LED Tube Lighting vs Fluorescent Tube Lighting

T8 LED tube lights are generally composed of an aluminium alloy heat sink, internal driver / transformer, and frosted or lined PC cover to protect the internal LED Chips and electronics.  As part of the AS/NZS standards, the wiring inside the tube is configured to be single end cap energized, so when one end is retrofitted into a tube holder, the other end is not live. 

A fluorescent tube is filled with a gas, containing mercury vapour and argon, xenon, neon or krypton. An electric current in the gas excites mercury vapour  which produces short-wave ultraviolet light, that then causes a phosphor coating on the inside of the lamp to glow.  Ballast inside the lamp holder is then used to regulate the current through the lamp.   Because they also contain mercury, fluorescent lamps are considered as hazardous waste, and require decontamination if broken, and are to be disposed of with specialty services such as InterWaste.

Traditional T5, T8 and T10 fluorescent tubes work with either a magnetic ballast or electronic ballast.  As a quick reference to your existing installation, Magnetic ballasts will have an external removable starter - a small cylinder shape with two lugs for twisting into a socket.  Electronic ballasts do not have any external starter; it is all controlled within the ballast.  If you are looking to upgrade from Fluorescent tubes to LED tubes, the magnetic ballast type is the simple option change over, which we will cover later.

Fluorescent tube Ballasts on average have high power consumption, especially when you start adding the number of tubes in an office. They cause a flicker on start-up, are costly to replace if they fail, and require a registered electrician to remove and replace if they do fail.  Today they are an unnecessary component for this type of lighting, with transformer and LED driver circuits producing light in a solid state form.

Life expectancy of a typical fluorescent lamp is about 9000 hours,  not to go without saying they will suffer a huge amount of light loss over that period.  If you have ever replaced a fluorescent tube after 8 months of operation, you will see a huge difference in light output from old and new, and is why the maintenance factor is so high when light levels for health and safety are a factor.    LED can have a life expectancy beyond 100,000+ hours,  so because of this a lumen life measurement is used in reporting. The IES LM-80-08 is used for measuring lumen maintenance of LED light sources, while the projection of lumen maintenance beyond the duration available in the LM-80 report is found in the IES TM-21-11 report, projecting long term lumen maintenance of LED light sources.  Basically if the reports show the light output to drop or diminishes to 70% of the original lumen rating, we are then able to give an optimal life expectancy.   You would be very surprised what the life span of a fluorescent tube was if this rule was applied.

Reading the above, it should be easy to make a decision to move from fluorescent tube lighting to LED technology. The question is how easy it is to upgrade your existing fixtures.  As mentioned above, the Magnetic ballasts have an external starter, these are the easy ones to replace – it is simple as removing the existing “starter”, replace with a “starter housing;”that contains an HRC fuse inside (we supply one with every tube),  adding a label to warn it is now configured for LED tubes only, and your done.    Changing Electronic ballasts currently involve the removal or bypass of the ballast completely, this type of retro fit requires an electrician to remove or bypass and certify it is safe to install an LED tube.  We are working on Ballast compatible tube options now, and this will remove the added cost of employing a registered electrician to do this bypass, so watch this space.