Tube lights, known as linear light bulbs, are frequently used in office buildings, kitchens, workspaces and commercial installations, as well as homes, with varying sizes and brightness levels.
This guide reviews the different types and configurations of tube lights, both fluorescent and LED, so you can choose the best tube lights for your light fixtures and other lighting needs.
How to Find the Right Tube
If you find yourself in need of a replacement tube for an existing fixture, the first thing to consider is the Shape, Size, Length and Diameter of the bulb you are trying to replace.
Tubes also come in different sizes, lengths and diameters.
T12, T8 and T5 are types of tubes. The terminology comes from “T” for “tubular” and the diameter of the bulb in eighths of an inch, so “T8” represents a tube of 8/8ths of an inch, or 1 inch. A simple way to differentiate the bulbs is the width of the bulb.
You will want to find a replacement tube with the same shape, size and length.
Fluorescent vs. LED Tube Lights
Fluorescent tube lights are low-pressure mercury-vapor gas discharge lamps that use fluorescence to produce visible light. Fluorescent tubes require either an electronic ballast or magnetic ballast to regulate the flow of electricity.
LED tube lights are increasingly used to replace fluorescent lights. Compared to fluorescents, LED lighting lasts longer, is more energy efficient and uses no mercury. LED lights also offer superior light quality without flickering and turn on immediately without any warmup time required.
Upgrading from Fluorescent to LED
LED tube lights not only offer energy efficiency, but bulbs and ballasts for T12 fittings are becoming increasingly rare and T8 bulbs and electronic ballasts may become similarly scarce soon. Now is the time to consider updating older bulbs to LED technology.
If you want to prioritize which bulbs to replace first, look for any T12 bulbs. T12 fluorescent ballast are the most inefficient ballast when compared to T8 fluorescent ballast, thus, replacing T12 fluorescent tubes with a LED T8 Type A, Type B or Type A/B linear tube will provide the greatest energy and dollar savings.
There are different LED tube light solutions to consider. Some tubes are easy direct replacements like most general-purpose light bulbs while others require some rewiring but offer greater energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs over time.
LED Linear Tube Types
Here are some of the most common installation types.
Direct Fit or “Plug-and-Play” (Type A) LED Tubes
Cand be directly swapped out for fluorescent tube lights with no additional adjustments. They are easy to install but the approach requires the ballast to function properly.
Ballast-Bypass (Type B) LED Tubes
Replaces most T8 and T12 tubes with electronic ballasts and require direct wiring and longer installation time. Bypassing the ballast enables the most efficient operation and less maintenance over time.
Direct Replacement + Ballast Bypass (Type A/B) LED Tubes
A universal application enabling quick and easy direct plug and play installation or direct wire with ballast bypass for less maintenance over time. Use it as a plug and play replacement but if the ballast fails, bypass the ballast and continue to use the same fixture.
If your lighting fixture is more than 20 years old, the ballast inside may be nearing the end of its useful life. These old ballasts can fail when introducing a new lamp. For long term reliability, consider removing the ballast and using the Direct Wire (type B) type lamp. The Type A/B lamp is especially convenient when putting new lamps in an old fixture as it can start out as a Direct Replacement but if the fixture ballast should fail, the same lamp can be used after removing the ballast from the circuit.
Just as fluorescent lamps replaced incandescent in many lighting applications, LED tube lights are frequently replacing fluorescents. This costs more up front, but the benefits allow for less energy consumption over time—and lower power bills. The good news is no matter which type of light bulb you need there is a reliable Feit Electric light bulb that will do the job!