The Four Best LED Flat Panel Light Fixtures
The simple fact that light emitting diodes are generally smaller than their incandescent and fluorescent predecessors allows for manufacturers of LED technology to design and implement a multitude of new shapes and forms for their latest light fixtures. 

As the very fundamentals of what constitutes lighting design shifts and changes with the market viability of LEDs, it is highly likely we are going to see more and more products challenging the status quo and trying out new designs. Many of these are going to be new takes on traditional lighting fixtures, but some will probably be fresh ideas that cleverly utilize the form and function of LEDs. Regardless, it’s an exciting time to be in lighting, and here at Shine Retrofits we want to guide you through the vast catalog of lighting products available today, helping you to find the best in new LED lighting.

One of the new lines of products that is reworking the very way we think about lighting fixtures is the LED flat panel category. These modern LED flat panel light fixtures are designed to be installed in applications where you would typically use a fluorescent troffer, as well as with some new applications designed specifically around their new dimensions, which are much flatter and more streamlines than many of the traditional fixtures used commonly in the past.

In a nutshell, these LED flat panel lights are going to change a lot of things in the industry. The big difference between a flat panel and a troffer is the depth of the fixture. While a typical fluorescent troffer will be around 3-4" deep, new edge-lit flat panels are around a half inch thick, which is a big difference when it comes to lighting fixtures. As you can imagine, this opens up many new possibilities in where you can place lighting in the various spaces in your building. If you’re looking for new fixtures that will redefine your lighting design, then edge-lit LED flat panels may be just the light for you. 

When making a decision between troffers and flat panels, you have to take stock of all the advantages and disadvantages that each product will offer you. That’s why we’ve put together a list of LED flat panel fixtures we think are the best on the market, helping you discern whether you want to try out the new technology or stick with the old troffer style of fixtures. First, we’ll address questions about the differences between the two types of fixtures.

Should I invest in an LED flat panel instead of an LED troffer?

ATG electronics iBright LED panel mounted to the ceiling The ATG Electronics iBright LED Panel seen here mounted directly to a drywall ceiling.

Since LED flat panels can be used to replace troffer fixtures, we figured it would be a good idea to follow up last week's post about troffers with this post about LED flat panel lighting options. Flat panels should be considered for every application where you would use a traditional fluorescent troffer. For those looking for LED drop ceiling lights, they also fit into that category, as most troffers are also designed to fit snugly into the drop ceilings commonly used in most offices.

Along with some other uniquely shaped flat panels, most lighting manufacturers are producing standard 1x4, 2x2, and 2x4 flat panels so that they can be used in drop ceilings. However, that is not the only application. These LED flat panel lights can also be mounted directly to a drywall ceiling, increasing the possible areas and rooms you’ll be able to use them in. Since they can be as small as 1/2" thick, there is no need to recess them. This fact also greatly expands the diversity of installation possibilities for LED flat panel fixtures. It is possible to mount these to a wall, under a cabinet, or suspend them from the ceiling. Alternatively, if you are simply replacing lighting in a drop-ceiling, flat panels work there too.

If you are looking for the thinnest fixtures(~1/2") then you will need a model described as "Edge Lit". The other option would be "Direct Lit", a model which tends to be closer to 4" thick. Some of these models come with an option to add an emergency backup battery, so keep that in mind for your mounting location, as that can impact whether or not you want to opt for the battery or not.

So, if your lighting project is for a room that is currently using troffers, consider the new flat panel technology as a viable and generally more energy efficient option. There are over 30 flat panel products available for purchase right now on ShineRetrofits.com, and more are being added every week. 

To make your shopping process easier, we polled our lighting-certified sales reps to find out which products they recommend first. They have firsthand experience with these products, and know the ins and outs of what makes them great, whether that’s efficiency, light quality, ease of installation, or a host of other factors. Here is a list of the four best LED flat panel fixtures currently available on the market today.

Want to view all the LED Flat Panels that Shine Retrofits offers? No problem, shop our LED Flat Panels here.


1. 3BL LED Flat Panels

Shop 3BL Flat Panels - Starting at $59.00 each

3bl led flat panel light fixture3BL offers what is by far the biggest variety of rectangular LED flat panel sizes on the market today. That means that no matter what size of fixture you need, you should easily be able to find a fixture to fit your existing grid ceiling. 3BL’s flat panels are about a half-inch deep, which compared to troffers is incredibly thin—so thin that you will barely even notice that these panels are not recessed. The benefits and applications of these lights doesn’t stop at grid ceilings though.. Their thin design allows you to mount them under cabinets, making them an effective kitchen counter light. Or, you can mount these panels on the wall to add a touch of contrast to whatever room or space you put them in. The best part is that the 3BL fixtures  start at just $59.00. That is about $30 cheaper than many of their troffer counterparts, making the investment in LED that much easier to justify. Plus, you’ll save money on every energy bill by switching to LED.

Edge or Direct Lit: Edge
Sizes Available: 2x2, 2x4
CRI: >80
Color Temperature: 4000K, 5000K
Lumen Output: Up to 8,250
Dimmable? Yes
Lamp Life: 50,000 hours
Efficacy(at full power): 110 lumens per watt
Warranty: 5 Year

 


 

2. MaxLite MLFP FlatMax Series

<maxlite led flat panel light fixture 2x4Shop MaxLite FlatMax Panels Now - $98.59 & Up

If you are in need an affordable option for LED flat panels that also offers built-in emergency batteries, go with MaxLite. These LED flat panel fixtures start at a low price, and you can include one of their emergency batteries for just $159.79. The MaxLite LED flat panels also come in both edge lit and direct lit options to suit your needs. 

If CRI (Color Rendering Index) is an important factor in your purchase decision, these MaxLite fixtures are going to be some of the best at 85. Plus, these MaxLite LED flat panels are designed to produce an even, shadowless light. They come in all the standard sizes and for every energy applications, from low wattage to high voltage. Also, they’re fully dimmable and can be combined with a variety of wireless lighting controls, helping you save even more energy down the road. All models are DLC standard, so you know that these are high quality fixtures you can rely on.

Edge or Direct Lit: Both
Sizes Available: 1x4, 2x2, 2x4
CRI: 85
Color Temperature: 3500K, 4100K, 5000K
Lumen Output: 3,430 - 4,567
Dimmable? Yes
Lamp Life: 50,000 - 103,000 Hours
Efficacy: Up to 101 Lumens Per Watt
Warranty: 5 Year

 


 

3. RAB Lighting Flat Panels


rab led flat panel 2x2 light fixtureShop RAB LED Flat Panels Now - $184.29 & Up

While not the least expensive option in our lineup, RAB Lighting offers one of the most reliable and functional LED flat panels available on the market today. These lamps lead the pack with a 100,000 hour lifespan and are built to last. 

If you have any question about the efficiency of the RAB fixtures, you’ll be happy to know that their LPW (lumen per watt) rating is among the highest in the field at 106. If you are lighting a living room or den area and want a cozy ambiance (instead of cool office lighting), the RAB flat panels are one of the few flat panels that offer a warm 3000K color temperature. Plus, these RAB fixtures also come with an emergency back-up battery option, so your building will remain lit even when the power goes out. When you depend on your lighting for your business to function, the emergency battery can be a lifesaver.

Edge or Direct Lit: Direct
Sizes Available: 1x4, 2x2, 2x4
CRI: 82-83
Color Temperature: 3000K, 3500K, 4000K
Lumen Output: 2,812 - 6,227
Dimmable? Yes
Lamp Life: 100,000 hours
Efficacy(at full power): Up to 106 lumens per watt
Warranty: 5 Year

 


 

4. ATG Electronics iBright LED Flat Panel Series


atg electronics ibright led flat panel light fixtureShop ATG Flat Panels Now - $100.00 & Up

If you need your LED flat panel fixtures to provide dispersed, bright light to your space, ATG is the way to go. Their iBright panel can produce a category-leading 7700 lumens from a 2x4 panel. While the intention of these is not to be high bay fixtures, it still might be your best option if you have some higher(~10 foot) ceilings. ATG is still able to do this while offering a 91 LPW fixture, which is an impressive feat.

ATG’s LED flat panel fixtures are often used in offices, schools, and community centers for their powerful, well-dispersed light. All in all, they are a dependable product that you can count on to provide you with both efficiency and performance.

Edge or Direct Lit: Direct
Sizes Available: 1x4, 2x2, 2x4
CRI: 85
Color Temperature: 4000K - 5000K
Lumen Output: 3,400 - 7,700
Dimmable? Yes
Lamp Life: 50,000 - 156,000 hours
Efficacy(at full power): 91 lumens per watt
Warranty: 5 Year

 


 

5. BONUS: CREE Essentia Series


cree essentia series led flat panels 1x4 2x2 2x4Shop CREE Essentia Flat Panels Now - $126.00 & Up

These products are new additions to the ShineRetrofits.com website, so we want to make sure to include the CREE Essentia series in this post. We have come to trust CREE products for their reliability and industry-leading quality. Most notable about the Essentia series is that they boast a 90+ CRI, one of the best in LED flat panels. 

If you need the most crystal clear light available from current LED flat panels (such as for a medical application), the Essentia series is perfect. Plus, some of their LED flat panels last up to 156,000 hours of use, which is one of the longest lifespans of any light on the market today.

Edge or Direct Lit: Edge
Sizes Available: 1x4, 2x2, 2x4
CRI: 90
Color Temperature: 3500K, 4000K, 5000K
Lumen Output: 3,400 - 5,000
Dimmable? Yes
Lamp Life: 50,000 - 156,000 hours
Efficacy(at full power): 100 lumens per watt
Warranty: 5 Year

 


Next time you are shopping for ceiling lighting troffers, consider LED flat panel fixtures instead. They can save space and are easier to mount in non drop-ceiling applications, such as on normal ceilings or under cabinets. Plus, you’ll probably save money on your energy bill by switching to LED. 

Do you need guidance while searching for LED flat panels or any other specific lighting project? Shine Retrofits has products for every possible application, residential and commercial, and our lighting-certified sales team is ready to take your call at 1-877-643-4534. We’re available anytime Monday through Friday from 6am to 6pm, Mountain Standard Time. Or, you can shop our entire selection LED flat panel light fixtures. Please let us know if you have any questions!