CONVERT EXISTING FIXTURES TO INSTANT FIT
There is a wide variety of methods for converting to LED tubes. The simplest is to completely replace old fluorescent fixtures with brand-new LED fixtures. However, LED fixtures to replace four-bulb (8-foot-long) fluorescent fixtures (common in farm buildings) can set you back $100 or more per unit.
Instead, there are numerous ways to convert an existing fluorescent fixture to accept LED tubes. Such tubes are officially designated as UL Type A and are sold under descriptions like instant fit, plug-and-play, and remote driver lamps.
“These products are designed to be installed directly into an existing fixture without having to modify the fixture,” says John Hynek of Phillips Lighting. “We do recommend that if the ballast in the existing fixture is 5 to 7 years old that you replace the ballast when installing the new bulbs.”
BALLAST BYPASS CONVERSION
Another option is to modify your existing fluorescent fixtures to accept UL Type B tubes, which are commonly sold as ballast bypass or direct wire bulbs. This requires that the fixture be rewired to bypass the ballast, which can either be left in place or removed. “We highly recommend if the fixture is rewired that it be labeled to show it can only use UL Type B bulbs,” Hynek urges.
The advantage of going with ballast bypass tubes is that you won’t need to replace older ballasts. This can save you $30 to $75 per fixture in new ballast costs. Be sure to check that the ballast bypass tubes you are buying come with an installation wiring schematic, as the chore can vary whether the tube is a one-side or one-end tube vs. a two-side or two-end tube.
Hynek says ballast bypass tubes are more expensive than instant-fit tubes, but that difference depends on your existing fixtures’ needs.
Ballast bypass bulbs are priced around $15 to $40 each, depending on their light output. For example, a four-pack of 4,000-lumen, 40-watt, 8-foot-long LED bulbs sell for $99 per pack. These prices go up depending on bulb quality. A premium LED tube that turns out 4,500 lumens sells for $29.99, while an ultra-high-lumen LED tube with 6,600-lumen output sells for $51.95.
In comparison, the cost of instant-fit LED tubes is 25% less than that of ballast bypass tubes, Hynek says.
Before committing to either tube type when converting existing fluorescent fixtures, the lighting industry highly recommends that you talk to your lighting supplier about your intentions to change the tubes on old fluorescent fixtures.
To do that, gather the operating performance information about your old fixture (it should be printed inside the fixture) and take that to your supplier to discuss the options.
“A reputable supplier can take that information and guide you to a retrofit tube that fits your needs,” Hynek points out.
Also, Razorlux offers a website (razorlux.com/instantfit) that provides a wealth of information about the differences.
Finally, be sure to check with your local electrical supplier to see if it offers rebates for converting to LED bulbs so you can cash in on this incentive.
ONE-END VS. TWO-END BALLAST BYPASS TUBES
Converting to ballast bypass tubes presents two challenges. First, the industry offers both single-end and double-end bulbs. Some fixtures may not have the correct socket (sometimes called tombstones) to accommodate ballast bypass tubes.
Regarding tube differences, with a single-end bulb, all the wiring goes to the sockets at one end of the fixture. The sockets at the other end of the fixture are left unwired.
With a double-end bulb, you wire the supply (hot) wire (typically a black or a red wire) to the sockets at one end of the bulb and the neutral wire (typically a white wire) to the sockets at the other end of the bulb. In a two- or four-bulb fixture conversion, you would wire all the sockets at one end of the fixture to the supply wire and all the sockets at the other end of the fixture to the neutral wire in a series. “We have found that rewiring for double-end tubes takes 25% less time than wiring for single-end LED tubes,” Hynek says.
A great video showing the rewiring differences between double-end and single-end bulbs is at youtube.com/watch?v=FoW-B8F-QN.
The other complication with converting a fluorescent tube fixture involves the type of socket that the existing fixture currently uses. LED tubes require nonshunted sockets. Fluorescent fixtures can either have shunted or nonshunted sockets. The illustration below displays the differences between the two.
Shunted sockets receive voltage through a single set of wires and spread it to both contacts.
In nonshunted sockets, the contacts inside the socket are separate from each other.
Typically, older T12 fluorescent tubes use nonshunted sockets. T8 and T5 fixtures that employ rapid-start, programmed-start, or dimming ballasts typically use nonshunted tombstones.
T8 LED Installation Instructions
Confirm that the power source to the luminaire is between 120v and 277v.
Shut off the power going to the light fixture.
Make sure the switch that controls the power to the luminaire does not have a dimmer.
Disconnect the power supply to the fluorescent ballast.
Remove the ballast and starter, if applicable, from the existing fixture.
Remove the existing lamp holders or sockets (these are also commonly known as tombstones).
Install the non-shunted lamp holders in place of the existing, shunted lamp holders. (Non-shunted means that there is no connection between the contacts at the socket. See this photo for how your lamp holders should and should not look.) Using shunted tombstones can fry the sockets and damage the LED lamps, so it is important to identify the differences and use the correct components.
Mark the LIVE END of the fixture using either a permanent marker or a sticker. Note that the lamp holders on the other end will not be wired to anything.
Wire the positive lead to one of the leads on the side marked “LIVE END.”
Wire the negative lead to the other lead on the LIVE END lamp holder.
Be sure to secure all connections with wire nuts.
Once all the new, non-shunted lamp holders are wired on the LIVE END, reconnect the luminaire to the power source.
Install the new T8 LED lamps, matching the end of the lamp marked “L” to the LIVE END.
Affix a cautionary Lamping Replacement label to the luminaire surface where it is visible during future re-lamping.
Turn the power back on. Your T8 LED lamps should light up!
Replacing your fluorescent tube bulbs with LED is an easy project that can save you money on energy costs as well as saving you the inevitable time and expense of replacing the electronic ballasts in fluorescent light fixtures.
You can calculate your potential savings using this helpful link: https://www.ledwaves.com/pages/led-calc
How to bypass a ballast to install led tubes?
T12 fluorescent light bulbs use a G13 bi-pin socket and are currently being phased out due to their lack of being efficient. T8 fluorescent light bulbs also use the G13 bi-pin socket and are more efficient that T12s, but not as much as LEDs. Here you can see that both size tubes use the same G13 bi-pin socket. To start, you will want to remove the lamp cover by taking out the screws. Here you will see the exposed wires and of course the ballast, which we are going to bypass.
Next, you will want to locate hot or live wire. You want to redirect the power to the two yellow wires in this lamp fixture. The neutral wire in this lamp fixture will connect directly to the red and blue wires. Note that not all fixtures will have color coded wires so you will want to be sure what wires you are working with. Clip the hot or live wire and the yellow wires which are just one side of each of the two lamp plugs.
You are only wiring one side of the fluorescent lamp since Razorlux ballast bypass LED tube lights get their power from one side. It really does not matter which side of the lamp holder you are using. You just want to make sure that you connect the hot wire to one side and the neutral wire to the other side. Here we are stripping the ends of the three wires to make a connection with a wire nut of the hot line and one side of each of the lamp holders.
Next, you will want to identify the neutral wire and the other two wires, in this case red and blue, which are attached directly to the lamp holders. You will want to cut the neutral wire coming from the power cable and splice them together with the red and blue wire using a wire nut. Make sure to tuck away all of the other wires and verify that nothing is passing through the ballast. Verify that the green ground wire is secure to the lamp housing. Here is what your wiring should look like. Nothing passing through the ballast.