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How to Replace Fluorescent Tubes with LED

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There are is lot to consider when choosing LED replacement tubes for fluorescent fixtures. Here is what you need to know before choosing the right LED tubes.

Led tubes are usually brighter than the equivalent fluorescent tube when direct-wired. You can use less tubes per fixture to achieve the same brightness as the old tubes. LED tubes are available in a variety of color temperatures. LED tubes are usually not dimmable when direct wired. Some direct placement tubes are compatible with dimming ballasts. Look for “dimmable” on the LED packaging when dimming is required.

Types of LED Tube Lights

There are three basic types of LED tubes

Direct Replacement LED (Plug and Play)

This type of installation does not have the option of direct wiring the LED to the light fixture. You just remove the old fluorescent tubes and install the new LED tubes. Ballast compatibility can vary with different LEDs and different ballasts. Check the LED label for compatibility.

Incompatible Ballasts with Direct Replacement LED

Direct replacement LEDs are sometimes not compatible with the ballast in a fixture, even though the LEDs are advertised as compatible. When not compatible, the LED may be too dim, flicker, not turn on at all, or work for a short time until the ballast or LED tube fails. Check LED tube labels and reviews for compatibility issues before purchase.

Direct Wired LED Tubes

There are two types of direct wired LED tubes.

Dual-Ended (Double-Ended) LED Tube Wiring

Shunted or non-shunted lampholders can be used with this type of tube. Line is connected to lampholders at one end of the fixture, neutral at the other end. Dual-ended tubes can be reversed inside the fixture.

Single-Ended LED Tube Wiring

If shunted lampholders are used in a light fixture, they must be replaced with non-shunted at the location where line and neutral are to be connected. Connecting line and neutral to a shunted lampholder will cause a short circuit inside the lampholder. Tubes of this type can not be reversed in the fixture. A fixture modification label should be supplied with the tube. To indicate which end is powered, place the label on the ballast cover nearest the powered end.

LED Label Cree

LED Ballast Compatibility

LED Tube Diagram

Direct Replacement and Direct Wired LED Tubes

Use these with or without a ballast. This type of LED tube is installed as either direct replacement (with the ballast) or direct wired (ballast is bypassed). If the LED tubes are used as direct replacement and are not compatible with the ballast, they can be direct wired instead. These tubes are a good choice because of the built-in plan B. When wiring the fixture for direct wiring, and the old ballast is not removed, the wires on the ballast should be trimmed to a very short length.

How to Remove Wire from a Lampholder

The standard size wire for a fluorescent light fixture is 18 AWG. When removing a wire from a lampholder it can be cut short to the lampholder wire terminal. The lampholder may then become unusable with not enough remaining terminals to plug into.

Instead of cutting the wire, grasp the wire close to the lampholder and wrap it around a finger or two of your dominate hand. Rotate your hand (and the wire) back and forth while pulling on it. It should eventually come out without breaking.