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LED Fluorescent Replacement Tubes

LED Fluorescent Replacement Tubes

When upgrading from fluorescent to LED, there are a few aspects to consider to ensure the proper light bulb is safely above your head. In order to do so, we here at 1000Bulbs have created a buyer’s guide to educate the not-so-common user on the differences between T5, T8, and T12 LED fluorescent replacement tubes.

What Are LED T5, T8, & T12 Fluorescent Retrofits?

The purpose of an LED retrofit is to offer an energy efficient solution for commercial lighting fixtures including high bays, strip lights, shop lights, and troffers. With the capability to match or even exceed the lumens produced by fluorescent tubes, LED tubes consume less energy while providing superior light levels. LED retrofits for T5, T8, and T12 fluorescent tubes are offered in three different versions.

Direct Wire

  • Requires complete removal/bypass of ballast

  • Requires re-wiring of fixture to Line Voltage


  • Quick plug-in installation with appropriate ballast

  • Compatible with most electronic ballast types


  • Can operate with or without a ballast

  • Can operate on Line Voltage

  • Simplest installation of the three

Between the three, there are a few pros and cons to consider. Direct Wire is certainly the most energy efficient because it doesn’t require a power source controller, like a ballast, to operate. More than likely it will require an electrician to remove the ballast and rewire the fixture to the line-voltage. Plug-N-Play is the simplest way to reduce energy costs from fluorescent tubes, but only if you know the ballast in your fixture is compatible. Even though it’s as simple as plugging in a new light bulb, keep in mind if the ballast fails, then the LED alternative would most likely not continue to operate until the ballast is replaced. In order to combat the cons of the two LED tube types previously mentioned, a Hybrid version has the capability to operate with most ballasts or even without a ballast. If you were to install a Hybrid tube into the fixture via Plug-N-Play if the ballast would fail, the bulb would cease to operate unless the ballast is either replaced or removed and converted to a Direct Wire installation. Even though this sounds like a no-brainer, this version is still not as efficient as the direct wire style.

Since LED retrofits consume fewer watts to operate, the LED tubes are referred to fluorescent replacements. For example, a 15-watt T8 LED tube substitutes a 32-watt T8 fluorescent tube and is referred to a F32T8 replacement.

What Type of LED Tube Do I Need?

If you don’t know the size of tube you need, don’t panic just yet. With the help of a handy-dandy ruler, identifying the shape of a LED tube is a breeze. The linear tube shape is determined by the width of the bulb measured in eighths of an inch. In order to identify which shape you have, measure the width of the base and multiply it by 8 in order to determine the code. Examples of the three types of codes with their correlating diameter are displayed below.

Code Diameter (Inches)
T5 5/8"
T8 1"
T12 1.5"

As far as the length of the linear bulb, it is as simple as measuring from end to end of the tube, unless it is an 8-foot tube which would require an extra pair of hands.

Connecting the appropriate base to the appropriate socket is another factor to consider when trying not fry your light bulb minutes after installation. Linear tubes tend to be predominantly a variation of two base types, the bi-pin and single-pin design. Displayed below are a few different bases for the linear tube shape.

Code Pin-to-Pin Spacing
FA8 N/A (Single Pin)
G5 5 mm
G13 12.7 mm

Depending on the LED tube, verify if the tube is rated for shunted or non-shunted sockets. In short a shunted socket is allows the current to flow through a single path while a non-shunted socket allows the current through multiple paths. This is vital due to the way the internal driver is set up in the LED tube. Verify if the replacement tube is compatible for the lamp holders (sockets) that are currently on your lighting fixture in order to properly transmit the power and avoid an electrical short.

Do you have any questions? Leave a comment below detailing your question or feel free to contact our customer service team at 1-800-624-4488, Monday through Friday (7 am to 7 pm CST). As always, check back on our blog for weekly updates on the wonders of lighting or you can keep in touch via our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest

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