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T8 LED Tube Lights - Commercial LED Tubes

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LED Bulbs

Fluorescent lamps were once the only choice when it came to low-energy recessed lights. Thankfully, LED technology has drastically changed the lighting landscape. LED tubes are an excellent way to retrofit fluorescent fixtures without having to replace the entire housing.

LED tube lights, in varying lengths from 2–8 feet, are commonly used for office lighting and can replace fluorescent lights in both parabolic and indirect light fixtures. They work best in climate-controlled areas with standard ceiling heights, including storage areas, fabrication floors, and mechanic garages. Sold individually or by the case for added convenience, LED tubes are an energy-efficient replacement for fluorescent tubes. With their reduced wattage need and long lifespan of up to 100,000 hours, LED tubes also boast better color rendering. They turn on to full brightness much faster than the fluorescents, and they won't flicker.

When switching from fluorescent to LED, don't get too caught up on wattage equivalent. Look instead at the number of lumens produced by the LED tube and consider the height of your fixture. For offices, retail spaces, hospitality, and applications with similar a ceiling height, 4 ft. tubes with 1800 lumens or fewer are the most popular. You don't want to overwhelm a space and make customers or employees feel like they are sitting in an interrogation room. For taller ceilings that use strip lights or high-bay fixtures, like hospitals, warehouses, and parking garages, LED tube lights with more than 2000 lumens offer the brightest output.

Dimmable tubes can be used in areas where adjustable brightness is desired. For added durability in food service applications, look for LED tubes with a shatter-resistant coating that meets NSF/ANSI requirements. LED tubes that are DLC-certified have been tested to meet strict efficiency standards and may provide additional energy savings with state or local rebates.

Ratings and certifications indicate the kinds of conditions that the tubes can be safely used in. Dry-location rated tubes should only be used indoors where the tubes will not come into any contact with water or moisture. LED tubes with a damp location rating can be used where moisture is present but should not come into direct contact with water.

Lamp Types: Plug-n-Play, Direct Wire, Hybrid, and Type C

The advanced technology of LED tubes allows for traditional direct-wire or the newer plug-and-play installation options. Plug-and-play (ballast-compatible) lamps operate with the fixture's existing fluorescent ballast, so no rewiring is necessary. Direct-wire (ballast-bypass) LED tubes operate off the line voltage directly from the sockets, so the fixture's ballast must first be bypassed and then removed. Sockets may also need to be replaced. Because fluorescent ballasts draw a small amount of electricity, direct-wire LED tubes offer more energy savings over the life of the bulb compared to plug-and-play LED tubes.

Hybrid LED tubes use either installation method—they can plug directly into the fluorescent fixture and work with a compatible ballast when first installed. Then, when the ballast expires, rewire the fixture to bypass the ballast and use the same hybrid tube.

A newer option for upgrading to LED are type C lamps. Similar to both plug-and-play and ballast bypass these, Type C lamps bypass the existing ballast and operate using an external driver instead. The driver must be purchased with the tube to ensure that they are compatible.

Depending on the manufacturer, these lights may be called type A, type B, type A/B, or type C.

Tube Types
  • Type A: These are ballast compatible (plug-and-play and hybrid) lamps, but not every LED tube will be compatible with all ballasts. Make sure to check the Ballast Compatibility PDF or spec sheet. If you have questions or concerns, call one of our lighting experts who are standing by.
  • Type B: Ballast-bypass (direct-wire) lamps are not ballast compatible. These tubes require the ballast be disconnected and removed from the fixture prior to installation. These lamps are wired directly to line voltage and often require non-shunted sockets, so the sockets may need to be changed at the same time. However double-ended LED tubes wired at both ends to utilize non-shunted or shunted lamp holders are available.
  • Type A/B: Hybrid lamps, like type A tubes, are not compatible with all ballasts. Check the Ballast Compatibility PDF or spec sheet for a full list of fluorescent ballasts that are compatible with these LED tube lights. Hybrid tubes can also be used as direct-wire tubes, making these a flexible option. Check the installation instructions or confirm with a licensed electrician if you choose to bypass the ballast.
  • Type C: LED driver compatible tubes. A newer take on type A and type B tubes, these lamps operate with an external LED driver instead of using the existing ballast. The driver must be purchased with the tubes to ensure compatibility. The ballast is bypassed during installation, eliminating the compatibly issues and maintenance costs typically associated with ballasts. The remote driver allows for controllable dimming with any 0-10V dimmer once installed, letting you adjust the wattage as need to increase or decrease the lumen output.

If unsure of which installation method is right for your situation, be sure to check the Ballast Compatibility PDF or spec sheet hyperlinked on the product pages at to help locate the correct fluorescent replacement tubes, or call one of our lighting experts at 1-800-624-4488.

Understanding Kelvin Color Temperature

When replacing or installing overhead lighting, it's important to understand color temperature to maintain consistent lighting across an area. Lower kelvin values indicate the light output is more yellow and higher kelvin values mean the light output is closer to blue. The 3000 kelvin T8 bulbs have a softer, warmer glow similar to a halogen light bulb. The 4100 kelvin T8 bulbs, often used in offices and workspaces to help reduce eye strain, are considered a cool white with color output similar to clear metal halides. 6500 kelvin T8 bulbs are a daylight equivalent with a bluer glow than traditional lighting. A kelvin temperature of 5000 or higher is recommended for display areas, high-security areas, garages, and other areas where safety is key.

Understanding LED Tube Sizes

The easiest way to tell what size tube light you need is to find and read the label at the end. If the label has peeled off or is no longer legible, measure the diameter to determine the size. The “T” stands for “tubular” (the shape of the bulb) and the number indicates the diameter in eighths of an inch. A T8 has a 1-inch diameter (or 8/8 inch), T5 has a 5/8-inch diameter, and T12 has a 12/8-inch diameter (or 1-1/2 inch) diameter. If a T12 and a T8 use the same bi-pin base, you can use them interchangeably with the same light fixture if you double check the milliamp (mA) requirements of the ballast, if one is present.

Tube Sizes

LED Black Lights

The most common type of black-light bulb is fluorescent. The black light blue or “BLB” tube light has a dark blue coating on the tube that filters out most visible light. The fluorescent lights use a phosphor that emits UVA light instead of visible light, allowing the fluorescence effect (or glow) to be observed. Ultraviolet light can also be generated by some LED lights. Because the wavelength is set by the diode, these LED tube lights don't need the same blue coating as fluorescent lights.

LED Tube Light FAQ's

Can LED lights replace fluorescent tubes? Can I convert a fluorescent fixture to LED?

Yes, you can replace fluorescent tubes with LED tubes or LED-integrated fixtures. If you just want to replace the bulbs, you can use plug-and-play, direct-wire, or hybrid LED tubes.

Plug-and-play tubes are the easiest to install as they do not require any rewiring to the fixture. If the LED bulb is compatible with the existing fluorescent ballast in the fixture, simply remove the fluorescent tube and replace it with the LED tube light. Because the ballast is still operational, it will continue to draw power and can fail.

Direct-wire LED tubes can also replace fluorescents but require rewiring the fixture to bypass the ballast and replace sockets with non-shunted lamp holders. While this conversion is a little more effort upfront, using direct-wire LED tubes eliminates the ballast as a failure point (as in the plug-and-play option), and reduces the overall energy consumption by eliminating the ballast.

If time and manpower are limited, hybrid LED tubes may be the ideal solution. Hybrid LED tubes can be installed initially as plug-and-play tubes to get you back up and running with minimal downtime, then switched to direct-wire installation once the ballast fails. Unlike plug-and-play tubes that can only be used with a working ballast, hybrid LED lamps can be used in either installation.

How long does a LED tube last?

LED tubes last an average 50,000 hours, twice that of fluorescent tubes. Used for 12 hours a day, an LED tube with a 50,000 hour rated life will last over 11-years. Some LED tube lights are rated for 70,000 hours or longer.

What is the difference between T5, T8, and T12 lights?

The main difference is the size. The number after “T” is the diameter in eighths of an inch (5/8 inch, 1 inch, and 1-1/2 inches respectively). Other differences include lamp efficiency and lamp life. T8 lamps are a longer-lasting, more energy-efficient replacement lamp for T12 lamps of the same wattage. Both are frequently used in general lighting applications such as offices and warehouses. T5 lamps, however, often require specialty T5 fixtures. While sometimes used in general lighting, T5s are more often used for under cabinet lighting, grow lights, and other specialty applications.

Do T8 LED bulbs need a ballast?

Most T8 LED bulbs do not need a ballast. The only type of LED tube that requires a ballast is plug-and-play. Used as direct replacements for fluorescent tubes, plug-and-play LED tube lights install without fixture rewiring, and operate off the existing fluorescent ballast. Hybrid LED tubes can be used with a ballast, but one is not required. Some LED tubes cannot operate with a ballast. Direct-wire or ballast-bypass LED tubes require the ballast be removed prior to installation.

Can a T8 LED replace a T12?

Yes, a T8 can replace a T12 bulb of the same length and wattage.

Are LEDs more efficient than fluorescent?

Yes, LED tube lights use substantially less energy than fluorescent tubes. LED tubes also have a longer lifespan, saving additional money in maintenance and replacement costs.

How long do T8 ballasts last?

Fluorescent T8 ballasts can last from 5 to 20-years, but environmental factors, temperature, number of hours the fixture is turned on, and bad bulbs can decrease the lifespan drastically.

What are high output LED bulbs?

Installing as double-ended direct-wire tubes, high-output LED tubes replace high-output fluorescent lamps. Featuring a recessed double-contact (R17d) base, these tubes operate with the existing sockets once the ballast has been removed and the fixture rewired.

High-output bulbs are available in a range of color temperature from a warmer 3000 kelvin color to a stark white 5000 kelvin. These high-output lamps have the same base diameters as standard bulbs but emit a much brighter lumen output to reduce the number of fixtures needed to light an area.

Do you carry LED u-bend bulbs?

Yes! LED u-bend tubes come with either 6-inch or 1.625-inch leg spacing, and operate more efficiently than their fluorescent counterparts. These tubes are commonly used in 2x2 fixtures in retail stores, offices, hospitals, and other locations. Tubes with a shatter-resistant coating meeting NSF requirements can be used in restaurants and in food prep areas. Some tubes can be paired with dimmers, allowing you to adjust the light output as needed. For potential state or local rebates, look for LED u-bend tubes that are DLC listed. LED u-bends are available in various color temperatures and plug-and-play and direct-wire configurations. Check the product compatibility PDF hyperlinked under Brochures and Spec Sheets on for assistance. Some LED u-bends cannot be used in fully enclosed fixtures.

For help with any of your lighting retrofit needs, call 1-800-624-4488 to speak with a member of our knowledgeable staff.