Can You Replace Fluorescent Tubes With T8 LED Tube Light?

Updated on July 17, 2017

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.

I'm a big advocate of LED lighting, and I wondered, can you replace fluorescent tubes with leds? I decided to do a quick search on Amazon for T8 LED fluorescent tube replacement. I 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, saving 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.

There are many LED fluorescent tube replacement benefits, including lower energy consumption, longer bulb life, and brighter, flicker free light. T8 led tube light benefits.
There are many LED fluorescent tube replacement benefits, including lower energy consumption, longer bulb life, and brighter, flicker free light. T8 led tube light benefits.

Top 4 reasons why you should replace fluorescent lights with LED tube lights

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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 on Amazon can seem daunting. However, there are only three steps to choosing the right LED tube light:

Choosing the right LED tube light: 3 steps

  • 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 LED tube light type, either measure the diameter of the tube, or remove the bulb and measure the distance between the pins.

To determine your LED tube light pin size, measure the diameter of the fluorescent tube, or remove the tube from the fixture and measure the distance between the pins.
To determine your LED tube light pin size, measure the diameter of the fluorescent tube, or remove the tube from the fixture 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 Step #2: 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.

For almost all cases, Ballast Compatible LED tube lights are a better choice, due to their extremely easy installation. However, Ballast Bypass LED tube lights are lower cost, but require the ballast be bypassed.
For almost all cases, Ballast Compatible LED tube lights are a better choice, due to their extremely easy installation. However, Ballast Bypass LED tube lights are lower cost, but require the ballast be bypassed.


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

LED tube light before / after

Here you see my single installed LED tube light, on the left, and on the right, two T8 fluorescent tube lights. Even just one LED tube light is comparable in brightness to two fluorescent tube lights.
Here you see my single installed LED tube light, on the left, and on the right, two T8 fluorescent tube lights. Even just one LED tube light is comparable in brightness to two fluorescent tube lights. | Source

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.

Price of LED tube light lowest in years

Fives years ago, 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.

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

  • 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?

    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...

Comments

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    • ApplePro profile imageAUTHOR

      Jamie Graham 

      3 months ago from Ladysmith, BC

      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?

    • profile image

      MarieHub 

      3 months ago

      in the "Ballast Compatible" section, you've inadvertently written 'ballast bypass' twice.

    • ApplePro profile imageAUTHOR

      Jamie Graham 

      4 months ago from Ladysmith, BC

      Hi Cathy,

      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).

    • profile image

      Cathy 

      4 months ago

      Replaced my florescent bulbs with T8 4 Ft LED. They are on, but very dim...like night lights :-(

    • ApplePro profile imageAUTHOR

      Jamie Graham 

      7 months ago from Ladysmith, BC

      Hi Jim,

      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.

    • profile image

      jim 

      7 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Jamie Graham 

      7 months ago

      Hi Jim,

      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?

    • ApplePro profile imageAUTHOR

      Jamie Graham 

      7 months ago from Ladysmith, BC

      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?

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