Can You Replace Fluorescent Tubes With T8 LED Tube 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? 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:
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, 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.
The lights I purchased: 4FT T8 Ballast Compatible LED tube lights by Hyperikon, with a 4.8 out of 5 rating
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.
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...Helpful 13
Can a T8 LED Tube Light be installed without the ballasts?
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.Helpful 10
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?
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!Helpful 8
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?
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.Helpful 5