How To Convert Fluorescent Tube Lights to LED

Heather Clouse
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How To Convert Fluorescent to LED

A frequently asked question is “Should I switch from fluorescent tubes to LED lights?” The answer isn’t that simple, and it’s not a black or white decision. To help you make a choice, let’s see what you’ll need to keep in mind.

The most noticeable difference between fluorescent and LED tube lights is the energy factor. Fluorescent tube lights produce more heat than light and will waste more than a third of the energy they take up. LEDs have a higher lumen to watt ratio, which means that you can reduce energy use by almost 90%!

Around 10% – 20% of the energy used in an average household is used for lighting. That’s why switching to LED tube lights is one of the smartest small changes you can make to your home. On the other hand, replacing an existing fluorescent tube light with an LED tube light requires rewiring.

Do not underestimate the fact that you are transforming a fluorescent tube fixture into an LED fixture. You will need to wire up your light to the new LED. So, if you know about wiring, you can easily do it yourself. You also have the option to simply buy a kit.

Consider the LED Tubes Color Temperature

Color temperatures are important when it comes to fluorescent tube to LED conversion. To give you an idea for reference, daylight has a color temperature of about 5000K, while the average office light is around 3000K.

If you’re looking to replace fluorescent tube lighting, you may want to opt for LED tubes with color temperatures of 5000K to 6000K. This lets you achieve a color temperature that's similar to daylight and makes it comfortable for the eyes.

Determine the Tube Sizes You Need

There are two popular sizes for LED tubes. You have the standard T8 tubes that are 1-inch in diameter and a newer, bigger version called T12 tubes, which are only 5/8-inch in diameter.

Generally, the only T12 bulbs you’ll see at your local hardware store are 24- to 32-watt, since they’re the most common in commercial environments. This is ideal if you have a lot of floor lamp-type fixtures since the tubes are easier to access.

The traditional T8 tubes are used more in recessed can fixtures. However, more and more manufacturers are offering standard T12 bulbs in smaller wattages, so your lighting options are growing.

LED Replacement Tubes

One of the biggest problems with fluorescent tubes is that they burn out before their time. They are some of the most power-hungry lights on the market because of their inefficient ballast—they require a lot of energy to produce the light that they do. While the fluorescent tube itself is cheap, they end up costing a lot because they burn out so quickly.

The solution to this is to replace them with LEDs. LEDs are more energy-efficient than fluorescent lighting and can last decades if looked after properly. LEDs are more versatile and can fit into almost any fixture, and most importantly, they stay cool, so they’re safer than fluorescent lighting.

Choosing the Right LED Replacement Method

Here are the two main types of LED tube retrofit kits:

  • Small-diameter light bars: These are used to replace small-diameter fluorescent tubes, usually from 2 to 6 inches in diameter. This Kit suggests these for use with CFLs or linear tubes that are less than or equal to 39” in length.

  • Thin-profile light bars: These are used to replace thin-profile fluorescent tubes, usually from 6 to 8 inches in diameter. This Kit suggests these for use with CFLs or linear tubes that are more than 39” in length.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long does it take to replace the tubes?

That depends on how knowledgeable you are on a ladder and how skilled you are in handling light fittings. You should be able to replace the tubes in 20 to 30 minutes or less.

Can I put LED bulbs in a fluorescent fixture?

Yes, you sure can! LED bulbs are compatible with most fluorescent fixtures. The only caveat is that you should use tubes with a starter, to allow the new light source to come to the correct operating temperature (just like fluorescent and incandescent light sources).

Fluorescent light bulbs and tube lights are used in commercial applications for decades, so expect the same technology when moving to LED. After all, LED is an evolution of fluorescent lights.

Do you need a ballast with LED lights?

LED tube lights no longer require a ballast. LED lights now come with built-in chips. The chips are responsible for receiving the electricity from the power socket and converting it into light.

What this means is that you should not connect an LED tube light to a conventional ballast. If you do, the light tube can break, and there is a chance it could cause damage to your electrical wiring.

How to convert 4ft fluorescent light to LED?

The task to convert a fluorescent light fixture to LED can be a little challenging, but if you are handy, and have the right tools, you will be able to complete the project safely and neatly in just a few steps.

Firstly, it is important to check if the fixture is suitable for LED conversion. If the light fixture has an electronic ballast, it is usually not recommended to connect it to LEDs. Most electronic ballasts will not be compatible with LED tubes and drivers, causing the light fixture to overheat and pose a fire hazard.

The safest way to convert a fluorescent fixture to LED is to install a new lighting fixture. Before completely removing your fluorescent light fixture, remove the ballast for safekeeping. Be sure to replace it when installing your new fixture.

Safety is important, so please be certain of your understanding regarding voltage. Please be sure that power is off when you're working on rewiring your system.

Summary

Converting your fluorescent tubes to LED is quite an easy job, as long as you know what you're doing. Consider using a step-by-step guide in this process or, if electricity is not one of your passion, hiring a specialist can save you time and money. In conclusion, making the switch is worth it, even more in the long run.