LED or Fluorescent? A Quick Look at Tube Lights
If you have a strip light fixture in your garage or troffers in your office, chances are those fixtures are using T8 or T12 tube lights. Though LED tubes are becoming the preferred light source, there are instances when fluorescent tubes are still necessary. In this post, we will take a quick look at some common linear fixtures and discuss which tube lights are the best option.
Tube Lights: Best Option by Application
The most common linear fixtures found in offices, classrooms, retail stores, and other locations with a normal ceiling height use 4-foot T8 tubes. For general illumination that is not overwhelming look for LED T8 tubes delivering 1800 Lumens or less. LED T8 tubes emitting 1800 to 2000 Lumens can be used in task areas where a stronger light is needed. Some 2x2 fixtures may require LED U-bend tubes instead of linear tubes. Warehouses, workshops, and other high ceiling areas typically use strip light fixtures and high bays. In order to provide enough light to these spaces, you will need LED T8 tubes that produce over 2000 Lumens. If your workplace is currently using T5 fluorescent fixtures, you can retrofit them with LED T5 tubes.
It’s not uncommon to run across fixtures using tube lights in older homes, especially in kitchens, basements, and garages. Many of the 4-foot LED T8 tubes used in commercial spaces can be used to help reduce energy costs. Smaller fixtures such as under cabinet lights and garage lights can use 2-foot and 3-foot LED T8 tubes. Fluorescent tubes are still available for fixtures requiring even shorter linear tubes or you may want to consider upgrading to an integrated LED fixture. Older round ceiling fixtures in laundry rooms and hallways may use circline lights. You can continue using fluorescent circlines or retrofit the fixture using an LED light engine.
Depending on what you need, sometimes a specialty tube is required. UVC and germicidal tubes are used to kill bacteria in food, water, and air. These tubes can only be used with fixtures and ballasts specifically made for this purpose. Want to try your hand at growing an indoor garden? You will need T5 fluorescent grow lights. Use either fluorescent or LED black lights to create fun lighting effects for events like Halloween parties or concerts. For locations where broken glass could pose a hazard, use shatter resistant LED tubes. These lamps have a special coating that curbs the risk of shattered glass should breakage occur and meets NSF certifications.
When upgrading from fluorescent tubes to LED tubes, be sure to play close attention to how the LED tubes operate. LED tube lights can either be direct wire, plug-and-play, or hybrid. Direct wire tubes bypass the ballast completely, operating directly off of line voltage, typically between 120 and 277 Volts. This requires rewiring the fixture. If you don’t want to rewire your fixture, choose a plug-and-play tube. These tubes work with the existing ballast as long as it is compatible. Hybrid tubes start out working with a compatible ballast and can later operate directly off the line voltage when the ballast fails.
Have a question about a specific tube light or fixture? Ask us in a comment below or you can call 1-800-624-4488 to speak with one of our knowledgeable lighting experts during normal business hours.