How To Convert Fluorescent Tube Lights to LED

Heather Clouse
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How To Convert Fluorescent to LED

The most noticeable difference between fluorescent and LED tube lights is the energy factor. Fluorescent tube lights produce more heat then they do 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 the energy use by almost 90%!

Around 20% of 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.

This is something I would definitely recommend to anyone looking into converting their existing fluorescent tube lights to LED tube lights.

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 the same amount of light output with fewer lamps.

Some LED tubes have a color temperature of 8200K to let you create a relaxing atmosphere at home. It is commonly used to paint the fixtures in bars and restaurants.

If you’re looking to do a fluoresent tube lighting retrofit, there are a few things you need to know.

First, a variety of energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs are now available in the market. So you don’t need to invest in expensive and heavy fluorescent ballasts. Instead, you can use a compact fluorescent bulb in place of a fluorescent tube.

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

Determine the Tube Sizes You Need

There are two popular sizes for fluorescent bulbs. You have the standard T-8 bulbs that are 1-inch in diameter and a newer, bigger version called T-12 bulbs, which are only 5/8-inch in diameter.

Generally, the only T-12 bulbs you’ll see at your local hardware store are 24- to 32-watt bulbs since they’re the most common in commercial environments. This is ideal if you have a lot of floor lamp type fixtures since the bulbs are easier to access.

The traditional T-8 bulbs are used more in recessed can fixtures. However, more and more manufacturers are offering standard T-12 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. >br />

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

What type of LED replacement is best for your fluorescent tube? That depends on the size of your light.

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.

Will I be able to change the tubes if I need to replace one?

Yes, that should be a straightforward operation.

Will the new LED tubes look right in the fitting?

Yes.

How much will the conversion cost?

That depends on whether you do it yourself or you take along your dining table when you go to B&Q or similar stores.

The cost of your LED tubes will be less than your dining table. Or even a chair if the latter is made from oak as mine is.

Will I be able to buy the tubes I need at the DIY store?

Yes, that’s just the same as you would do for other light fittings.

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 starters 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.

There is one rule of thumb to keep in mind: The lumens of an LED bulb should be substantially greater than the lumens of the bulb you’re replacing.

The amount of conversion needed depends on exactly what you want to save on.

There are several types of LEDs that can output any light spectrum that a fluorescent light does. And with the improved efficiencies of LEDs, the amount of lumens that you need to keep your bill the same goes down.

So, don’t worry about your LED bulb being too weak.

How do you bypass an LED tube ballast?

Aside from being able to help extend the life of fluorescent tubes by removing the ballast, converting fluorescent to LED requires only slight modification, no dismantling of any part of the old fixture, and very little electrical wiring.

The basic steps are very similar for both high bay lamps and small bay lamps, with the primary difference being that the high bay lamps will have a large wiring harness that will need to be removed and discarded.

Taking the old ballast apart begins with removing the screws at the top, bottom, and ends. At this point, you can pull the lamp apart.

The ballast is in a small box at the bottom which is between the lamp’s metal reflector and its glass cover.

Remove the lamp’s wires, remove the lamp lock-screw from the side of the ballast box, take everything out, and remove the ballast’s screws.

There will be some kind of housing or connector inside the box which needs to come out first. Once that’s out, the ballast will be in your hand. Just throw that away.

Now tilt the reflector so that the electrical outlet is at the top and pull the metal tabs and wires from where they attach to the wire nuts on the lamp socket.

Do you need a ballast with LED lights?

Most modern LED light fixtures will have in-built ballasts. The ballast is a component in the light fixture that is used to power the tube. It is a bit like a power supply in your house as it regulates the power input to your light bulb.

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 find out from the light fixture manufacturer whether the fixture is suitable for LED conversion. This is important so as not to void the defective product warranty.

If the light fixture has an electronic ballast, it is usually not recommended to connect it to LED strips or strips using constant current drivers.

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. A suitable option is to use a closet lighting fixture rated for fluorescent tubes.

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. Each fixture will have a different voltage depending on its purpose.

Also, be certain of the location you are working as you may be dealing with high voltage. Please be sure not to touch any of the wiring if possible.

Summary

Depending on how your classic fluorescent fixtures are wired from the power source, this is how you should wire your new LED bulbs.

For a single bulb in a tube fixture that is controlled by a switch, you can simply connect a jumper wire between the fixture’s terminals and your light’s terminals.

For multiple bulbs that are on the same circuit, go to your electrical breaker panel and shut off the circuit breaker for that single tube fixture. Then, splice one of the wires from the fixture’s electrical wires and splice it into a white wire that connects all of the fixtures where LEDs will be placed.

From there, splice the white wire with an unswitched wire. Double up on that wire. Use one of the wires to connect with your red and black jumper wires and the other wire to go to an electrical ground.

Finally, connect your black jumper wire to the black wire on the bulb and your red jumper wire to the red wire. On the fixture, connect the other end of the wire that's coming from the tube to the wire that was connected to the white wire. Remove the tube.