Posted by Doug Root on 5th Jan 2021

4ft LED Bulbs: Options and Benefits

If you hear the term “4ft LED bulbs'' or you are looking for them, that can really reasonably only mean one thing. You’re looking for ways to replace or retrofit your existing linear fluorescent tube lights, like T8, T5, and T12 fluorescent lamps, with LED upgrades.

That’s basically what that means. If there are other four foot long LED bulbs out there we’d like to know what they are because that would be news to us, and we’re the industry leaders when it comes to lighting resources and equipment.

So, what does all of this matter? Can’t you just get your LED replacements and just be on your way?

Well, yes and no, depending on the equipment and fixtures you are currently operating and the results you expect to see. Also, if you’re here looking for a defense of LEDs because you’re still partial to your fluorescent lights (like a shop light, for example) then you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s start with a little bit of background.

What Is It?

As we stated, 4ft LED bulbs are linear LED lights that are intended to serve as a replacement for linear fluorescent tube lights. Anytime you see the word “foot” associated with an LED light, you’re probably going to be looking at fluorescent upgrades, replacements, or retrofits.

Also, not all linear LED bulbs that are designed to replace fluorescent lights are 4 feet long, and not all of them have the same requirements for installation, wiring, or retrofitting, but we’ll cover that a little further along.

Here at Atlanta Light Bulbs, we sell linear LED bulbs from a variety of manufacturers, in a variety of sizes and with a number of different physical components that will impact whether or not you can use them in your spaces, which brings us to our next point.

Do you want to use them in your spaces? Whether you’re staring down the barrel of replacing an entire indoor bay’s worth of linear fluorescent lights or just want a cost-effective alternative to the light in your garage, here’s what you should know.

Using Fluorescent? Think Again!

A lot of specialty applications either require the use of fluorescent lighting or have predominantly used fluorescent lighting in the past. For example, many shop lights, as mentioned above still make use of fluorescent lighting. They are even more common in commercial and industrial lighting than they are in residential use. Many shopping malls, stores, and public buildings like school and government complexes make use of fluorescent overhead lighting.

They’re also common in high bays, warehouses, and in many industrial settings, although HID lights are common in these situations as well.

Fluorescent lighting is popular today and was even more popular in the past because compared to traditional lighting alternatives like the HID bulbs mentioned above, as well as incandescents, fluorescents have a lot of draw.

Part of their draw came from the fact that fluorescents last a lot longer than these alternatives, produce good quality light, don’t produce as much heat, and, though expensive, can be overall more practical and cost-effective when all factors are considered.

However, nowadays, with modern competition like LEDs, all of these claims can be reopened for examination. Fluorescent bulbs no longer rule uncontested on these grounds.

●They don’t last long enough

Fluorescent lights may have once been the definitive answer to longevity in lighting solutions, but that is no longer the case. It’s true enough that most fluorescents will outlast the incandescents and HID lamps that they often replace, and they still hold that advantage, but when you introduce LED bulbs into the picture, there’s a bit of a power shift.

Here’s something you’re going to need to know as you read further along in this article. The best fluorescent lights ever produced could have potentially reached somewhere close to 50,000 hours, but most fluorescent lights today are still rated near 10,000 or 20,000, with some approaching 25,000 hours. Just wait till you hear how long some LED tube lights will last.

●They use too much power

By a similar token, fluorescent lights are much more energy-efficient than HID bulbs like metal halides, mercury vapor lamps, and sodium lamps. They’re also far more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs, and they remain so. Again, that changes with the introduction of LED light bulbs into the mix.

There’s something else about fluorescent bulbs besides the fact that they lack the energy efficiency for which they were once lauded. They also produce more heat than LEDs, although less than many other forms of lighting. You’ll see why this matters shortly.

●They’re hard to dispose of and contain toxic chemicals

Another problem that businesses and homeowners alike have come across in the past is the issue of disposal. It’s bad enough that fluorescent lights have a relatively high upfront cost, but they become even more expensive when you consider how difficult it is to dispose of them.

For a homeowner, this might not be too much of an issue, but for businesses that have to maintain legal compliance with environmental and waste disposal regulations, it can be a sore issue. Whenever a business needs to replace hundreds or thousands of lights, just the disposal alone can rack up costs.

Fluorescent lights have within them, among other things, a small amount of mercury which is not only toxic to humans but is also environmentally and ecologically harmful. Just wait until you hear about LEDs.

●They’re expensive

We don’t intend to beat a dead horse by bringing this up over and over again, so we’ll just leave it at this and let the rest of the article speak for itself. In the past, fluorescent lights were very desirable despite their high upfront costs because they had long lifespans and were energy efficient. Now, they’ve lost some of their laurels but they remain fairly expensive.

●They can be temperamental

Something else you’ve probably noticed if you operate or own any fluorescent lights is that they can be temperamental, even in the absence of obvious environmental impactors. Although instant electronic ballasts have for the most part mitigated many of the issues associated with magnetic ballasts, some fluorescent bulbs still whine, buzz and flicker annoyingly.

Some electronic ballasts also provide for a more or less immediate start up, without flickering or delay, but when it’s very cold out, some fluorescent lights are still a bit sluggish when you turn the lights on. That’s why some fluorescent lights are left burning all the time.

Types of 4ft LED Bulbs

By this point you probably don’t need too much more convincing to switch on over to T12, T5 or the more ubiquitous T8 LED bulbs to replace your fluorescent lamps and start reaping the rewards. Very broadly, here are some of the options at your disposal.

-Plug and Play Options - Plug and play 4ft LED bulbs are probably the thing that most of you reading this are going to want to go after because they are by far the least work and require the least involvement to replace.

Fluorescent lights, like LEDs, require special components to ensure they work as intended. In LEDs, this is called a driver and with fluorescent lights, it’s called a ballast. Unfortunately, not all LEDs are compatible with the ballasts of the fluorescent lights they are designed to replace. As long as your current fixtures use an approved ballast, you can just plug in a compatible LED replacement tube and switch the lights on.

-Ballast Bypass 4ft LED Bulbs - Ballast bypass LED replacement lights, also known as direct wire lights, will require you to do a little bit of wiring to circumvent the ballast, which is why they are called ‘ballast bypass’ bulbs in the first place.

It’s a little more labor-intensive but it can save you from trouble down the line. For the most part, you will need to wire the LED lights directly to the line - they run right off line voltage, and many of them contain their own drivers so that at the very least will save you some effort.

-Hybrid Options - Hybrid LED replacements, also called Dual Mode LEDs, offer some situations a lot of conveniences especially if they don’t have the time or resources to do extensive re-wiring. Some of them are designed to work directly with the ballasts of the fixtures that housed the fluorescent lights in the first place. However, even if the ballast fails, they can be rewired to bypass the ballast and they should still work. You can see from this where the name originated.

Strengths

Once you’ve decided whether you want to proceed with ballast compatibility for a plug and play model or go with an option that requires rewiring but may prove to be more permanent, you can get on with enjoying these benefits of LEDs - and guess what, they go further than energy savings!

●Excellent lifespan - We’ve already made this specific point in this article, but if there’s one serious edge LED lights have over fluorescents (and other lights, for that matter) it’s a great deal of lifespan. Check out some of the options in our collection - some of them are rated to 50,000 hours. That’s significantly longer than most of the fluorescent lights we carry. A longer lifespan for you also means expenses cut on replacements.

●Lower energy bill - LEDs last a lot longer than fluorescent lights but the deal just keeps getting better and better with them. They’re also immensely more energy efficient than fluorescent lights, and everything else for that matter. Pay to replace them once, enjoy lower utility bills from there on out.

●Keep the heat down - LEDs will save you on utilities, as we said, but in more ways than one. LEDs do not replace as much heat as most if not all fluorescents. That is not something you’d ever notice outside in a garage with a fluorescent light overhead, but in warehouses and bays it stacks up, especially if they are climate controlled. Switching to LEDs may be able to save you on cooling bills in the hotter months.

●Easy to replace (Some more than others) - We already covered some of the options at your disposal in the section above, but it can be as easy as popping out the old fluorescent and popping in the new LED, at least in some cases.

●Reliability - Whereas fluorescent lights need special components to start right up (and they still will need at least a bit of a warm-up time) LEDs start right up, right away, and they won’t flicker or fail. They also reach full brightness faster than your eye can detect.

Unexpected Strengths

The above considerations are some of the main benefits of LED lights, but here are some of the unexpected bonuses:

●Some are shatter resistant - Some of our LED replacement bulbs are made with shatter-resistant plastic, which is a welcome change over the fragile glass tubes of real fluorescents.

●No toxic components, potential recyclability - LEDs contain no toxic components and in many cases can be almost entirely recycled. Some statistics claim that up to 90% (or more) of an LED can be reused, repurposed, or recycled.

●Excellent color temperature - Are you in love with the soft, cool white light of your fluorescents? You won’t need to give up that color temperature for LEDs!

●Likewise, they have excellent CRI - Color Rendering Index, also known as CRI, is a measurement of the way light will make a color “appear.” You’ll be happy to know that LEDs have a wide range of CRI, so you can outfit your setting just as you please.

●No temperamentality - As noted, LEDs will start right up, every time, and reach full brightness immediately.

Contact Us for Help!

For some of you, we may not be a local store, but we’ll offer you advice and customer service unlike any other you can match. We’re also no more than a call away, and whether you’re a homeowner who just wants to replace a single fluorescent light or you operate a big business and want to talk volume pricing, we’re here to help.

Get on the phone with us anytime you need help - you can reach us at 888-988-2852!

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