Fluorescent bulbs where once the most popular lighting fixtures in the world. You’ll find them in offices, warehouses, schools, residential, and industrial spaces, but as technology has progressed LED lighting has turned the tide.
If you look around your local shops or workplace, you’re likely to spot more CFL, Compact Fluorescent Lamp fittings than incandescent bulbs. But, LED lights have come of age with the phasing out of the fluorescent light fixture. The main reason for this change is the clear benefits that LED technology offers.
So, if you are pondering with the idea of converting fluorescent fixtures to LED lights in your office etc read on.
The differences are definitely beneficial, for example, they have a longer lifespan that ranges between 50,000 to 100,000 hours, they are a lot more energy-efficient, along with offering better light quality and lumen output while being cheaper to maintain and they also contain no mercury.
But… converting fluorescent light fixtures to LED bulbs is not always straightforward as the two technologies differ. You need to know the existing infrastructure first to ensure your fluorescent tube replacements are correct and fit. In other words, LED tubes will only work if they are compatible with your existing fixtures.
How To Convert Fluorescent to LED
In this guide, we highlight the important things you should know when replacing your fluorescent tubes with LED tubes.
Consider the LED Tubes Color Temperature
If you are going to replace fluorescent light with LED lighting you must take into consideration the color temperature. Color temperature measurement is in Kelvin (K) and most colors range from 2500 to 6500k. A lower Kelvin figure means the color is warm and tends to be closer to orange.
By contrast, a high Kelvin figure like 4000k means the color is cool and white in appearance. A Cool “white “ color is ideal for office and shop lights.
On the other hand, temperatures of above 5000k produce a glow resembling daylight. This lighting is ideal for spaces such as a garage, high-security areas, displays, etc.
Determine the Tube Sizes You Need
To find out the exact diameter of your fluorescents check the label situated at the end of your current tube. For example, the initial “T” means the fluorescent fixture comes in a tubular shape and the number next to the ”T” is the estimated diameter in inches. If you are unable to find the label for whatever reason, you can just measure to find the correct diameter size.
For instance, the more popular and often the best, T8 LED lamps have a one-inch diameter (1/8). While T12 LED lamps are 12/8 and T5 measures 5/8 inches. All these bulbs can be used vice versa so long as they share the same bi-pin connections on the base (the 2 pins at the end of the tube) and have the right milliamp (power supply) requirements.
LED Replacement Tubes
Many people convert to LED lamps because they have a much longer lifespan, are a brighter light and are a lot more energy efficient. Yet, replacing the fluorescent light fixtures can be a bit more complicated because the technologies are not compatible on their own.
Ideally, you would want to use the same fixtures due to cost and time considerations of changing the fluorescent fixtures. Unfortunately, sometimes there is no choice but to go through a costly conversion process before these newer tubes can work on the existing infrastructure. In a nutshell, these challenges are the reason why some people have been deterred from replacing their fluorescent fixtures.
LED technology has finally come of age when you consider the conversion choices we have today.
If you already have T8 fluorescent tubes and fixtures in place, it can be as simple as swapping those bulbs with LED bulbs without the need to do a ballast bypass as it has an Integrated Driver for use on Existing Fluorescent Ballast. so no rewiring is required. But, using an existing fluorescent fixture is not as efficient due to the ballast needing to be replaced before the LED itself, which is cheaper than having to replace the lamp holders but does mean slightly more maintenance.
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Here are 4 best LED replacement tube options you should consider. Remember, your choice will depend on your budget, preference and your current fluorescent fixture.
Direct Wire (Ballast Bypass Tubes) Tubes
This is the oldest way of replacing fluorescent tubes with LED bulbs. This option allows the user to bypass the use of a ballast circuit as the wiring passes through the line voltage instead.
Using this method, a commercial installation can have a high voltage of up to 277V, but, this can be dangerous if safety standards aren’t followed to the letter. If you are unsure about any rewiring required please use the services of a qualified electrician.
Organizations such as UL have introduced safety standards to help users replace their tubes safely.
If you need a full and extensive guide on replacing light tubes with the direct wire method, be sure to check out this epic guide on Atlanta Light Bulbs.
Non-Shunted Rapid Tombstones LED Tubes
Non-shunted rapid tombstone tubes are compatible with T12 sockets. They enable you to replace your LED lamps without any issues. but, if your fixtures work with T8 bulbs then you have to convert them to T12 first before LED tubes can be put in.
Although the wiring for this is simple it’s still important to employ an electrician for the task, especially when working on a commercial property. This method appeals to users with existing T12 lamp holders.
LED T8 Electronic Ballast Tubes
T8 tubes are probably among the most common tubes available, so swapping them with the latest and best LED T8 tubes has fortunately been made very easy.
Replacing your older lighting for the new LED fixtures and tubes with a better lumen rating can also occur via the T8 electronic ballast method, in this case, the tubes are compatible. This is a new way of converting that has become very popular due to the ease. You only need to remove your old bulbs before replacing them with LEDs so you will not be incurring the cost of replacing the old fluorescent fixtures.
Hybrid LED Tube Replacements
You can also take the option of replacing with hybrid LED tubes. These tubes work with T8 electronic ballast but can also be wired directly to the voltage line of the power source. They give property managers more options when replacing their old lighting system.
For example, if the electronic circuit fails, there’s an option to make a direct connection by bypassing the electronic ballast circuit.
Universal Compatible LED Tube Replacements
These are the newest LED tubes in the market. They are by far the easiest conversion option but will cost more than all the mentioned options.
They work with all your existing fixtures be it T12 (magnetic ballast) or T8 (electronic ballast). It’s easy to install them as you only need to pull out the old and fit the new.
We’re yet to review this product in full, but if you’re looking for the best of the best in universal fit tube replacements then check out the Philips LED Master on Amazon.
Choosing the Right LED Replacement Method
The mode of installation matters when converting your lighting system. You also have to know if your fixtures are T12 or T8 beforehand. The good thing is that the bulbs are labeled on the end or, if you can’t find the label, you can just measure the diameter of the bulbs to know the type you need.
Once you know the kind of tube, the next step is to find the type of ballas. T12 tubes run on magnetic while T8s work with electronic, while older fixtures also tend to have a magnetic ballast.
Frequently Asked Questions:
To help a little more, here we will answer the questions that we at LED Light Guides get asked the most. We hope it helps you when converting your fluorescent lighting system to LED.
Can I put LED bulbs in a fluorescent fixture?
The simple answer is yes you can put an led bulbs in a fluorescent fixture, but you must work out which type of fluorescent tube and fixtures that you have for your lighting.
With T8 tubes it can be as simple as take the old tube out and put the new LED in. But you must confirm the ballast compatibility. Remember, always turn off the power source at the breaker before opening lamp holders and removing the tubes.
How do you bypass an LED tube ballast?
To bypass an LED tube ballast is a few easy steps, but we would recommend that you use a qualified electrician. Although quite straightforward, it is electricity and the safety procedures must be followed to ensure correct fitting, do not put yourself or your staff and customers at risk.
- Most important Kill the Power Supply by turning off completely.
- Locate the ballast and cut the live (hot) and neutral wires.
- Remove the ballast from the lamp holder or tuck the wires away.
- Reconnect the wires.
THESE ARE THE BASIC STEPS ONLY PLEASE RESEARCH CORRECTLY BEFORE ATTEMPTING. Again, use the services of a professional especially if you are in a commercial situation with a lot of fixtures.
Do you need a ballast with LED lights?
No, you do not need a ballast with LED lights to regulate current. However, if you do use a direct fit the ballast will still use energy and add to costs. To have them at their most efficient a ballast bypass is required
How to convert 4ft fluorescent light to LED
Maybe you have a home office or kitchen and want to convert your 4ft fluorescent light to LED. If you purchase a UL Type A LED tube you can simply replace old for new, just make sure that the connections (bi pins on the end) for the lamp holders are the same.
As this is still using the old fixture without bypassing it will reduce the saving on energy to some degree.
We hope you now have a good understanding of the various fittings and are armed with the knowledge you need. Happy fluorescent to LED conversion.