How to Use LED Tubes in Your Fluorescent Fixtures

You have fluorescent troffers or strip fixtures already, and you're wondering if you can just pop LED tubes in them or if you'll need to change out the fixtures for something designed for LED.

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

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There are two basic types on the market right now: "ballast compatible" LED tubes and "ballast bypass" LED fluorescent replacements. Let's take a quick look at both.

1. Ballast Compatible LED Replacement Tubes

Also known as Type A or "plug and play," these are LED tubes you can literally pop into your existing fixture and you're good to go. Well, maybe.

Your fluorescent fixtures have one of three kinds of ballasts: magnetic (inductive), electronic, or instant start. Most ballast compatible LED tubes work with one or two of these but not all. To make sure a tube will work with your fixtures, look for the manufacturer's ballast compatibility list and make sure the fixture you have is listed there. (If there isn't a ballast compatibility list...look for another tube.)

2. Ballast Bypass LED Replacement Tubes

These retrofit tubes, also known as Type B, work with all linear fluorescent fixtures, regardless of ballast type, as well as LED-ready ballast-free fixtures. There's no risk of getting the wrong LED tube for your fixture when you go with a ballast compatible tube.

This is because, when you install these tubes, you'll first remove or "bypass" the fixture's ballast, so that the building's power goes directly to the lamp sockets, instead of through the ballast. You're removing the middle man! 

This has several benefits:

  • With the ballast removed from the equation, your lights aren't going to be shut down by a ballast failure
  • You'll never need to replace a ballast again, saving you maintenance time and money
  • The energy draw of the ballast itself is completely eliminated, saving you even more on your lighting bill

That's why most of our customers opt for ballast bypass tubes. 

Installing Ballast Bypass LED Tubes

When you purchase your tubes, they'll come with an installation instruction sheet with diagrams, but the basic gist of upgrading a fluorescent fixture to run LED tubes is this:

  1. After turning off the power, remove the fluorescent tubes and open the fixture.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Make sure the fixture is properly grounded, then close it back up and install your new LED tubes. 

The Other Option: Replacement Fixtures

Of course you can opt to replace your fluorescent fixtures entirely. Maybe the housing is old and looks it, or maybe you're thinking of upgrading to high-lumen LEDs and won'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. 

We have T8 fixtures for LED tubes as well as all-in-one LED shop lights, panel lights, troffers, and more.

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Still Have Questions?

If you need more information before you go ahead with a decision to upgrade to LED lighting, reach out to our lighting team

Are You Upgrading to LED at a Commercial Property?

Check out the free LED Lighting Retrofit Project Management services offered by our talented Lighting Project Management division. They can tap into financial incentives that reduce the upfront cost, give you picture of the savings, payback period, and return on investment, and arm you with a solid plan for your retrofit to ensure success. We make our money by selling lights; our free lighting services help ensure our customers make the absolute most of our lights. Take advantage for your commercial lighting upgrade today!

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