Direct lit and Edge lit LED Flat Panels are all the rage these days for retrofitting ceiling lighting. They are particularly ideal for replacing in-ceiling troffers, and they come in many common grid sizes like 1x4, 2x2, and 2x4. That is not all they are good for though. New LED technology allows these flat panels to be very thin, down to a half inch. That means they can be mounted to walls and ceilings or suspended from cables. This new technology allows versatility that has not been available in the past.


Edge Lit or Direct Lit LED Flat Panels?

To just say that you want LED flat panel light fixtures is not enough. There are two options, edge lit and direct lit. They sound similar but there are some important difference you should know before making a purchase. Both of these options use the same technology that is used in LED flat screen TVs. If you had to sift through some articles about televisions before finding this one, we are not surprised!

The main difference that you need to know is that a direct lit fixture is illuminated by a light source that is at the back of the panel. For this reason, they are a bit thicker, usually around 3 to 4". Edge lit panels on the other hand produce the light from the sides of the panel. This allows them to be much thinner, around a half inch thick. This also lends to their versatility to be mounted on a variety of surfaces.


Edge Lit LED Panels - Thinner, "shadowless"

edge lit led flat panels can be suspended like this one Click the image to shop now for Edge Lit LED Flat Panels

The common design theme that you will see with edge lit flat panels is an aluminum housing around the edge of the panel. This is where the LED light sources live, and they pass light into the middle. In the middle, there is a medium that redirects the light to the surface of the light fixture. This creates an incredibly even light that has been deemed "shadowless". That is a bit of a misnomer since anything that blocks light will create a shadow. However, an edge lit flat panel throws light from such a broad area that the shadow is illuminated and does not appear.

Pros of Edge Lit LED Flat Panels

  • + Extremely thin - as thin as a half inch
  • + Can be mounted to surfaces or suspended
  • + "Shadowless" due to the broad area emitting the light

Cons of Edge Lit LED Flat Panels

  • - More expensive
  • - Use slightly more power than direct lit panels


Direct Lit LED Panels - More efficient, less expensive

direct lit led flat panels have a light source on the back Click the image to shop now for Direct Lit LED Flat Panels

Direct lit LED flat panels will look similar to an edge lit flat panel when mounted. However, when the panel is not mounted, you will notice the light source sticking off the back.  The LEDs are housed there, and they shine on to a light diffusing medium that is at the front of the panel. Since the light source is all in one place(whereas it is all around the perimeter in edge lit), direct lit flat panels are slightly more energy efficient. They are also a bit less expensive per unit, reducing your up front investment. Considering these cost savings and the fact that many buildings are looking to replace thicker ceiling troffers, and direct lit LED flat panels are often the better choice.

Pros of Direct Lit LED Flat Panels

  • + More energy efficient
  • + Less expensive
  • + Light is slightly more directional
  • + Very thin - not as thin as edge-lit but still far thinner than traditional troffers

Cons of Direct Lit LED Flat Panels

  • - Thicker - these cannot be mounted to a wall or ceiling like edge lit LED flat panels
  • - Light is not as even compared to edge lit LED flat panels


Need help choosing a good LED flat panel? See our post where our lighting experts pick their favorites. Or give us a call at 1-800-983-1315