Tubular LEDs: Are they worth it?

June 13, 2018

Modern LED strip lamp mounted on ceiling

Designed to replace fluorescent lamps, tubular LEDs, or TLEDs, are becoming a popular choice for facility managers around the country. But are they a better solution than fluorescent light bulbs?


Today’s fluorescent lighting technology is very efficient. If you are looking to replace an old fluorescent lamp or ballast and want to maintain the same lighting level, your best choice is to replace it with a new fluorescent system. This is true whether you have troffers (recessed lighting), industrial lighting, strip lights, or almost any other fluorescent system. Changing your old T8 fluorescent lamps to the current high performance T8s can save you 20-25 percent in energy costs. Replacing your old T12 systems with the new T8 lamps and ballasts could result in energy savings as much as 50 percent, and deliver better color rendering.


However, fluorescent bulbs do have a few cons:

  • They contain mercury. Although they have less mercury than ever before (less than a can of tuna fish), they still require careful disposal
  • They flicker. Even the newest bulbs still take a while to fully warm up, and they are negatively affected by cold temperatures
  • They are fragile. Fluorescent bulbs are made of glass. Their fragility is more problematic when you consider the first point, that they contain mercury, which is toxic.
  • Poor dimmable capabilities. Fluorescents are expensive to dim, and the results are not adequate
  • This may not be a con for your situation, but you cannot direct light where you want it with fluorescent bulbs
  • Not efficient with smart lighting systems. Fluorescent lights tend to burn out faster when integrated with occupancy sensors and other smart controls


While TLEDs are 2-3 times as expensive as fluorescent T8, now may be the time to consider upgrading. Here are some of the benefits of TLEDs:

  • Mercury Free—and they are 100% recyclable
  • Dimmable
  • No flickering
  • Less fragile—most T8 LED tubes are made with a shatterproof coating
  • Directional lighting, so you can get light exactly where you want it
  • Work well with smart lighting systems
  • Longer lasting—the average life of a T8 LED is 50,000 hours, compared to 30,000 hours for an average T8 fluorescent
  • More efficient—the newest T8 LEDs are around 30 percent more efficient than T8 LFLs


The following graphic from Commonwealth Edison Company helps put the economics of the fluorescent versus TLED decision into perspective:


If you are still on the fence about whether you should switch your fluorescent systems out for TLEDs, there is one last factor to consider. Although TLEDs are designed to be easy to install, not every TLED works with every fluorescent ballast. You will need to hire an electrician to properly make the switch, which will add to your installation expense.


For more information on upgrading lighting in your facility, contact Vanguard Resources.