Replacing fluorescent tubes with LED lights is a great way to save money and reduce your environmental impact; LEDs lower your energy consumption, are generally brighter than their fluorescent counterparts (because they’re directional and light output is better distributed) and contain no toxic mercury or chemicals. They’re wear and bump resistant, instant on and handle cold weather better.

However, most people find replacing a typical T8 or T12 fluorescent tube tricky because the process involves more than just plugging or screwing a bulb in. You have to remove ballasts before replacing the tube, do some wiring and work a little uncomfortably. It’s an inconvenient hassle that most people like to avoid, even if they’ll save $200 a year from the replacement!

Fear not! There’s an easy way to replace a T8 fluorescent tube with an LED equivalent and avoid removing the ballast!

Switch to a Plug and Play LED Tube like this one:

  • It’s made with a Canadian design and guaranteed for 5 years
  • Works with the vast majority of T8 and T12 ballasts
  • Distribute light evenly with a 120 degree beam angle
  • Has a 50,000 hour lifespan, more than 10 years in most standard use applications!
  • Provides more light than a 32 Watt fluorescent tube with only 15 Watts
  • Saves energy by reducing consumption by 54%
  • Compatible with light sensors
  • No toxic mercury or toxins
  • No annoying hum due to failing ballast

How to Remove the Ballast to Replace a T8 Fluorescent Tube With an LED

Simply place the 15W Magic LED T8 Tube in the former T8 or T12 fluorescent tube position and go! No ballast removal. If you already have an LED replacement tube for your T8 fixture, you’ll have to do a bit of work to replace but it shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes:

  1. Safety First: Turn off the breaker that powers the fixture or turn off the power at the main panel.
  2. Remove your original T8/T12 fluorescent bulbs. Remember that they contain toxic mercury, be careful when handling to avoid breaking them and make sure you dispose of them safely – they can’t be sent to recycling with your general waste nor to the landfill. You can find a recycling program near you if you’re in BC or Quebec here or in Ontario here.
  3. To remove the ballast, take out the ballast covers, unscrew the piece. Separate the ballast from the fixture wires. Expose the black and white wires (hot/energized and cold/neutral wires). Make sure they’re long enough to reach the socket wires.
  4. Rewire the fixture by connecting the fixture and socket wires together. Follow the LED manufacturer’s instructions on the box. In general all you have to do is twist the wires together on each side with one of the incoming circuit wires from the center.
  5. Install your LEDs as you would a standard fluorescent T8 tube, simply inserting the tube and twisting to lock in place.
  6. Turn the power back on with the circuit breaker and test them out.

See this step by step wiki on how to replace the ballast for more details.

What happens if I don’t replace the ballast before installing the new LED tube(s)?

Your ballast will draw unnecessary power and 3, 5, 7 Watts matter when you’re trying to save energy and cash. It will likely cause your LED tube to fail because they’ll be incompatible. Your LED light might not work at all even if there’s nothing specifically wrong with it, it could just not turn on. Basically, you risk damaging a perfectly good LED tube and waste it.

Plug and Play LEDs Vs. Standard LEDs for T8 Replacements

The most obvious advantage to a plug-and-play LED tube/fixture is that you can install them right away without help or hiring an electrician, you just put them in place. This is particularly helpful if you’re afraid of electricity, find the ballast removal process daunting/inconvenient or simply can’t be bothered with it.

If you’re installing multiple fixtures, like you would in an office space or anywhere you have many T8 fluorescent fixtures, there’s an added advantage to the volume savings you’ll experience not only from the lower energy consumption, but from not having to hire an expensive electrician to do the work.

However, ballasts will fail in the long run, so you can invest in removing all the ballasts and even change the fixtures for integrated and energy-saving LED fixtures, which will have a significant ROI. The energy savings alone will pay for the LED replacements and the electrician. Weigh the pros and cons for your particular needs or contact a professional to get an energy audit, which will tell you what’s better for your space and budget in the long run, as well as all the saving and lighting opportunities available to you.

Whatever you decide, we hope this article helped you replace your T8 lights easily, safely and effectively!

About The Author

John Keirstead
John Keirstead
Serial Entrepreneur, Technologist and Inventor.
My objective is to develop useful products that have a net positive effect in the lives of those that use them and the environment that we live in.
CEO of Mission LED Lighting Company Ltd.

1 Comment

  1. Frank He

    August 24, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    I believe this article is very helpful to our customers, one of which is going to replace all the T8 fluorescent tubes with LED equivalents in their big warehouses . Currently, they are selecting some professional LED tubes manufactureres and have asked us to set up a lighting control system with LED tubes, to achieve massive energy savings and costs as well.

    Thank you for this great article!


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