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What is Direct Wire Ballast Bypass LED Lighting, What is Ballast operated plug and play LED Lighting, and How Are They Different?

Posted on August 18, 2017

LED T8 plug and play

LED T8 ballast bypass lamps

LED linear lighting options are rapidly replacing standard fluorescent linear lamps, due to their greater energy efficiency and lower costs. Because of these advancements, consumers are beginning to research the various lighting options available in order to retrofit their homes or businesses with  LED lighting solutions.

Two of these lighting options are direct wire ballast bypass and plug and play ballast operated lighting. Below, we will answer the questions, “what is direct wire ballast bypass lighting” and “what is ballast operated plug and play lighting,” and then compare and contrast each of those options for you to determine which is best for your home or business.

What is Direct Wire ballast bypass lighting Lighting?

Ballast Bypass Lighting

Direct wire ballast bypass LED lighting, or UL Type B, solution works directly from the line voltage flowing into the sockets. The retrofitting process for Type B linear LEDs involves removing any existing electrical ballasts and verifying that the fixture has non-shunted sockets.

Below is a picture of the differences between shunted and non-shunted fluorescent socket types. It is imperative that the proper sockets be used with the LED type B lamp. With this lighting solution the fixture has been altered from it’s original state. It is very important that the fixture be relabeled explaining that direct wire ballast bypass LED UL type B lamps have been installed.

Shunt Non Shunt  Non-Shunted

Fluorescent Socket

What is Plug and Play Ballast Operated LED Lighting?


A plug and play ballast operated LED light, or UL Type A, solution swaps out existing linear fluorescent lamps for LED plug and play lamps. Plug and Play ballast operated LED T8 and T5 lamps make upgrading to LED easy. Using the UL Type A plug and play LED lamps, users can replace existing T8 or T5 fluorescent lamps with without re-wiring, because the lamp uses the existing electronics. This led lighting solution greatly reduces maintenance and labor costs. This LED lighting solution is ideal for users focused on maximizing the value of an existing ballast investment. These energy-saving LED solutions seamlessly fit into existing linear fluorescent fixtures without any extra effort and utilize the existing ballasts, thus requiring no re-wiring upon installation.

To properly retrofit your fixture you must verify which type lamp you have installed and the ballast type that is operating it. If you have T8 fluorescent lamps installed in your ceiling troffers you will need to verify you are running on a manufacturer approved Instant start ballast and that you have non-shunted sockets in the fixture.

For T12 applications where you have 1.5 inch diameter lamps and most applications you will also have shunted sockets. For T5 & T5HO applications there are plug and play options that work on the existing 2 or 4 lamp ballast. In T5HO applications always verify that the ballast will operate the LED lamps.

How Are They Different?

So, how exactly are direct wire and ballast lighting solutions different from one another?  Direct wire lighting and plug and play ballast operated LED are two very different solutions for retrofitting fluorescent lighting in our buildings and facilities. The benefits of direct wire lighting are that it requires no ballast maintenance and simplifies any future lamp installations.

Direct Wire

First, there is a safety risk with installing a direct wire system, since the sockets carry line voltage thereby increasing the risk of electric shock. Second, there can be challenges with rewiring the whole system, because there is no accepted standard schematic for rewiring direct wire LED systems. Last, there are also potential issues with rewiring each lamp to the new system and making each socket compatible to the Type B system.

For plug and play ballast operated lighting replacements, there are quite a few benefits, including the ability to easily upgrade by simply changing out the lamp, no electrician cost for the rewiring of the fixture, no voltage issues at the socket, and reduced overall maintenance. Since this system operates on the existing ballast and there are no other modifications.

These plug and play LED T8 can provide users with significant energy saving and maintenance savings – up 40% when with compared traditional fluorescent 32W T8 systems. This lower energy consumption makes it easier to upgrade to LED by enabling financial short payback periods. (Actual savings depend on your unique system configuration.)

However, there are some downsides to replacing fluorescents with plug and play led lighting. The upfront cost will likely be more, though this is usually offset by the overall energy savings. And while future labor costs will likely be reduced by choosing to use the plug and play option, you still have a ballast that at some point will fail and need replacing. Either way this option is affordable and very simple so a business of any kind could undertake this LED retrofit "DIY" style.

Where to Find These LED Lighting Solutions?

Now that we have answered the questions, "What is direct wire ballast bypass LED lighting," and "What is plug and play ballast operated LED lighting," it’s time for you to decide which of these lighting options is best for you to take the next step forward in energy efficient lighting. But you’re certainly not alone: if you have any further questions about direct wire lighting and ballast lighting, don’t hesitate to  contact our team of specialty lighting experts, who are happy to help you through the process.

If you are looking to retrofit your home or business with either of these lighting solutions, go through a trusted and experienced supplier of lighting solutions like  Atlanta Light Bulbs.

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