When you hear the word tube light, you are almost certainly going to think of fluorescent light. There are many different forms of fluorescent lights including specialty fluorescent U-bend and high bay lighting and fluorescent circline lamps, but in terms of popularity and widespread use, fluorescent tube lights are significantly more common.
They can be found everywhere from commercial and industrial locations to the garages and basements of residences for use as shop lights. Their excellent range of color temperatures and relatively high energy efficiency, when coupled with their long lifespans only, makes them all the more popular.
Widespread and practical, fluorescent tube lighting is not going away, either. Modern advances in technology have done away with common problems in the past associated with long warm-up periods, flickering and buzzing, as more and more lights become compatible with electronic ballasts instead of magnetic ballasts.
Still, you may have wondered if there were any serviceable, even superior alternatives, to fluorescent tube lights. As it turns out, there are a number of alternatives, and some of them can even be but into operation fairly quickly and easily. To understand how an alternative like an LED tube light works, for example, we need to take a closer look at the operations of each type of lighting.
How Fluorescent Lighting Works
Fluorescent lighting can become rather involved, but the principles of operation are not too complicated. The basis by which fluorescent lights work is predicated on the process of fluorescence, which has been observed for a long time in nature. Effectively, certain compounds emit light on the visible spectrum when they are irradiated by ultraviolet light. That is the principle behind their operation.
Like many other forms of light bulbs, fluorescent lamps contain a sealed glass tube with electrodes at either end. Within the tube is contained an inert gas, typically argon, along with trace amounts of mercury. The inside of the tube is coated in phosphor powder, which is why the lamps appear frosted, even when shut off.
Fluorescent lights require a component called a ballast which regulates the current and the voltage to the lamp; this is necessary not only to allow the lamp to work at all but for it to offer a steady output of high-quality light. When you supply power to the lamp, the ballast allows the proper amount of electricity to reach the electrode within the lamp; electricity jumps from one electrode to the other on the other side of the lamp, flowing through the gas within the tube. As the mercury is heated up by the current, it becomes vaporized. In this process, its electrons are excited and release UV radiation.
While this radiation is invisible to human eyes, when it strikes the phosphor powder on the inside of the tube, it begins to glow. This is the principle of operation behind a fluorescent lamp. It contains fluorescent materials that glow when exposed to ultraviolet radiation. Interestingly enough, this type of lighting offers a number of benefits over other forms of lighting such as incandescent bulbs and HID lamps.
General Benefits of Fluorescent Lighting
In addition to the obvious fact that fluorescent lighting offers a great range of color temperatures and excellent light output, it has a few other benefits that have made it an attractive option for lighting large, typically indoor spaces.
The first is in energy efficiency, and this is all the more salient when fluorescent lighting is used instead of incandescent or HID alternatives. Both incandescent lights and HID lamps can generate very high temperatures even when well insulated. As a result, they can significantly heat up a space when used inside. This can in turn drive up HVAC costs. Then there is the fact that fluorescent lighting simply draws less power as compared to these alternatives while generating comparable output.
On top of its energy efficiency, fluorescent lighting is also very long-lived. Some lights can last tens of thousands of hours, and on the higher end, there are options that can last almost as long as 50,000 hours, although that is rare. Nonetheless, they last significantly longer than these alternatives.
Since fluorescent lights do not draw as much energy as these alternatives while lasting longer at the same time, they can rack up some cost savings as a bonus as well. In the first place, you will need to replace them less frequently, and in the second they can help keep your electricity usage low.
Nonetheless, given some circumstances and technological developments, you may have wondered if there were alternatives to fluorescent lighting that could offer you the same benefits and more. As it turns out, there just may be, and it comes in the form of a linear LED light. Just as with fluorescent lighting, however, to understand the advantages of LED lights over fluorescents, you have to understand how they work.
LED Lighting: Principles of Operation
Like a fluorescent light, an LED, or light-emitting diode, has two electrodes as a part of its construction, but that’s about where the difference ends. Unlike fluorescent lights and almost all other light sources, LEDs are a SSL or solid-state light. Most other light sources contain a bulb with a mixture of gases and other compounds that work in conjunction with electricity to produce light. By contrast, LEDs contain only a hard plastic cover over the diode and produce light through electroluminescence.
LEDs contain a material known as a semiconductor that emits light when the proper current passes across it. Within the semiconductor, there is a region known as the positive-negative, or P-N junction, across which electrons cross and release energy in the form of light. When you turn on the power to an LED, the electrons want to move from the positive side of the semiconductor to the negative side. As the electrons move across the junction, they are excited - when they fill the electron holes on the positive side, they release their stored energy. In simple terms - you apply energy to an LED and the semiconductor glows.
Due to this unique principle of operation, there are a number of advantages that LED lights have over alternatives, specifically over fluorescent lights. This is not only due to their construction but to a number of other factors related to their operation, as we are about to address.
Advantages of LEDs
The first set of benefits that come along with LEDs result from the unique physical construction of the LEDs themselves. As mentioned, LEDs are SSLs, which means there is no bulb containing a gas - this makes LEDs very tough, as well as resistant to vibration and moisture.
Then there is the fact that by their operation, LEDs draw very little light while producing the same quality of light that you might have come to expect from fluorescents (or alternatives previously mentioned). As we mentioned, fluorescent lights are fairly energy-efficient and also produce relatively little heat, keeping costs down. LEDs are significantly more energy-efficient, even than fluorescent lights, and produce almost no heat as a result. This has two effects - on the one hand, LEDs will slash your energy consumption and costs, and at the same time can have an even more profound effect on cooling costs. This can make a huge difference, depending on the climate of the location in which they would be used.
Then there is the longevity, which makes LEDs look like a steal compared to fluorescent lights. As mentioned, fluorescent lights last a long time which makes them preferable to incandescents and HID lamps in many situations. LEDs last even longer than this; the longest rated fluorescent lights may be able to last close to 50,000 hours, but some LEDs can last nearly 100,000 hours. They outlast all other alternatives and they do so with room to spare. Plus, LEDs don’t burn out in the same way that other bulbs do, they just lose their brightness over time. On occasion, you can fix a failing set of LEDs simply by replacing its driver - a device that much like the ballast associated with fluorescent lighting controls the current and voltage to the LED.
There’s one more little thing to consider. We explained previously that mercury vapor is instrumental in supplying the fluorescent lights with UV light which makes them fluoresce in the first place. That also makes them environmentally hazardous and difficult to dispose of. LEDs contain no such contaminants, making them easy to dispose of and replace when the time comes for that. With the right LED replacement, you may be able to save all around.
Types of Tube Lights
This is where an LED tube light comes into the picture. The process by which you can assess a situation and make beneficial replacements of parts in order to realize some savings or benefits is called retrofitting. There are plenty of different LEDs that can be retrofitted to different fixtures such as those intended for use with incandescent or metal halide lamps, but in this case, we’re going to focus on linear LED lights.
There are plenty of different types of fluorescent lights, but tube lights are arguably the most widely used, so if you’re going to replace or retrofit them, you’re going to need a compatible LED tube light. Lucky for you, we offer plenty of different options in LED lights that are ballast compatible with circuits so that you can enjoy a real “plug and play” option.
Some of the most common fluorescent tube lights are T5, T8, and T12 lights, which come in more than one size but in a standard diameter. For example, T5 lights are ultra-thin coming in at ⅝ of an inch in diameter whereas T8s (the most common) are an inch wide. Larger forms like the T12 are an inch and a half wide. The main difference between these lights, besides the sizes, is that though many of them offer the same lumen outputs, the smaller lamps require less energy to do so.
There are a number of ways that you can work an LED tube light into existing infrastructure, but remember that there is the existing ballast of the current fluorescent lighting lamp or circuit to consider. Here are Atlanta Light Bulbs, we offer a number of options to make switching out your fluorescent lamps with LEDs possible.
One of the easiest ways to pull this off is with a direct fit LED bulb that offers true plug and play functionality. With a light like this, you simply need a compatible LED bulb and you switch it out and get to using it. For example, if you wanted to replace a T8 fluorescent light, you can use a direct fit T8 LED tube light , of which we offer many examples here on our site. This is the fastest and easiest way to make the switch.
There are also other types of linear LED lights that are called ballast bypass LED lights which ‘work around’ the original ballast but require a bit of required to make the lampwork with the existing fixture.
Drivers, Ballasts and Other Accessories
Something to keep in mind with LED replacement light bulbs for fluorescent tube lights is that LED lights require a driver to operate properly just as a fluorescent light requires a ballast. Some LED lights come with a driver built-in, but others require one to be added to the fixture in order to operate. In addition to the many linear LED tube light bulbs that we sell here at Atlanta Light Bulbs, we also offer drivers, ballasts, and other necessary components in order to ensure that you can upgrade your fixtures.
Give Us A Call
At Atlanta Light Bulbs, we also understand that even with all of this information it can be somewhat confusing to determine what parts are required with what lights, as well as exactly how to complete the retrofitting or replacement. In that event, our customer service team is standing by. Give us a call at 1-888-988-2852 and let us know what you need to replace and why. We’ll put you in touch with everything you need to know to complete the project and we’ll be ready to answer any questions you might have as well. Don’t let the project intimidate you - call us today.