How To Convert Fluorescent Tube Lights to LED

Fluorescent tube lights are the most popular lighting fixtures in the world. You’ll find them in offices, warehouses, schools, residential, commercial and industrial spaces.

In fact, if you look around your home or workplace, you’re likely to spot more CFL fluorescent tubes than incandescent bulbs any time. But, LED lights have come of age and are phasing out fluorescent. And the main reason for this change is the clear benefits that LED technology offers.

For example, LED lights have longer lifespans that range between 50,000 to 100,000 hours. They are also energy efficient, offer better light quality, are cheap to maintain.

But… converting fluorescent to LED tube lights is not always straightforward since the two technologies differ a lot. This means, you might want 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 all the important things you should know when replacing your fluorescent tubes with LED tubes.

Consider the LED Tube Color Temperature

Converting Fluorescent to LED

Colour temperature is the first factor to consider when changing your overhead lighting. Colour 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 offices and workspaces.

On the other hand, temperatures of above 5000k produce a glow resembling daylight. These colors are ideal for spaces such as a garage, high-security areas, displays, etc.

Determining Tube Sizes You Need

To find out the exact size of your bulb, check the label situated at the end of your current fluorescent tube. If you unable to find the label for whatever reason, you can use the diameter of the bulb to estimate size. The initials “T” means the bulbs come in tubular shape and the number next to the T implies the estimated diameter in inches.

For instance, the more popular and often best LED T8 tubes have a one-inch diameter (1/8). While T12 implies the diameter is 12/8 and T5 means the diameter measures 5/8 inches. All these bulbs can be used vice versa so long as they share the same bi-pin base and have the right milliamp requirements.

LED Fluorescent Replacement Tubes

Many people convert fluorescent to LED because they have a shorter lifespan, have poor light rendering and are not energy efficient. Yet, replacing the tubes is a bit more complicated because fluorescent and LED technologies are not compatible on their own.

Also, most people want to use the same fixtures due to cost and time considerations. As a result, they have no choice but to go through a costly conversion process before LED tubes can work on existing infrastructure. In a nutshell, these challenges are the reason why buyers have looked down upon LED technology in the past.

But LED technology has finally come of age when you consider the fluorescent to LED conversion choices we have today.

Here are 4 best LED fluorescent replacement tube options you should consider. Remember, your choice will depend on your budget, preference or circumstance.

Direct Wire (Ballast Bypass) LED Tubes

Direct Wire LED Tubes Ballast
Image source: LightingSupply

This is the oldest way of replacing your fluorescent tubes with LED. 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, which can be dangerous if safety standards aren’t followed to the later.

Luckily, organizations such as UL have fortunately introduced safety standards to help users replace fluorescent 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 Start Tombstones

Non-shunted rapid tombstone tubes are compatible with T12 sockets. They enable you to replace your LED tubes without any issues if the existing fixtures are T12. Nonetheless, if your fixtures only work with T8 bulbs then have to convert them to T12 first before LED tubes can be replaced.

Although, the wiring for this kind of installation is simple it’s still important to hire an electrician for the task, especially when working on a commercial property. This method appeals to users with existing T12 fixtures.

LED T8 Electronic Ballast Tubes

LED T8 Light Tube

Fluorescent T8 tubes are probably among the most common tubes available, so swapping them out with the latest and best LED T8 tubes has fortunately been made quite easy.

Replacing fluorescent lights with LED tubes can also occur via T8 electronic ballast method. In this case, LED tubes are compatible with the electronic ballast circuit. This a new way of replacing fluorescent tubes with LED tubes and has become very popular.

What’s more, the installation process isn’t complicated as far as fluorscent to LED conversion goes. You only need to remove your old fluorescent bulbs before replacing them. But, be warned that you’ll need to invest more money up front as well as hope the ballast circuit doesn’t malfunction.

See Our Top 10 Recommended LED T8 Bulbs →

Hybrid LED Tube Replacements

Hybrid LED Tube Light

You also have the option of replacing your fluorescent tubes with hybrid LED tubes. These tubes work with T8 electronic ballast but can also be wired directly to the voltage line. They give property managers more options when replacing fluorescent lights.

For example, if the electronic ballast circuit fails, there’s an option to make a direct connection after bypassing the electronic ballast circuit.

Universal Compatible LED Tube Replacements

Phillips Master Universal LED Light Tube

These are the newest LED tubes in the market. They are by far the easiest fluorescent to LED 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 fluorescent tubes before replacing them (YEY, right?).

We’re yet to review this product in full, but if you’re looking for the best of the best in universal fit fluorescent tube replacements then check out the Philips LED Master on Amazon.

Choosing the Right LED Replacement Method

The mode of installation matters when replacing fluorescent tubes with LED tubes. You also have to know if your fixtures are T12 or T8 before acquiring LED tubes. The good thing is that the bulbs have a label at the end. Though, if you can’t find the label then you have to look at the diameter of the bulbs to know the type of installation.

Once you know the kind of tube you’re supposed to install, then the next step is to find the type of ballast used. T12 tubes run on magnetic ballast while T8 work with electronic ballast. Older fixtures tend to have magnetic ballast.

Fluorescent to LED Conversion Fit Summary

Well I hope you now have a good understanding of the various fittings and are armed with the knowledge you need to go out and get what you need. If you have any questions about how to replace fluorscent tubes with LED tubes, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help.

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