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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The lights I purchased: 4FT T8 Ballast Compatible LED tube lights by Hyperikon, with a 4.8 out of 5 rating
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.