We’ve used this blog in the past to write about the 2013 incandescent light bulb ban enforced by the Energy Independence and Security Act, more commonly known as EISA.
Here’s another topic from the archives: the phase-out of T12 fluorescent tubes.
Why, exactly, were T12s phased out?
All the way back in 1992, another energy conservation act –– the Energy Policy and Conservation Act –– was amended to require the Department of Energy to carefully review energy standards on an ongoing basis and publish new standards as more energy efficient technologies made their way to market.
So, in 2009, the department announced the eventual
High-output and high-CRI T12s are still manufactured today, but production is down and there are less and less "out in the wild" every day.
Perhaps as importantly, magnetic ballasts –– which conventional T12s run off of and require –– are no longer manufactured in the U.S.
The new low-end linear lamp is a T8. And, since the phase-out, they have become the go-to option for pre-existing T12 applications.
While the phase-out triggered a number of complete retrofits –– stripping out old fixtures and replacing them with more energy-efficient ones –– a lot of buildings chose to replace their T12s with either fluorescent T8s or linear LEDs. That, of course, would also require a ballast swap or potentially fixture modifications in the case of LED retrofit kits.
Here are just a handful of the benefits of switching to the smaller-diameter fluorescent tubes:
- Longer life ratings
- Less mercury content
- Better color rendering
- At least 30 percent more energy efficient
What should you do if you currently have T12 fluorescent tubes in your building?
T12s are rare these days, especially in high-cost-of-energy coastal regions where they are almost completely gone.
But if you happen to still use them in your building, here are your steps forward:
Consider your budget and goals
What kind of budgetary constraints are you facing as you look to swap out your T12s? That will be a key determining factor in how you choose to proceed. Also key: what are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to get ahead of the phaseout regulations so you’re not going through the same thing a few years from now? The answers to those two questions go hand in hand.
T8s are the easy fix here. It’s a simple ballast and lamp change. 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. This is your bare-bones update requiring little effort and not a lot of money.
High-efficiency fluorescent option
If you want something more specialized and you are looking to get a better hit on energy savings, then you can go a step further and change to T5 lamps. This will cost a bit more than replacing with T8s, as it often requires the use of a retrofit kit and sometimes requires a fixture change. But you can end up getting more brightness using less wattage and fewer lamps by going with the smaller-diameter lamps. If you’re leaning this way, it would be helpful to talk with a lighting expert who can really analyze your space to see if this would be a good fit. It’s also worth noting that T8 retrofit kits are also available if you are interested in reducing the number of bulbs per fixture, but you don’t want to move to T5 lighting.
Maximum energy savings with LED
If energy savings is at the top of your list, and you are willing to make a larger investment on the front-end of your project, then you should consider a full LED retrofit. The options range from plug-and-play LED tubes (you will have to replace the ballast if you’re moving from T12) to complete fixture replacements.
If your fixtures are still in good shape, the LED tubes are becoming increasingly competitive on pricing, so you may want to evaluate this option even if you think LEDs are out of your budget. If your fixtures are in disrepair (cracked lenses, bent reflectors, etc.) and you are interested in updating the fixture anyway, the LED fixture option could give you maximum efficiency and
Choosing between LED products? Download our LED Buying Guide.
Easiest T12 to LED switch with magnetic ballast-compatible T8 LED
The aforementioned magnetic ballast-compatible plug-and-play LED from Philips is something to consider if you want to move to an LED for the lowest possible up-front cost. The concern with this option, however, 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.
Are you caught in the plug-and-play versus bypass ballast linear LED debate? View our recommendations in this article.
Check the payback on your options
Whether you’re making spot replacements as the T12s
The Gut Check
Visit our lighting retrofit calculator if you need to get a quick gut-check on the proposed savings and ROI for your project.
The Deep Dive
If you'd like to understand the intricate details of the savings calculations, we’ve got you covered. Check out our written a 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.
The Human Guide
If you’re looking for someone to discuss the options with, we’re happy to help. You can contact us here.
Pick a partner you can trust
Once your budget and goals are clear, you want to be able to trust your lighting partner. This can range from the manufacturer you choose to the consultant who helps with the energy analysis to the installer who completes the job.
You can download the questions that we ask when vetting our suppliers, or we are happy to have a conversation about ways we can help.