Are there LED tubes available to replace fluorescent tubes?


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  • Ken Reilly



  • The answer is yes. Currently, there are a number of different types available in the marketplace that differs somewhat from manufacturer to manufacturer.

    Over the years, fluorescent tubes (linear fluorescent) have become much more energy efficient and last longer. Fluorescent tubes have evolved into thinner tubes (T8's) vs the older (T12's). Lamps are measured in eighths of an inch. So a T8 would be 8 – eighths of an inch in diameter or one inch vs a T12 which is 12 – eighths or one and one half in. in diameter. The newer thinner tubes are more energy efficient and range in wattage from 32Watts down to about 25Watts in a four foot typical tube. They are driven by electronic ballasts installed in the fixtures. The ballast converts incoming line voltage to the voltage requirement of the fluorescent tube to start the lamp and operate the lamp.

    On the other hand, LEDs are controlled by “drivers” as opposed to ballasts. These electronic devices do the same as a ballast, to start and operate the lamp. Some drivers are built-in (integrated LED lamps) which means everything needed is contained within the lamp itself. Today's screw-in LED bulbs that replace incandescent, etc. are integrated and thus work off line voltage. With fluorescent tubes, there is a variety of systems available.

    Some LED linear tubes contain built-in drivers (integrated types) but require that the existing fluorescent ballast(s) be disconnected and instructions are provided to wire directly to the fixture lamp holders. A licensed electrician is required for this type.

    Other LED linear tubes include a “separate” electronic driver device that is installed in the fixture to “replace” the existing fluorescent ballast. A licensed electrician is required for this type also.

    New on the market (an example is the Philips( InstantFit) which is a LED tube that works off the existing fluorescent ballast (Instant Start Electronic types only). The User simply replaces the existing fluorescent tubes with this LED tube without the need for re-wiring or any other changes. This also allows the fixture to maintain its original UL rating. Look for products like this for ease of retrofitting. The Philips design is a four foot tube that consumes only 14.5 Watts vs 32 Watts of a standard T8 tube. It also is great for cold environment such as freezer cases, coolers, etc. This is not a product endorsement, but for information purposes only. This is yet another innovation improvement by Lamp companies to improve energy efficiency and ease of installation.



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