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Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: clay
Date: May 18, 2017 09:45AM
Poll
Which approach for replacing fluorescent fixtures?
Only registered users are allowed to vote for this poll.
16 votes were received.
Option 1 - LED tubes in existing fixture 10
 
63%
Option 2 - Pull out existing fixture, install LED panels 4
 
25%
Option 3 - Pull out existing fixture, install "can" lights or similar 2
 
12%



I have 3 fluorescent 2x4' panels in part of my basement which has drop-ceiling. 2 of the 3 fixtures are now flickering and rather than spend any time/money fixing them or investigating what's going on, I'd like to use the opportunity to replace them with something LED. I don't really need dimming capability, but I would like to stay in a reasonably similar Lumens range with whatever direction I go.

I see 3 main options, but wanted to get some opinions:

1. Replace existing bulbs with drop-in LED replacements. Bypass the ballast in each fixture. Looks like I can find T8 LED bulbs for about $10 each (haven't done much pricing research). 4 bulbs per fixture, so about $40 a fixture, though I might also get by just fine with 2 lights only in each.

2. Fully remove existing fixtures and replace with 2x2' or 2x4' LED panels. Cost looks to range in the $100 to $150 range each, depending on size. I haven't really checked eBay or Amazon options yet, and I'd imagine I could find panels for a good bit cheaper on one of those, if I'm willing to go the route of direct from china or random sellers with no brand name/reputation/warranty.

3. Remove existing fixtures and replace with more standard fixtures that use screw in bulbs. So, maybe I replace each existing fixture with 2 "can" lights and powerful screw in LED bulbs. Maybe $20 per "can" fixture and $10 for a high power LED bulb.

Any thoughts?
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: mattkime
Date: May 18, 2017 09:57AM
I'd probably lean toward #3.



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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Acer
Date: May 18, 2017 10:16AM
I hesitate to install the "integrated" LED style panels where you'd have to wire in an entire fixture if it goes bad. 35,000 hours is a long time, but it's not forever, especially with today's bottom-dollar manufacturing standards.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: MikeF
Date: May 18, 2017 10:18AM
You can get LED fluorescent replacements that just go in without the need to remove the ballasts.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Racer X
Date: May 18, 2017 10:29AM
Quote
MikeF
You can get LED fluorescent replacements that just go in without the need to remove the ballasts.

Yup. Did that in my garage. $18 for 2 tubes at our local Costco. Work well when cold, instant full bright. Well worth it. Wish I could do that cheaply to my 8' fixtures too.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Robert M
Date: May 18, 2017 11:31AM
Clay,

#1 or @2 and definitely only do something that will let you use standard "off-the-shelf" lamps (aka bulbs/tubes). Nothing proprietary. If the bulb goes, run to Home Depot and buy a replacement. Nothing integrated. Nothing that combines the bulb and the fixture.

Hard to say which is the better choice: LED tubes or cans with screw in bulbs. Each has its pros and cons, not only in performance but appearance. I prefer cans and bulbs (aka high hats) but that's just me. That way, I have a wider variety of bulbs to choose from in the store or online. You'll have more options for wattage, color and brightness.

For the high hats in my kitchen, I'm using bulbs with these stats:

12 Watt - BR30 - 65W Equal - 800 Lumens - Color Corrected 92 CRI - 2700 Kelvin

The 800 or so lumen bulbs I had originally were discontinued by Home Depot. So, it took me a bit of searching find suitable replacements. I like a bright kitchen and the current crop of locally available 65 watt bulbs were in the 650 lumen range. Not acceptable. I found suitable replacements online in a matter of minutes. Since they were BR30 bulbs, getting them shipped to me wasn't an issue at all

Key, though, is that it was my choice to go with the higher lumen bulbs. Lots of other options were available in higher and lower wattage, color and lumens. I could've chosen from a slew of other bulbs. smiling smiley

But, you're talking a basement. you may be better off with LED tubes. It really all depends on how you want the basement to look with the lights shining.

Above all, though, only lighting that uses standard off-the-shelf fixtures and bulbs.

Robert
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: btfc
Date: May 18, 2017 11:52AM
Hard to say without pictures of the current fixtures, but my first instinct is #3.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: billb
Date: May 18, 2017 11:53AM
I tried a LED tube that would work with an electronic ballast only. I wasn't sure what the ballast was in the old fixture because the label was illegible. I tried it anyway. The LED lights flickered at what appeared to be 30hz for about 15 seconds and died.
I put the fluorescent grow tubes back in and used it for my plants.

I ordered Hypericon tubes with tombstones that the fixture needs to be wired for bypassing the ballast and for single end wiring. Unfortunately that old fixture had crimp in tombstones (the newer fixtures mostly have slide-ins ).
Very carefully rewired the old style tombstones for single end power and the LED lights are pretty nice.

I've had a lot of ballasts go bad so I'm biased towards bypassing them.

18 watts per tube vs 36(T8) or 40(T12) is worth the effort to rewire a light ( if it's easy to rewire ) IMO.
Especially here with electricity costs 22-25ยข/kwh. (4 foot lights )

Edit: I bought the clear tubes. They are a little harsh on the eyes with no diffuser. Good for plant lights, maybe good enough for the shop. In a basement I'd get the frosted tubes rather than clear.
Edit: Not a fan of cans. But they do work well functionally as task lights in a kitchen.



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Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/18/2017 12:00PM by billb.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Bill in NC
Date: May 18, 2017 12:10PM
#1 only works if you already have T8 tubes/ballasts, not the older T12.

So I vote for #3.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Racer X
Date: May 18, 2017 12:16PM
Quote
Bill in NC
#1 only works if you already have T8 tubes/ballasts, not the older T12.

So I vote for #3.

I dunno. I pulled out T12 40 watt tubes and pit in super skinny LED tubes from Costco.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: billb
Date: May 18, 2017 12:20PM
Quote
Racer X
Quote
Bill in NC
#1 only works if you already have T8 tubes/ballasts, not the older T12.

So I vote for #3.

I dunno. I pulled out T12 40 watt tubes and pit in super skinny LED tubes from Costco.

There are electronic ballasts for t12, you can't go by the diameter of the tubes.



The Phorum Wall keeps us safe from illegal characters and words
The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is the knowledge of one's own ignorance. -Benjamin Franklin


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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: clay
Date: May 18, 2017 01:19PM
just checked, the current fixtures contain 4 x T12 bulbs. 3300 lumens, 20k hour bulbs, 80CRI, 4100k temp. Standard diffuser covering each one.

Don't know if it makes any difference, but these are likely original to our 1978-era house, or at least close to that old. Perhaps its because of their age that I'm reluctant to just do the drop-in LED bulb replacement, for fear that there is something bound to fail right after I invest the cash to replace the bulbs. I know that there's not much to the fixtures, but somehow it seems more wise to just replace the fixtures. I guess that might be the direction I prefer (option #2 or #3). Wiring new lights is no problem, I've done that sort of thing plenty of times.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: davester
Date: May 18, 2017 02:10PM
Quote
MikeF
You can get LED fluorescent replacements that just go in without the need to remove the ballasts.

This is true, and it is easy upfront, but eventually those ballasts will fail. It's so easy to cut the ballast out of the system and remove the failure point that I think it makes much more sense to go with the ballast-less LEDs.




"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion." (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Robert M
Date: May 18, 2017 03:40PM
Davester,

That's what we did in the warehouse of my office. All LED. All ballast-less. Superior light all-around. Tube goes? Pop it out, pop in its replacement. Done.

Robert
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Paul F.
Date: May 18, 2017 04:42PM
I'd go with option 3, because I like like the look better.

Option 1 is the most economical - get that damn ballast out of the loop and put in decent LED bulbs. The school where I work just finished upgrading every light on campus to LED. Took almost two years, as other projects kept taking priority and the head of maintenence has now had both knees replaced...
It's been great.



Paul F.
-----
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----
Good is the enemy of Excellent. Talent is not necessary for Excellence.
Persistence is necessary for Excellence. And Persistence is a Decision.

--

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Eureka, CA
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Cary
Date: May 18, 2017 05:29PM
Quote
Bill in NC
#1 only works if you already have T8 tubes/ballasts, not the older T12.

So I vote for #3.

This is not correct. You can replace either T8 or T12 bulbs with LED tubes.

I vote for cutting out the ballast and changing the tombstones. I've done this on a bunch of fixtures - only takes a few minutes.

#2 may, and #3 will require new dropped ceiling panels and maybe crossbars, which may or may not match whet you've got there.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Racer X
Date: May 18, 2017 06:46PM
Quote
Cary
Quote
Bill in NC
#1 only works if you already have T8 tubes/ballasts, not the older T12.

So I vote for #3.

This is not correct. You can replace either T8 or T12 bulbs with LED tubes.

I vote for cutting out the ballast and changing the tombstones. I've done this on a bunch of fixtures - only takes a few minutes.

#2 may, and #3 will require new dropped ceiling panels and maybe crossbars, which may or may not match whet you've got there.

Cary is correct. I just checked, and the empty Feit LED box the tubes came in says nothing about ballast type or T12 or T8. I pulled out T12 FL tubes with an unknown ballast, the the Costco/Feit tubes are AWESOME!
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: bobinmurphy
Date: May 18, 2017 06:58PM
Quote
Racer X
Quote
MikeF
You can get LED fluorescent replacements that just go in without the need to remove the ballasts.

Yup. Did that in my garage. $18 for 2 tubes at our local Costco. Work well when cold, instant full bright. Well worth it. Wish I could do that cheaply to my 8' fixtures too.

Depending on how many 8' tubes you have to replace it can be done pretty inexpensively. I did it in a friend's shop in Alaska last summer, but I had to buy a case of bulbs (12) and haul them up there myself. Luckily I needed exactly 12 to complete the retrofit on his shop lights. Having them shipped by commercial carrier would have be very costly though.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: max
Date: May 18, 2017 08:23PM
We have been doing #1, bypassing ballasts as they fail, on our warehouse for the last four years, over 300 tubes replaced so far, the first 200 we brought from China, the second batch is coming from Costco, now that the market finally courght up. We have even started to replace HID units with the high bay LED tubes...
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Buck
Date: May 18, 2017 08:27PM
I installed several integrated led fixtures, replacing all kinds of old fixtures. Works great, cheap too! Flush mounts from Costco $20 each. Never screw in another bulb. Very bright too.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Bill in NC
Date: May 19, 2017 09:55AM
sure, if you want to risk a fire.

from the comments on those FEIT Costco tubes:

"Beware, does not work correctly in all applications I have T12, when replaced the ballasts overheated & shut down. Could have easily caused a fire.. I returned them to Costco, to bad, they are very bright."

"Be very cautious where you install these lamps
I bought these last week online, and will be returning them. I installed a pair in a 4-foot shop light that with T-12 bulbs, and the wattage drawn went up 23%. Rather than saving energy, it increased energy use. I do not have a T-8 shop light to test them in, and they may work ok there."

it is clearly not safe to use "drop-in" LED tubes with an electronic T-12 ballast.

as you & others have said, if the OP chooses option #1, he should bypass or remove the ballast and use LED tubes that operate directly on line current.

Quote
Cary
Quote
Bill in NC
#1 only works if you already have T8 tubes/ballasts, not the older T12.

So I vote for #3.

This is not correct. You can replace either T8 or T12 bulbs with LED tubes.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/19/2017 10:00AM by Bill in NC.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: clay
Date: May 19, 2017 09:57AM
I have just ordered a 4 pack of 4' tubes as drop in replacements in one of the fixtures. They say they're compatible with some newer ballasts but will work with ballast bypassed. I'll just bypass the ballast, since I'm guessing whatever I've got is not new enough to be described as a "newer" ballast.

I'm going to see how this first set looks, and then decide how to proceed with the rest of the lights. We might actually want to go with different approaches for different fixtures, depending on the type of light we want in each area.

Thanks for all your input!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/19/2017 09:58AM by clay.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Bill in NC
Date: May 19, 2017 10:11AM
I strongly suspect "newer" ballasts refers to T8, not T12.

let us know if you're happy with your direct-wire LED tubes (color temperature, dimmable?)
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: clay
Date: May 19, 2017 10:13AM
non-dimmable, 4000k temp. There are 3k, 5k and 6k options as well in this particular model, and based on some of the reviews, it sounded like the 5k option might actually be closer to what we're used to in the current tubes. But, I decided to at least try the 4k lamps and we'll see how the color comes through. I'm interested to see how it all works out!
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: GuyGene
Date: May 19, 2017 10:58AM
Thanks. I didn't know it was so complicated about the ballasts thingamajigs. Maybe I need to remove them.



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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Cary
Date: May 21, 2017 12:39PM
Quote
Cary
Quote
Bill in NC
#1 only works if you already have T8 tubes/ballasts, not the older T12.

So I vote for #3.

This is not correct. You can replace either T8 or T12 bulbs with LED tubes.


#1 included bypassing ballasts - that's what I was going with, not leaving ballasts in the loop.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/21/2017 12:41PM by Cary.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: clay
Date: May 22, 2017 08:36AM
my set of bulbs came yesterday, and this morning I bypassed the ballast (easy) installed the new bulbs, and voila! Up and running.

Definitely getting plenty of light...so much so that we might consider removing two of the bulbs and using in another fixture. I guess when you get used to a fixture that's not putting out a ton of light (failing ballast, failing bulbs, etc), when it's working as designed, the brightness almost seems too much!

Anyway, I'm quite pleased with the outcome of this upgrade. Would highly recommend it to anyone considering a similar retrofit in their own situation.

Here's what I used: [www.amazon.com]

The 4k bulbs seem just about right for my particular situation. Can't imagine the 5k bulbs would be any better for us.
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Re: Replacing fluorescent 2x4 fixtures with LED...which approach?
Posted by: Bill in NC
Date: May 25, 2017 08:07AM
sorry Cary, my bad - thought you were referring to those Costco LED tubes "dropped-in" to fixtures with a T12 or T8 ballast.

and thanks Clay!

I'll be doing the same when the T12 ballast dies (again) in my kitchen/basement (twin-tube) fixtures.

Or when my source runs out of their stockpile of non-Chinese T12 bulbs.

(haven't had those last much past a year)



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/25/2017 08:10AM by Bill in NC.
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