shaped LEDs offer a straightforward, cost-effective solution for upgrading to LED lighting without the need for modifications. Integrated wafer LEDs provide a sleek, versatile lighting solution, at the expense of a higher initial cost and more complex replacement procedures. 
  • Ultimately, your decision should align with your long-term lighting goals, considering both the functional and design aspects of your space. Whether you prioritize ease of replacement or improved light distribution, there's an LED solution that meets your needs and want to help.
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