How to Use LED Tubes in Your Fluorescent Fixtures

You've heard that LED lighting uses a lot less electricity, lasts a whole lot longer, and puts out brighter light. You have fluorescent tube lights in your home or business already, and you're wondering if you can pop LED tubes in these fixtures or if you'll need to change out the fixtures for something designed for LED.

Good news! You can use LED tubes in your existing fixtures! But first you need to understand the different kinds of LED tubes.

There are two basic types on the market right now: direct drop-in replacements and the more common (and less expensive) retrofit LED tubes. Let's take a look at both.

Direct Drop-In Replacement Tubes

Also known as "ballast compatible" or "plug and play," these are LED tubes you can literally pop into your existing fixture and you're good to go. Well, maybe. The first thing you need to know is that there are three kinds of fluorescent fixtures: magnetic (inductive) ballast, electronic ballast, and instant-start ballast. Most direct drop-in replacements work with one or two of these but not all, so you need to make sure you know what kind of ballast you have and also what ballast the tube will work with. ELEDLights carries a ballast-compatible 4-foot tube that works with most electronic instant-start ballasts. It can also be used with fixtures that have no ballast, which means that if the ballast on your fluorescent fixture goes bad, you can simply remove the ballast, and the light will work again.

Retrofit LED Tubes

"Retrofit" tubes work with all fluorescent fixtures as well as ballast-free LED fixtures. To use them with your existing fluorescent fixtures, you'll need to take just a few minutes to rewire the fixture to bypass the balast. This is a pretty simple task. If you know how to turn off the main power to the lights, are able to follow basic instructions, and have a screwdriver, wire cutters, electrical tape, and wire nuts, you can do this yourself.

When you purchase your tubes, they'll come with an installation instruction sheet that will walk you through the installation with diagrams, and you should make sure to follow those instructions, but the basic gist of upgrading your fluorescent fixture to run LED tubes is this:

  • After turning off the power, remove the fluorescent tubes and open the fixture.
  • Disconnect the wiring between the ballast and the tubes (and between the starter and the tubes in the case of a magnetic ballast). Cap any unused wires with nuts and tuck them out of the way.
  • Connect the line and neutral wires to the G13 sockets at the "live" end of the fixture. (Only one end of the tube needs power.) Wrap your connections with electrical tape and secure with nuts.
  • Make sure the fixture is properly grounded, then close it back up and install your new LED tubes.

The first fixture might go a little slow as you find your way around, but once you know what you're doing, you'll be able to cruise through them.

You can also get a good idea of what's involved through this video from Kent Diego, where he bypasses an electronic ballast in order to install LED tubes in his fluorescent shop light:


ELEDLights.com carries 2-foot, 4-foot, and 8-foot T8 LED tube lights.

Replacement Fixtures

Of course you can opt to replace your fluorescent fixtures entirely. Maybe they're old and look it, or maybe you're upgrading to high-lumen LEDs and don't need to use as many tubes as you've been using. Replacing a fixture can actually be easier than removing a ballast: you just disconnect the old fixture and connect the new one to the same wires. When you buy an LED-ready linear lighting fixture from ELEDLights.com, you also get 5% off any LED tube lights you purchase with it.

Still Have Questions?

If you need more information before you go ahead with a decision to upgrade to LED lighting, call, text, or email our East Coast facility (215-355-7200) or our West Coast facility at (858) 581-0597