Linear LED tubes have become more competitive over recent months, and it also seems like there are more options than ever. So, if you’re operating with discontinued T12 fluorescent tubes, you’re probably beginning to weigh the options for a retrofit.
But in the sea of choices, how do you know what the right product is and where to buy it?
Is a plug-and-play T12 LED right for me?
The first –– and often most disorienting –– question to consider is what product to choose if you’re replacing fluorescent T12 tubes. Essentially, you have seven options.
- Plug-and-play LED, compatible with the old magnetic ballast
- Plug-and-play LED paired with a new electronic ballast
- Direct wire LED
- LED tube with a remote driver
- T8 fluorescent with a new electronic ballast
- LED retrofit kit for the existing fixture
- New integrated LED fixture
Whew. Is that all?
Making sense of these options can seem daunting, so we want to cover the easiest one to complete on this list: replacing your old T12 tubes with a plug-and-play LED that’s compatible with the old magnetic ballast.
If you’re looking for a detailed analysis of the various options, check out this article: A plug-and-play LED replacement for T12s? Yep. Pros and cons explored
There are actually very few options for a magnetic ballast compatible LED tube, mainly because magnetic ballasts are no longer manufactured in the US. That said, here are a few questions to consider:
- Are you looking for the least expensive and easiest way to convert from T12 to LED?
- Are you trying to avoid any re-wiring in the fixture?
- Do you feel confident that you have life left in your magnetic ballasts?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, then a plug-and-play LED tube that is compatible with magnetic ballasts is a reasonable option.
The primary risk with this product is the fact that it will only work with a magnetic ballast, so if the ballast fails, you won’t be able to use the LED tube any longer.
What to look for in linear LEDs
When it comes to choosing linear LEDS, it seems like manufacturers are coming out of the woodwork every day. We recommend going with a reputable manufacturer that you know will stand behind their product claims and warranty.
For this reason, we recommend the Philips 20T12 EM LED/48-4000 IF G or 20T12 EM LED/48-6500 IF G (Philips product numbers 46311-7 and 46312-5) if you’re searching for a linear LED to work with an existing magnetic ballast.
For more tips on choosing a reputable manufacturer, download our checklist.
Where to purchase linear LED tubes
Does it really matter where you purchase LED products? Well, that depends. In the case of LED tubes in a commercial environment, you have a few risks to manage:
- There have been recalls and claims against LED tubes, so make sure you purchase the tubes from a reputable company that can help get you walk through the warranty process. Will Amazon be there if your tubes fail six months down the road?
- We’ve seen some poorly made tubes that didn’t last long, so make sure you’re able to get reliable advice on the reliability of the product and manufacturer.
- Be careful about the difference between residential and commercial grade products. You’ll want to make sure you get the right match for your project.
- If you’re doing a large-scale project, you’ll probably benefit from the project management and logistics support that a national distributor can provide.
In the case of a niche product like a plug-and-play LED that works with a magnetic ballast, you may find that you have to purchase the product from a distributor that has lighting expertise.
Other T12 to LED conversion options
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are other options to address discontinued T12 tubes. Some require more cost and time than others, so the most important thing to consider as you’re walking through the decision is your primary goal.
Easy maintenance may point you in the direction of a new LED fixture or an ultra-long-life T8 tube. Maximum energy savings may point you in the direction of