Installing LED tube lights is a great way to save money on electricity and eliminate potentially dangerous fluorescent lights from your home or office. However, most LED tube lights on the market today cannot be installed directly into an existing fluorescent fixture. You will need to make some simple modifications to the fixture to properly install the bulbs. The good news is that installing an LED tube light into an existing fluorescent fixture is relatively simple. Also, you should be able to buy specially designed LED light tube fixtures in the near future, and they should actually be cheaper than equivalent fluorescent fixtures. This article will provide a brief overview explaining what you need to know to install new energy efficient fluorescent tube lights into an existing fluorescent light fixture.
Fluorescent fixtures are designed to accept specific types and sizes of fluorescent tubes. A fluorescent tube is incorporated into a fluorescent lighting system that consists of two or three main components: (1) the fluorescent lamp (bulb or fluorescent tube), (2) the ballast, and (3) the starter. In addition, the system for a tube lamp includes a lamp holder and a switch. Depending on the particular fluorescent lighting system, the starter may be a replaceable component, a starter may not be required, or the starter function may be built into the ballast. The launch function may also depend on the physical design of the accessory. To adapt a fluorescent lamp to support an LED light tube, the ballast (and starter if there is a separate one) must be disconnected.
Make sure the replacement LED tube lights are the correct size for the fixture. Also, always remember that when servicing a lamp or fluorescent lamp for any reason, the power to the entire lamp must be disconnected. This is not always practical in situations where a large number of devices are controlled from the same power control (such as in open office areas). In these cases, insulated gloves and a non-metallic ladder should be used if fixtures must be serviced when power is present.
You’ll need a few simple tools, including a wire cutter and stripper (often built into the same tool), a pair of pliers, a screwdriver, and some wire nuts to reconnect the wires once you’ve removed the ballast.
Once the old bulbs are removed from the sockets and the power to the fixture is turned off, you will probably need to remove the reflector that sits behind the bulbs and provides a housing for the wiring and ballast behind it. It’s usually fairly easy to remove the reflector or cover, but if it’s not clear how to do this, you should refer to the fixture manufacturer’s documentation.
If the fixture has an electronic ballast, you just need to remove it and then connect power directly to the sockets, completing one circuit for each bulb. This is pretty simple and you can usually use the existing wire on the fixture and then just add some wire nuts. If you have an older fixture with a magnetic ballast and starter, you will need to remove or open the starter and remove or short the magnetic ballast.
Depending on how much wire you have to work with, it’s a good idea to leave long enough wires sticking out of the ballast so you can reattach the ballast with wire nuts if you ever want to convert the fixture back to use for light bulbs. fluorescent lamps or want to use the ballast elsewhere. The ballast will usually have two screws or bolts holding it in place on the fixture, and these can be removed with a screwdriver or pair of pliers as appropriate. The ballast must be disposed of according to local regulations, just like the old fluorescent light bulbs. Because fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of highly toxic mercury, they must be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of properly.
Once the ballast (and starter, if present) has been removed and the wires have been reconnected to complete a circuit for each bulb, replace the reflector or cover the wiring and the area where the ballast was located, and LED tube lights can be inserted into the end caps. Unlike fluorescent bulbs that do not have a top or bottom, an LED tube light will have an obvious top and bottom, with a metal heat sink located at the back of the tube and the LEDs visible under a lens in the side that will point towards the area to be illuminated. Put the cover back on the device (if any) and turn on the power. Flip the switch and if you’ve done everything correctly, you should have lighting as good or better using about half the electricity and lasting up to 50,000 hours or more.