Can You Replace a Fluorescent Tube with an LED Tube
With the advent of LED lighting technology, more homeowners seek LED replacement for fluorescent tubes to save on their utility bills. However, both lighting systems have different technologies that may make the transition slightly complex.
For instance, you’re probably wondering if you can take out the fluorescent bulbs and install the new LED tubes in the same fixtures, or you’ll have to change the fixtures. Another common question is the removal of the ballast when installing an LED tube.
The simple truth is you can replace your fluorescent tubes with LED tubes or install LED-integrated fixtures. If you want to replace the bulb only, you can use the ballast compatible LED tubes as they don’t require removing or bypassing the fluorescent ballast.
Read more to understand the benefits of LED lights and how you can change your fluorescent light to LED lights.
What are the benefits of converting to LED lights?
LED lights have several benefits for domestic, commercial, and industrial structures, especially when it comes to reducing energy usage and costs. Below are the main reasons you should replace your lighting with LED.
LED lights are, on average, 30% more efficient than fluorescent lights. Meaning you will cut down on electricity consumption and also utility bills.
The average lifespan of an LED light is 50,000+ hours, while that of a fluorescent tube is 30,000 hours. Also, LEDs do not become dim, flicker, or develop dark spots when they age.
Better light quality
LED lights are noticeably brighter than their fluorescent counterparts. They also come in various light spectrums, from cold to warm.
They are dimmable
Another factor that makes LED lights efficient is the ability to dim them. This means you’ll only be consuming the wattage necessary for the amount of light you need. On the other hand, most fluorescents have only two settings, on and off.
Some fluorescent lights have a special ballast that makes them dimmable, but the cost is still cheaper than the LED option.
LED tubes do not contain toxic chemicals, unlike fluorescent which contain mercury and require careful disposal.
LED lamps are sturdy and are mostly resistant to shatter and vibrations. In addition, LED lamps to have a durable plastic housing that can withstand a drop from a low height. If you use the garage as a workshop, you can replace your garage fluorescent light with LED.
Can you put an LED tube in a fluorescent fixture?
You can install an LED tube in a fluorescent tube fixture as long as you get the correct LED tube light. Before you install your Led tube into a fluorescent fixture, first, you need to understand the type of LED tubes in the market. There are three main factors you need to consider when choosing an LED tube:
- Tube length
- Pin size
- Ballast compatible or Ballast bypass
The pin size and tube length
There are three main pin sizes for fluorescent and LED tubes: T5, T8, and T12.
The most common pin size is T8 which is four-foot, 48 inches long, and 1-inch diameter.
The T12 is a four-foot tube light that is less efficient compared to the T8 lamp, 48 inches in length, and has a 1.5-inch lamp diameter.
The T5 is a four-foot lamp that is the most efficient and one of the newest lamps in the USA. They provide more brightness than the T8 lamps and are 45.8 inches long. They also come in various sizes; 1-ft, 2-ft, and 3-ft and are most suitable in non-ceiling fixtures such as table lamps.
All fluorescent tube lights have a ballast component that controls the lamp’s brightness as it warms up. A ballast is a device between the tube and the electrical supply to limit the flow of current into the fluorescent tube. Also, there are two types of LED tube lights:
- Ballast compatible: works with the existing fixture ballast in place. (Plug-and-play tubes)
- Ballast bypass: requires bypassing or removal of the ballast. (Retrofit LED tubes)
Go for the ballast compatible LED tube light to replace your fluorescent lights since they are the easiest to install. All you need is to unscrew the fluorescent tube and plug in the LED tube light to the same fixture.
Do I need to remove the ballast to use an LED bulb?
Typically, LED lights do not require a ballast to operate because they use a component called a “driver” to regulate the power flowing into the lamp.
This driver comes inside the LED bulb and is not a device you need to purchase or install separately from the LED fixture. Every LED lamp needs a driver to function.
However, you may or may not have to remove the ballast in your light fixture depending on the type of LED tube you use. You can use plug-and-play or Type A LED tubes because they are compatible with fluorescent ballasts.
The plug-and-play LED tubes work without removing or bypassing the ballast in the fixture. It requires no wiring or additional modification, thus lowering installation costs and less time consumption.
However, if the ballast in the fluorescent fixture blows out, you will have to remove the ballast for the plug-and-play LED tubes to operate.
Also, you can switch back to fluorescent lights without issues. However, LED lights are cheaper in the long run and are good for the environment.
On the other hand, the retrofit or ballast-bypass LED tubes cannot work with the ballast inside the fixture. This is because they are cheaper than the Ballast Compatible LED tubes and will need to remove the ballast.
This means ballast-compatible LED lights work with or without the ballast, whereas Ballast Bypass LED lights only work with a bypassed ballast.
How do you bypass the ballast for LED lights?
The ballast provides the fluorescent lamp with an initial high voltage spike, and once the light is one, it acts as a regulator. This ballast is usually inside the fluorescent lamp fixture and is not accessible without removing the fixture from the ceiling.
So, although replacing your fluorescent lights with ballast-bypass LED tubes requires more work and skills in installing them, they save up to 20% in energy consumption. For example, a standard four-foot-long LED light will consume 22W of power when the ballast is in the fixture, but only 18W if you remove or bypass the ballast.
When you get the retrofit LED tubes to replace your fluorescent lights, they usually come with an instruction manual on bypassing the ballast. However, any electrical or lighting work requires basic electrical skills and knowledge.
If you’re not confident in doing it yourself, it’s best to hire a certified electrician to do the bypass and installation. But if you’re interested in learning the process, follow the standard procedure below.
Things you’ll need
- Ballast-bypass LED tubes of the correct length and pin size
- Electrical tape
- Wire cutters
- Wire nuts
- Turn off power at the circuit breaker to avoid an electric shock.
- Unscrew the fluorescent tubes and open the fixture.
- Locate the ballast inside the fixture. Most T8 fluorescent tubes have a hidden ballast behind the tube light with a cover. Remove the cover and lamp to reveal the ballast inside.
- Use the wire cutters to the hot and neutral wires that supply power to the lamp. The hot wires are black or red, and the neutral wires should be white. Cut the wires about 2 inches from the ballast and then cap them with wire nuts and tuck them. But ensure the wires exiting the fixture remain long.
- Find the socket lead wires on the opposite side of the ballast. These wires connect to the wires exiting the ballast and into the sockets. Cut the neutral and hot wires going out on the other side of the socket while following the 2-inch rule with the side connecting to the ballast.
Note: There are two kinds of ballasts; electronic and magnetic. The lights with a magnetic ballast have a starter. It’s important to locate the starter and remove it before proceeding with the next step. Also, remember to cap and tuck away any unused wires.
- Unscrew the ballast and take it out. You can also keep the ballast in its original position.
- Strip about 1 inch of insulation from the remaining wires. Attach the input hot with the output hot. Ensure you use only one neutral wire coming from the power source. Then attach the input neutral wires from the build or power source to the output wires from the fixture. Then connect the hot wires on one side of the fixture and the neutral wires on the other, especially if you don’t have non-shunted sockets.
- Replace any covers on the fixture.
- Screw in the LED tube on the fixture and turn on the power at the circuit breaker. Then, switch on the socket to see if it’s working.
Can I replace a T12 fluorescent light tube with an LED tube?
Yes, you can replace a T12 fluorescent lamp with an LED tube because T12 fixtures have non-shunted sockets, perfect for all LED tubes. In addition, you can install plug-and-play or ballast-bypass LED lamps into a T12 fluorescent fixture so long as they are the same length.
Also, T8 LED tubes can fit perfectly in a T12 fixture. The only difference between the T8 and T12 tubes is the tube diameter, while everything else－socket size, pin size, and lengths- are the same.
So there you have it, a simple guide to understanding how to switch from fluorescent lighting to LED lighting and how you can bypass or remove ballast to install a retrofit LED tube. Plug-and-play LED tubes are more user-friendly and easy to install.
So although our guide to bypassing or removing a ballast is easy to follow, it is also easy to create an electrical nightmare. It’s best to hire a professional electrician to do the work for you.