I replaced old bulbs with T8 LED and saved money and energy. I wrote this article to help others learn about the superiority of LED light.
My Case Study: LED Tube Lights Saved Me Money
The fluorescent light fixture in the laundry room of our house started to flicker horribly, turning our normally cheery laundry room into a room our kids called a haunted house.
I did some research and learned that, although the bulbs probably needed to be replaced, the ballast in our fluorescent light fixture was burnt out and also needed to be replaced. The replacement ballast would cost $30, and two new T8 fluorescent tube lights would cost $10.
Can you replace fluorescent bulbs with LED?
I'm a big advocate of LED lighting, and I wondered, can you replace fluorescent tubes with LED? The quick answer is: Yes, you can. I did some quick research on T8 LED fluorescent tube replacement and discovered I could save at least $20, since I would no longer need to replace the ballast, and the LED tube light would be at least 50% more energy-efficient than the already-efficient fluorescents, which would save me money in the future.
I immediately purchased the LED tube light and am very glad I did. Since I believe in paying it forward, I wrote this article to help others learn about the superiority of LED tube lighting compared to fluorescent tube lighting.
How to Choose the Right LED Tube Light for Your Fluorescent Light Fixture
LED tube lights come in many variations, and looking through all the options available can seem daunting. However, there are only three steps to choosing the right LED tube light.
3 Steps to Picking the Right LED
- Choose the right tube length (usually 4 feet)
- Choose the correct pin size
- Choose Ballast Compatible or Ballast Bypass
Measure the Pin Size of Your Fluorescent Light Fixture to Determine Whether You Need T8 or T5 LED Tube Light
To choose the right LED tube light, you'll need to know the pin size of your light fixture: T5, or T8. Most fluorescent ceiling fixtures in modern buildings are compatible with T8 pins: however, newer or recently retrofitted buildings may have the more modern T5 fixture.
Measure the tube diameter and / or distance between pins to be certain you need a T8 or T5 LED tube light before ordering your T8 or T5 led tube lights.
To determine whether you need a T8 or T5, either measure the diameter of the tube, or remove the bulb and measure the distance between the pins.
T5 Tube/Pin Size
T5 fluorescent tubes are 0.625 inches (16mm) in diameter. The connector pins on each end of a T5 fluorescent tube are 5mm apart. It's called a G5 base, since the pins are 5mm apart. T5 LED tube lights sold on Amazon will usually have "T5" in the name.
T8 (Including T10 and T12) Tube/Pin Size
T8 fluorescent tubes are wider in diameter, at 1 inch (2.5cm). The connector pins on each end of a T8 fluorescent tube are 13mm apart. It's called a G13 base, since the pins are 13mm apart. Note that older model T10 and T12 fluorescent tubes share the same G13 base as T8 tubes - so a T8 LED replacement tube light will work just fine in a T10 or T12 fixture.
Choosing the Right Light: Ballast Compatible or Ballast Bypass (Direct Line Voltage)
There are two main varieties of LED tube lights - Ballast Compatible, which work with the existing fluorescent fixture ballast in place, and Ballast Bypass, which require the ballast to be bypassed or removed. Choose a Ballast Compatible LED fluorescent tube replacement for a direct swap, plug and play led tube light.
Ballast Compatible: Very Easy Plug-and-Play Installation
Ballast Bypass type LED tube lights are extremely easy to install - just unscrew the fluorescent tube, and screw in the T5 or T8 led fluorescent tube replacement. They are true plug and play led tubes lights.
If the ballast in your light fixture burns out, Ballast Bypass LED tube lights can still operate, once the light fixture ballast is removed or bypassed. This is why they're sometimes called Universal - they work with a working ballast in place, or with the ballast removed, and powered directly by household wiring.
Ballast Bypass: Lower Cost but Requires Bypassing / Removing Ballast From Light Fixture
Ballast Bypass LED tube lights are slightly lower cost than Ballast Compatible LED tube lights, but require the light fixture ballast to be removed or bypassed before they can be used. The ballast is an electronic component which regulates the electrical current in fluorescent tubes. LED tube lights do not require a ballast, since they can be powered directly by household wiring (on any voltage between 75V and 280V).
Bypassing the Ballast Results in 20% Energy Savings
Bypassing the ballast has the added advantage of saving you money by being more energy efficient - a typical 4 foot long LED tube light will consume 22W if used with a ballast, but only 18W if the ballast is bypassed. This is true for both Ballast Compatible LED tube lights, which can be used with or without a ballast, and Ballast Bypass LED tube lights, which can only be used with the ballast bypassed.
T10 and T12 Fixtures Must Have Ballast Bypassed
Older T10 and T12 fixtures always require ballast to be bypassed, even when using a Ballast Compatible LED tube light.
How to Remove or Bypass Ballast
Removing or bypassing the ballast involves some simple re-wiring of the light fixture. This sounds intimidating, but is actually quite simple and can be done with common tools.
There are a few important considerations when removing the ballast, such as whether to use Double Ended Powered, or Single Ended Powered LED tube lights. It's important to follow a guide.
Below is a video demonstrating how to remove / bypass the ballast in your fluorescent light fixture:
Certifications and Qualifications to Look For
To be certain the LED tube light you buy has passed regulatory safety approval, look for the following qualifications:
- DLC qualified - makes eligible for state and nationwide rebate programs
- UL Certified - ensures light has been tested and approved by UL
Top 4 Reasons Why You Should Replace Fluorescent Lights with LED Tube Lights
- Save Electricity: LED tube lights are on average 30% more efficient than fluorescent. Furthermore, since many people replace 2 fluorescent tubes with 1 T8 led replacement tube, the electricity savings can be much higher.
- Longer Life: LED tube lights last 50,000+ hours before burning out, vs 30,000 hours for fluorescent tubes. Furthermore, unlike fluorescent, LED tube lights don't get dim as they age, and don't develop flickering or dark spots.
- Brighter, Better-Quality Light: Not only are LED tube lights noticeably brighter than fluorescent tubes, they also lack the flicker that many fluorescent tubes have. Most people report preferring the light quality of LED tube lights, which are available in multiple light spectrums from cold to warm.
- Mercury-Free, Not Fragile: LED tubes contain no toxic materials, unlike fluorescent, which contain mercury and must be disposed of carefully. Also, LED tubes are very sturdy, and won't shatter like fluorescent tubes.
My Personal Experience
Getting back to my personal case study, I ordered LED tube lights free shipping using Amazon Prime, and the lights were delivered to my doorstep about 36 hours later.
Here is a picture of just one T8 LED tube light, installed on the left, compared to two fluorescent tube lights, on the right. Even just one LED tube light is brighter than both the fluorescent tubes. The LED tube also seems brighter, and I don't notice any flickering. It takes about a second to warm up before it turns on, which doesn't bother me in the least.
Since one LED tube seemed as bright as two fluorescents, in the end I decided to install my second LED tube in my second fluorescent light fixture, replacing the two tubes that you see on the right hand side of the picture above. I probably wouldn't do this in other areas of the house, but since this is the laundry room I don't mind the asymmetry, and love the reduction in the energy consumption of the fixture from 178W when it used fluorescent tubes, to 32W, using just two LED tubes.
So, if you've ever wondered "Can you replace fluorescent tubes with LEDs?" The answer is yes, and there's no reason not to order some today.
Is LED Tube Light Expensive?
When LED tube lighting began to become available on the market, the prices were prohibitively high. But today, the prices are low enough that, with energy savings and much longer service life, the price of led tube light pays itself off quickly.
The 4-foot LED tube light price, in particular, is lower than it's been in years, thanks to the popularity of 4 foot fluorescent ceiling fixtures in office and commercial buildings. T8 LED tube light price, for example, is as low as $10 per tube on Amazon, which is roughly double the cost of a T8 fluorescent tube. But, the LED tube will save about $5/year in electricity cost. So, replacing fluorescent bulbs with LED now can result in net savings within one year, and saving money for years in the future.
Questions & Answers
Question: After cutting off all wires close to the ballasts when replacing fluorescent tubes with a T8 LED tube light, where do the wires that are connected to the white and black wires come from?
Answer: Something to keep in mind is that the LED tube light installation is much simpler than the original fluorescent tube light and ballast. The house wiring that comes to the fixture should have two wires (white and black, or both white - since they are AC, there is no difference between them). One of those wires should connect to one end of the LED tube light, and the other wire should connect to the other end of the LED tube light. If the house wiring isn't long enough, you can use Twist-on wire connectors (aka Marettes) to add some extra wire. Make sure the Twist-on wire connectors are inside the light fixture to meet building code. Make sure to check the type of your LED tube light - some LED tube lights are single-ended, meaning the two wires of the house wiring attach on the same end of the LED tube light. But most LED tube lights are double-ended. Check out this diagram for another reference to how the LED tube light should be installed in the fluorescent fixture: https://www.tricksabout.net/wp-content/uploads/201...
Question: Can a T8 LED Tube Light be installed without the ballasts?
Answer: Great question - and the answer is yes, an LED tube light can be installed in a traditional fluorescent tube light fixture, without the ballast. The existing fixture does need to be rewired to bypass the ballast, but this is relatively easy to do, with some basic tools such as wire clippers and twist on wire connectors (also known as Marrettes). For more details, please see the video on my article under the "How to remove or bypass ballast" heading: https://dengarden.com/home-improvement/Everything-...
Bypassing the ballast in a tube light fixture has the advantage of being more energy efficient - you can expect to save another 5 - 10% of energy use per fixture. For industrial applications with many light fixtures, this amount of savings adds up quickly.
Question: After installing the compatible LED in a shop light, the LED light goes out after about 10 minutes and the ballast metal box is hot to the touch. What could be causing this?
Answer: It sounds like there is something faulty going on here. Without seeing it in person, I can't say what the exact issue might be, but if I were in this situation I would probably think it was due to a faulty ballast. If you have the skills to remove and bypass the ballast, and if your LED tube lights are the type that will work without ballast in addition to being ballast compatible, that might be worth a shot!
Question: I recently bought a T5 LED bulb to replace a fluorescent in our small downstairs toilet, the vendor stated you need to remove the old starter for this tube to work. I did this, plugged the new one in and seemed to work fine. However since then it works very intermittently and seems to be getting worse, sometimes it will come on if you tap the tube but most times only after you've switched it off/on a few times. Any ideas?
Answer: It's hard to say without seeing the application in person, but the fact that tapping on the LED tube seems to help it work might indicate a fault with the particular LED tube light that you purchased. If it's still under warranty, I'd recommend seeking a replacement. Keep us posted with your progress, in case other readers are experiencing the same issue.
Question: In the paragraph under ballast compatible LED tubes heading, you used ballast bypass in the paragraph body. I reread and assume the ballast compatible are the ones that work with and without the ballast. I have several ceiling lights in my garage that are plugged into ceiling outlets. Do you know if both types of bulbs work in a fixture that is not direct wired but plugged in instead?
Answer: Whether the light fixture is hardwired to the house power, or powered from being plugged into an outlet shouldn't matter. The question is whether the light fixture has a ballast or not. If the light fixture previously had fluorescent tube lights, then it definitely has a ballast, and you would need to use ballast compatible LED tube lights (or, modify the light fixture to bypass the ballast, in which case you could use a non ballast compatible LED tube light).
Jan H28655 on August 18, 2020:
What is the garage fluorescent light is one pin and it takes a T12 bulb how do I replace that with an LED ?
Liz on July 07, 2019:
When I installed the T8 tube, the LED light flickered very badly. What must I do?
Randy Switt on June 12, 2019:
Jamie, your page is excellent. The one quibble I have is in your answer to one of the questions above:
"But most LED tube lights are double-ended. "
I found out the hard way that, at least in my town, double-end powered LED tube lights are non-existent (I checked Lowes, Home Depot and Sam's Club). The only linear LED bulbs they carry are either ballast compatible (i.e. ballast required) or single-end powered. I even had the franchise owner at a specialty store (Batteries+Bulbs) argue with me that they didn't make double end powered bulbs as that didn't make any sense, after I returned the single end powered bulbs they had sold me the day before as double end powered.
I ended up ordering Hyperikons similar to the one's you got (4000K instead), which should get here tomorrow.
Jamie Graham (author) from Ladysmith, BC on May 27, 2019:
Hi David, Thanks for your comment! I totally get what you're saying, and I found that out personally when I attempted my first ballast removal / bypass. There were a lot more variables than I'd expected, such as my ballast having three wires instead of two like in the simple diagram from the tutorial I was following.
Overall, I do highly recommend getting the ballast removed, for the extra energy savings, but I agree it is definitely best to have an electrician carry out the work.
David s on May 26, 2019:
Jamie I've read a lot of articles that make this look really simple and it is if you have a good basic understanding of electricity. If you've never replaced a ballast as part of your electrical experience, you probably should hire an electrician the first time around who can explain why you check for shunted fixture and why you would choose single ended or double ended. Many of the shops (ie Home Depot, Lowes, etc.) I dealt with tried to sell me ballast compatible LED instead of a ballast bypass bulb. Thanks for answering the questions and trying to steer folks in the right direction when you dont have the answer.
Vince on May 19, 2019:
Great work, most clear, complete, safe, explanation-instructions i have found anywhere
Jamie Graham (author) from Ladysmith, BC on May 14, 2019:
Hi Eugene, thanks for your question.
It does sound like the ballast is going (or gone).
As far as I know, ballast compatible LED tube lights will NOT work with a burnt out ballast, only with a working ballast.
However, as you've probably already ascertained, it is possible to completely remove the ballast and wire the LED tube lights directly. I would highly recommend going this route rather than replacing the ballast.
Best of luck and please come back if you have more questions.
Eugene Moyer on May 13, 2019:
Having issues with 4 ft, 2 bulb fluorescent light fixture in laundry. I replaced bulbs & may work for awhile, but later have to flip light switch 4-5 times for light to come on. It’s Not the light switch, so I’m guessing it’s the ballast? If the ballast is going bad, WILL THE BALLAST COMPATIBLE LED Light bulb work (even tho ballast is not working)? Thank you!
Brat on December 24, 2018:
After replacing 4 florescent bulbs with Sylvania Substitube LED 48" 32w T8 bulbs, it turns on instantly and stays steady. However they flickers after turned off for few seconds. Existing Ballast is instant start electronics. The question is why it is flickering after turning off and not stop instantly?
Jamie Graham (author) from Ladysmith, BC on June 25, 2018:
Hi MarieHub, thanks for reading my hub and for your eagle eyed editing! However, I can't seem to find the double "ballast bypass", could you please copy / paste the entire sentence with the grammatical error?
MarieHub on June 24, 2018:
in the "Ballast Compatible" section, you've inadvertently written 'ballast bypass' twice.
Jamie Graham (author) from Ladysmith, BC on April 30, 2018:
Sorry to hear you're having a frustrating experience. To help you troubleshoot, could you please give me some more information about your install, such as which LED tube lights you used and whether you bypassed the ballast or not?
If you havn't bypassed the ballast, the issue could be that the ballast is burnt out. The good news is, the ballast can be removed and the LED tube lights can be used without a ballast (plus, it's actually more energy efficient without the ballast).
Cathy on April 29, 2018:
Replaced my florescent bulbs with T8 4 Ft LED. They are on, but very dim...like night lights :-(
Jamie Graham (author) from Ladysmith, BC on February 01, 2018:
Sorry, I don't quite understand your question about the shunted fluorescent lights.
RE your question about whether your light fixtures are too old to use, I think that even an old fixture will work as long as the ballast is bypassed, and the pin size of your LED tube lights matches the pin size of the fixture.
jim on January 31, 2018:
i went to homedepot bought different bulbs talk to one guys work in deparment said he put bulbs in his lights they work do.u. think my lights are to old thanks for your help.
Jamie Graham on January 31, 2018:
Sorry to hear it's not working, that must be frustrating. The fact that the bulbs blink when plugged in makes me think it is something to do with the wiring.
Is your LED tube light double ended, or single ended? If you could post a link to the light you bought, that might help.
Do you have any electrician friends who could take a look at the wiring in person?
Jamie Graham (author) from Ladysmith, BC on January 30, 2018:
Did you bypass the ballast in the light fixture? Can you show me a picture of your wiring, and also the link to the LED tube light that you used as a replacement for the fluorescent tube light?