Posted by Doug Root on 18th Aug 2017

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

The most popular options for changing T8 & T12 fluorescent lamps are direct wire (ballast bypass type B) and plug and play (type A) ballast operated retrofit LED tube lights. Below, we will answer the questions regarding both types and how they can be helpful in a variety of situations. This can help you determine which is best for your home or business.

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 then rewiring the fixture to provide power directly to the sockets. For single-ended power lamps, the wiring diagram will look like this.

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 its original state. It is very important that the fixture is relabeled explaining that direct wire ballast bypass LED T8 lamps have been installed.


Plug and Play Ballast Operated LED Lighting


A UL Type A solution swaps out existing linear fluorescent lamps for LED plug and play lamps. Plug and Play ballast bypass 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 rewiring because the lamp uses the existing electronics. This LED lighting solution greatly reduces maintenance and labor costs.

To properly retrofit your fixture you must verify which type of lamp you have installed and the ballast type that is operating it. If you have T8 fluorescent lamps installed in your ceiling fixtures 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.


Direct wire lighting and plug and play ballast bypass 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 that comes with installing a direct wire system. Since the sockets carry line voltage, your risk of electric shock is increased. There can also be challenges with rewiring the whole system because there is no accepted standard schematic for rewiring direct wire systems. Lastly, there are potential issues with rewiring each lamp to the new system and making each socket compatible with the Type B system.

Plug and play LED T8 Ballasts bypass replacement lamps and offer 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, it makes for an easier switch.

These plug and play ballast bypass LED T8 models can provide users with significant energy and maintenance savings – up 40% when compared with 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.

While future labor costs will likely be reduced by choosing to use the plug and play option, you still have an LED 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?

LED T8 plug and play LED T8 ballast bypass lamps

Understanding the differences between the two options doesn’t have to be difficult. 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 LED T8 Ballast Bypass Retrofit lamps, 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.