The Guide to LED Tubes by VIRIBRIGHT 

LED tubes are often used with office lighting, which can be used in both indirect and parabolic light fixtures. They work well in areas that are climate controlled that have standard heights for the ceiling, including storage areas, mechanic garages, and fabrication floors. The LED tubes are a great energy efficient alternative to fluorescent tubes. They are also featured with improved color rendering (CRI), burn out less frequently, and require overall less maintenance.

Tube Color Temperature

Color Temperature of light

Whenever you are installing or replacing your overhead lighting, it is important that you know about color temperature so that you have lighting that is consistent spanning the entire cover area of your space. Color temperature is rated on a scale called Kelvin (K) and color usually ranges between 2400k to 6500k. A lower kelvin value will mean that the light output is going to be closer to an orange or “warm” or “soft” tint. 4000k T8 bulbs are known for being “cool white” with a color output that is close to clear metal halides. This color temperature is recommended for workspaces and offices. 5000+ kelvin T8’s are the “daylight” equivalent with a glow that is bluer than traditional lighting. Daylight color temperature will be recommended for any high-security areas, garage and display areas. See the following image below as a reference.

Understanding Tube Sizes

Light Tube Sizes

The easiest way that you can tell the size of the bulb that you need is to read the label located at the end. If the label is missing or illegible, you can measure the diameter to determine the size. A “T” will stand for tubular shape and the number will tell you the bulb diameter in eighths of an inch. T8 will have one-inch diameter, the T5 will have a 5/8 diameter, and a T12 will have 12/8 inch or 1.5 inch diameter. If T8 and T12 have the same bi-pin base, then you can use the bulbs interchangeably using the same fixture just as long as you check the milliamp requirements for the ballast.

LED Fluorescent Replacement Tubes

There has been a high consumer demand for quality replacement products for LED, which brought about a lot of industry changes, starting with the introduction of the proper light output and safety standards. Much of the development stems from facility and building managers that are looking for ways to replace fluorescent tubes that are problematic with a longer life solution. There is more of a need for development to work on phasing out the T12 ballast technology, which has brought many people to look for solutions allowing for reuse of any existing fixtures without having to go through a costly conversion to a different technology. Replacement tubes for LED fluorescent options not only lacked any great light output, but the safety certifications were fairly non-existent. A lack of quality brought about early replacement solutions that unfortunately gave early buyers a poor impression of the technology for LED fluorescent replacement options.

LED Fluorescent Replacement Tube Options

There are currently four different kinds of options that are available in the marketplace:

Direct Wire or Ballast Bypass LED Tubes

The most commonly installed but also least expensive (and oldest) option is the direct wire or ballast bypass LED fluorescent replacement tube. Rather than building expensive circuitry within for the ballast to function, what this option does instead enables the ballast to be bypassed entirely by the user. At installation, it will run directly off of the line voltage. Interacting with the line voltage (which in commercial applications can be up to 277V) does cause potential safety hazards. Therefore, standards have been introduced by safety organizations like UL to ensure that the product can be safely installed. The result is that a majority of this category’s products must be installed so that the line voltage input is located in one of the tube’s sides.

Non-Shunted Rapid Start Tombstones

A unique requirement is introduced by this. It is required that the socket is a “Non-Shunted Rapid Start” or T12 type. You are fortunate if you already have a T12 fixture since that means you already have all of the necessary hardware. The input side sockets on T8 fixture must be changed over to “Non-Shunted Rapid Start” T12 sockets since there is a circular conductor in T8 sockets that don’t allow them to separate the line or the circuit’s neutral sides properly. Although the wiring is fairly simple and it only takes a few minutes per fixture to perform, it is usually recommended that this task is performed by an electrician. For commercial properties, this is required. Although the installation requirements for ballast bypass tubes are more complex, they have greater advantages. Their unit costs are lower compared to all other options. This is a very important consideration with large projects where each dollar really counts. For those users who have T12 fixtures, they are also very appealing since they have necessary socket hardware in place already.

T8 Electronic Ballast Compatible Tubes

Electronic Ballast Compatible LED Fluorescent Replacement Tubes are a fairly new option. As is suggested by the name, they are intended to work with electronic ballast installations. So they won’t function without ballasts or with magnetic ballasts. According to industry data, just this combination accounts for more than 1.2 billion tube lights, since they continue to become more and more popular. Similar to the description of universal tube technology that appears below, installation is easy. You just need to pull the old tube out and replace it with the LED tube. Due to the huge assortment of electronic ballasts that are available in the marketplace, many manufacturers have conducted compatibility testing and a complete listing has been developed of compatible ballasts that their own LED tubes work with. The disadvantages of this options are the higher upfront cost per unit, in addition to the continuous worry that the LED tube won’t illuminate if the ballast fails. Organizations and individuals need to weigh the potential drawbacks against the lack of downtime and ease of installation.

Hybrid (T12 or T8 Ballast Bypass LED / T8 Electronic Ballast Compatible) Tubes

There are some manufacturers that are now recognizing the opportunity of providing LED tube lights which will work with Electronic Ballast (T8) or that can bypass ballasts whenever the ballast doesn’t work any longer. This has resulted in a new category being introduced, which is the hybrid tube light. They work with both T8 electronic ballasts and can be wired directly the way a ballast bypass tube light does in case the ballast fails or when a facility has both T12 and T8 that require both types of wiring. That is an advantage that mixed type facilities have since the same tube light may be used with a faster implementation time. Another advantage that hybrid tubes have is they allow the tube light to bypass the ballast quickly if the ballast ends up failing due to its dual operating nature. The main disadvantage to hybrid tubes are they have a higher cost and at times their lower efficiency compared to ballast bypass types.

Universal (T12 Magnetic or T8 Electronic) Ballast Compatible LED Tubes
These LED tubes are the newest, easiest to install and most expensive. They work with any kind of existing technology – whether it is T12 (Magnetic Ballast) or T8 (Electronic Ballast). To install them all you need to do is take the old fluorescent tube out and install the LED tube in its place. They are a very good option for smaller facilities or homeowners whose main goal is no downtime during installation and complete power reduction. The main drawback to these options is their higher up-front costs per unit. They are one of the highest of all the options. Also, since the ballast is in place still there are maintenance concerns as well. That is particularly critical with T12 magnetic applications when it is no longer possible to procure new ballasts.

We Are LED Fluorescent Replacement Tube Experts

Hopefully, this article has helped to simplify the basic of how to choose the best solution for your LED fluorescent tube replacement needs. You can depend on to carry the finest selection at all times of all of the options that are available in the marketplace from the most reliable and leading manufacturers and at affordable prices. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us with any question you might have about your upcoming fluorescent tube replacement project. The fluorescent LED replacement tubes today are able to offer quality one for one replacement and hit price levels that feature payback periods under 12 months. The result is both commercial and residential customers becoming interested in the technology, with many being discouraged by the number of available options in both products and the installation methods.

Selecting the Right Replacement

The most important step in selecting the right product for you is to determine the installation method that you want to use. The method for installation will vary largely on the type of fixture technology that you have, either being T8 or T12. To determine what you already have installed, it will be best to take the bulb out of the fixture to read the markings located on the end. This will tell you quite a bit about the current tube and indicate whether or not the bulb is a T8 or T12. If you do not see markings, the size or diameter of the tube will be the easiest way to tell the kind that you have installed. T8 tubes will be one inch in diam. and T12 will be 1 1/2 inch in diameter. If you happen to have a tube that is relatively small in diam., about 5/8 of an inch, it is a T5. Once you know exactly what kind of tube that you have installed, the key will then be to understand the kind of ballast. Generally, the T8 will use the electronic ballast, while the T12 tubes will have magnetic ballasts. Opening up the fixture that you have and taking a look at the ballast will then give you the final answer that you are looking for as to the kind of ballast that you have. Usually, you are going to find that the older the fixture is, the more likely you will have a magnetic ballast in place. When you have the tube type and ballast considerations out of the way, you can then look further into your replacement options

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