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BSI Blog

Why Parabolic Troffers Need To Go

by Tracie Losch, BSI Lighting Designer

As a lighting designer, I am constantly faced with educating clients on why parabolic light fixtures are no longer the answer for general illumination.

Normally when presented with this question, my answer is “don’t even get me started…there are so many reasons.”  Over the course of my career, I have made it my mission to rid the corporate world of these “cave” creating fixtures.

Evolution of the Troffer

A little history on the evolution of the troffer:

  1. First, there was the prismatic lens fluorescent fixture.  Unfortunately these fixtures created a distracting glare on convex computer screens – imagine those big boxy computers that we used in the 80s and 90s.  In addition, these fixtures provided high, uneven brightness above the eye; while at the same time provided low lighting levels at the task surface.  These contrasting light levels caused eye strain, which resulted in headaches.
  2. Next parabolic fluorescent lights are introduced and they completely eliminate vertical brightness by pushing all the light directly down.  While this eliminated glare off the convex computer screens, it unfortunately created a “cave like” atmosphere.  When walls are not illuminated it will make the room feel dark and smaller than it actually is.  Many of these fixtures may be found in offices like yours.
  3. As technology changed, specifically, the development of anti-reflectance technology used on flat screen computer screens — light fixtures also changed.  Let’s remember. Parabolic fixtures were created specifically to direct light in a way that would not create a glare on convex computer screens.  With the elimination of convex computer screens, the need for parabolic lighting no longer exists. As a result, volumetric style fluorescent fixtures were developed to bring vertical illumination back into the space
  4. As LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes) were brought into the market, there have been dramatic changes.  We can now customize each and every space to meet ALL task, energy and budgetary needs.  We are able to provide general illumination levels in a multitude of ways and create environments that are functional, comfortable and enjoyable to work in.

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Why Upgrade to LED?

Take a look above you.  Many facilities still have Parabolic Fluorescent Fixtures.  These fixtures are known to create dark and gloomy spaces, and they are just not capable of creating the appropriate lighting levels for your space. Quality lighting allows users to function comfortably in an interior, feel safe in it, as well as, appreciate its aesthetic components.  In other words, a poor lighting scheme can have negative effects on its users and dull newly remodeled finishes.

There is a stigma out there that it is too expensive to upgrade to LED fixtures. Advancements in LED technology have allowed for a wide variety of fixture types to  provide general illumination — in affordable ways. LED fixtures allow you to save energy without compromising the aesthetic of the space, in fact, they enhance it!  Why spend the money to renovate your spaces if you are not going to light it properly?

Should I retrofit my existing fixtures?

Some professionals may suggest you retrofit your existing parabolic fixtures with LED tubes to gain energy efficiency, while “saving” money.  Why compromise your space with old lighting technology that was designed for computers that we haven’t used since the 1980’s?  Here is why I believe You Should not Retrofit Parabolic Fixtures with LED tubes.

Tour our Showroom

Proper lighting is essential for all work environments. Lighting has an affect on employee productivity and well-being.  I welcome you to tour our award-winning Design Center to see the multitude of ways that general illumination can be achieved without compromising the environment in which it is in.


BSI has been improving the way people work since 1947.  Our in-house professionals design, build and furnish interiors to create collaborative and inspirational environments.  Find out how you can improve employee wellness, increase productivity, and improve your office design with a complimentary lighting evaluation by our in-house Lighting Designer.

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