T12 fluorescent tubes are hard to come by these days, but that's not to say they've disappeared entirely.
The tubes began to be phased out in mid-2012, which we wrote about at length in our post, "The phase out of T12s: Everything you need to know about discontinued tubes."
But if you still have T12s in your sockets and you're looking to save money on lighting in 2017, there are
Steps toward retrofitting T12s to LED, or more energy-efficient lighting
1. Set goals
What are you trying to accomplish with the retrofit you're considering? Are you trying to get ahead of phaseout regulations so you’re not going through the same thing a few years from now? Or are you simply looking for
Having an end goal will inform what products you choose, as well as the way you go about step No. 2 –– building a budget.
2. Build a budget
Are there any budgetary constraints for your retrofit project? Carve out a budget for the project, keeping energy savings, payback, and return on investment in mind. (Some projects pay for themselves in months, like this one we did in Dallas.)
Need help calculating energy savings, payback, and ROI for a lighting project? Download our Ultimate Guide to Calculating Energy Savings and Payback for Lighting Projects.
3. Know your T12 replacement options
There are a number of options for retrofitting away from T12s, even if it just means switching from T12 fluorescents to T8s.
Check out our list below to see all of your T12 to LED options, beginning with the most turn-key/ lowest
T12 to LED replacement options
A. Install a magnetic ballast-compatible plug-and-play LED
If you want to move from T12 fluorescent to LED for the lowest possible up-front cost, a plug-and-play option is your best bet. Philips recently released a magnetic ballast-compatible InstantFit T8 four-foot LED tube, and you can expect other manufacturers to come up with similar solutions soon.
Our candid concern here is that if you have the right conditions for this retrofit to work, you could find yourself a few months down the road with failed magnetic ballasts and no way to power the LED tubes, as magnetic ballasts phased out of production completely a few years back.
B. Install electronic ballast-compatible linear LEDs and a new electronic ballast
This is generally our top recommendation if you simply want to gain substantial energy savings, avoid mercury, and install long-life lighting. Current electronic ballast-compatible LED tubes
C. Install a new LED tube with a remote driver in the fixture
Remote-driver LEDs are the most energy-efficient option in this list, as there is no ballast draw involved in powering the lamp. This setup has a great reputation for performance and reliability, but the cost is generally going to be higher than an electronic ballast and plug-and-play lamp combo. The best uses for a remote driver LED are places where you're looking for high-performance lighting.
D. Install a direct wire linear LED lamp
Bypassing the ballast with an LED tube isn't generally something we recommend for safety reasons, but a lot of places nevertheless do this, and it is an option.
Wondering why we don't typically recommend these? Check out our complete article, "Plug-and-play vs. ballast-bypass and other linear LED options.”
E. Install a new LED fixture
If you are remodeling or your fixtures are in disrepair, consider an LED fixture. This option will give you maximum energy savings and a significant visual upgrade. Often the cost of a new LED fixture versus the cost of a new fluorescent fixture isn't too prohibitive. These also come with the longest life of all the options, though installation will be trickiest and
Here are two helpful articles about LED fixtures, to help you choose between those and lamp swap out:
- Linear LED tube vs. LED fixture: How do I decide which product is right?
- LED lamp replacement vs. LED fixture: Which is best for you?
Sticking with fluorescent? Retrofit T12s to T8s to save on energy
T8s are everywhere. They run on electronic ballasts, rather than magnetic ones, and they're the easiest, least expensive fix if your T12 fluorescents are beginning to burn out and you need a quick replacement. But plug-and-play linear LED tubes have come way down in price of late, and they're always worth exploring if you're going to be climbing a ladder to change out lamps, anyway.
Retrofitting T12 to T8 is a simple ballast and lamp swap. Newer, lower-wattage energy-saver T8 lamps have made their way to the market over the last several years in an effort for traditional manufacturers to compete with highly energy-efficient products. If you have T12s to get rid of, this is the path of least resistance, requiring little effort and not a lot of money.
Having trouble getting
As always, we're here to help you navigate the complexities of lighting and the many ways to move away from antiquated T12s. Don't hesitate to contact us.