Can you actually retrofit T12 to LED without changing out the ballast?
The answer is yes. Prior to 2016, there weren't any LED plug-and-play replacement options for T12 lamps from major lighting manufacturers. Now things have changed with a new magnetic ballast-compatible LED tube.
Last year, Philips rolled out an
Admittedly, commodity T12 fluorescents haven't been manufactured in any kind of large quantity in the United States for a few years now, making them one of the endangered species of the lighting world. Additionally, beginning in 2010, legislation to cease the production of magnetic ballasts –– the functional heart behind T12 lamps –– went into effect.
While there are still some of these 1.5-inch-diameter fluorescent tubes lit today, there will be fewer and fewer tomorrow. Energy regulations and the recently boosted affordability of more energy efficient lamps are snuffing T12s out.
So unless you have some mega backstock of T12 tubes, you're probably already considering the options for replacing the old, inefficient bulbs.
But is this new InstantFit from Philips a viable option for replacing T12 lamps?
T12 to LED: Magnetic ballast-compatible T8 LED pros and cons
Of course, there is a draw to a plug-and-play LED upgrade that means you don't have to mess with the dusty old magnetic ballast in some T12 fixtures, but there are a number of factors at play beyond ease of upgrade. So what are the pros and cons to consider when trying to make this decision?
Magnetic ballast-compatible linear LED pros
In order for these new InstantFit LED tubes to be useful, you need to confirm that all of your T12 fixtures run off a magnetic ballast and use non-shunted sockets.
- True plug-and-play solution, if your T12s run off of a magnetic ballast and fit into non-shunted sockets
- Low up-front cost option to transition to LED
- 50 percent energy savings over existing T12 lamps
- No environmental impact (no mercury)
- Low maintenance with a long life rating of 36,000 hours
Magnetic ballast-compatible linear LED cons
While the list of pros seems nice, the cons on these LEDs are significant and should be considered carefully. Unlike other LED options, there's a high risk that something –– like an old magnetic ballast failing –– could cause your new LEDs to become unusable long before they reach their intended lifespan.
- Not compatible with any electronic ballasts (even if you have T12-compatible electronic ballasts)
- Not compatible with shunted sockets
- Shorter lamp life than some LED or ultra-long-life linear fluorescents
- Currently not a long-term energy efficiency solution
But this product isn't your only option if you're looking for a high-efficiency lighting option for existing T12.
best LED retrofit option for T12 replacement?
If you're converting your existing T12 lamps to LED, you basically have five options to choose from:
1. Install the new, magnetic ballast-compatible plug-and-play LED from Philips
Here's how we see it: if you want to move to an LED for the lowest possible up-front cost, this probably seems like a good choice. 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.
2. Install electronic ballast-compatible linear LEDs and a new electronic ballast
Here's how we see it: this is generally our top recommendation if you want to gain substantial energy savings, avoid mercury, and gain long life lighting. Current electronic ballast-compatible LED tubes
3. Install a new LED tube with a remote driver in the fixture
Here's how we see it: 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 a hair 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.
Read more about ballast draw in our article, "What is a ballast factor and how does it affect my fluorescent tubes?"
4. Install bypass-ballast linear LED lamps
Here's how we see it: bypass-ballast LED tubes aren't generally something we recommend for safety reasons. Wondering why we don't typically recommend these? Check out our complete article, "Plug-and-play vs. ballast-bypass and other linear LED options."
5. Install a new LED fixture
Here's how we see it: 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. If this seems like the right option for you, check out the articles below and contact us when you're ready to find the right product.
Read more about LED fixtures:
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?
If you are still on the fence about LEDs, and you're looking for a long life option for the lowest up-front cost, you might consider a long-life linear fluorescent retrofit. Consider, though, that the cost difference to go with an LED may be minimal. We cover this topic in great detail in our post, "Linear LED vs. linear fluorescent: A look at the pros and cons of different linear tubes."
Payback on T12 replacement options
Whether you’re making spot replacements as the T12s
Energy Savings Calculator
Visit our lighting retrofit calculator if you need to get a quick gut-check on the proposed savings and ROI for your project.
The Ultimate Guide to Energy Savings, Calculations, and Payback
If you'd like to understand the intricate details of the savings calculations, we’ve got you covered. Check out our written guide to energy savings and payback calculations that can serve as a reference. Each step of each calculation is spelled out, and we also give our recommendations on when to include which variables.
A human guide
If you’re looking for someone to discuss the options with, we’re happy to help. You can contact us using the form above.
Read more about T12s: "The