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LED Tube Light Guide

Navigating the LED tube light market is often highly confusing due to the many variations in length, color, operation, etc. This article provides a comprehensive overview on LED tubes to shine light on this often complex topic.

Our selection of LED tube lights are trusted by electrical contractors and property managers across the U.S. Visit our LED tube store for more information on our products or talk with our lighting experts for special contractor pricing or professional lighting layouts.

LED Tube Light Definitions

To help readers better understand the context of the article, here are some of the most common terms found within this content and/or used by electricians when it comes to LED tube lights:

Watts – A measure of electrical power; specifically, it’s the rate at which energy is consumed or produced by a device.

Lumens – A measure of the total amount of visible light emitted by a source. It quantifies the brightness of a light.

Lumens per Watt – A measure of the efficiency of a lighting source, indicating how many lumens of light are produced for each watt of electrical power consumed.

Voltage – The difference in electric potential between two points; it drives an electric current between those points.

Ballast – A device used in fluorescent lighting fixtures to regulate the current flow through the tubes, ensuring that the fluorescent lamps receive the correct amount of electricity needed to start and maintain illumination without overheating.

Tombstones – Also known as lamp holders or sockets, these are the components in a light fixture that provide mechanical support and electrical connections for fluorescent or LED tubes.

Type A – Refers to LED tube lights that are compatible with existing fluorescent ballasts, allowing for plug-and-play installation without modifying the fixture’s wiring.

Type B – LED tube lights that require bypassing or removing the existing fluorescent ballast, with the LEDs connected directly to the mains voltage.

Type A+B – Hybrid or universal LED tube lights that can operate with or without a ballast, providing flexible installation options.

Type C – LED tube lights that use an external driver instead of a built-in ballast, allowing for precise control over the light output and efficiency.

Color Rendering Index (CRI) – A measure of a light source’s ability to show object colors realistically or naturally compared to a familiar reference source (like natural light).

Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) – A specification of the color appearance of a light source, measured in Kelvin (K), indicating whether the light is warm (yellowish) or cool (bluish) in appearance.

LED Tubes v.s Fluorescent Tubes

LED tube lights offer several advantages over fluorescent tube lights, making them a superior choice in virtually any scenario. To put this in perspective, here’s a short list of these advantages:

Energy Efficiency – LED tube lights consume significantly less power than fluorescent tubes, which means they can save on electricity costs while delivering similar or even better levels of brightness.

Longer Lifespan – LEDs typically last much longer than fluorescent tubes. While a standard fluorescent might last about 10,000 to 15,000 hours, an LED can last 30,000 to 50,000 hours or more, reducing the frequency and cost of replacements.

Environmentally Friendly – Since LED lights are more energy-efficient and last longer, they contribute less to environmental waste. Additionally, they do not contain mercury like their fluorescent counterparts.

Durability –  LEDs are more robust and resistant to breakage because they don’t contain glass tubes or mercury, unlike fluorescent tubes. This makes them safer and more suitable for various environments.

Improved Light Quality – LEDs generally provide better color rendering and more directional light control, which improves the overall lighting quality. This is beneficial in settings where clarity and color accuracy are important.

LED Tube Light Length

2 foot LED Tubes – These are compact LED tubes measuring 2 feet (approximately 24 inches) in length. They are ideal for smaller spaces or fixtures where a longer tube would not fit. 2 FT led tubes are commonly used in under-cabinet lighting, small office spaces, or in retail display cases where space is limited but quality lighting is needed.

3 foot LED Tubes – Slightly longer than the 2-foot variant, 3-foot LED tubes (around 36 inches) offer a balance between compact design and effective illumination. These are suitable for areas like kitchens, workshops, or small commercial settings. They can be used in both residential and business environments where a 4-foot tube might be too large.

4 foot LED Tubes – These are perhaps the most common length for LED tubes, measuring 4 feet (about 48 inches). They are designed to replace standard fluorescent tubes in a variety of settings. 4 FT tubes are widely used in offices, classrooms, and retail stores. They provide ample illumination and are versatile enough to fit in standard ceiling fixtures and troffers.

8 foot LED Tubes – These long LED tubes, measuring 8 feet (approximately 96 inches), are designed for large spaces and high ceilings where more coverage is needed. 8 FT tubes are ideal for industrial environments, large warehouses, and big-box retail stores. They provide extensive illumination, making them suitable for areas requiring a lot of light over a wide space.

10 foot LED Tubes – 10-foot LED tubes are among the longest LED tube lights available, measuring approximately 120 inches in length. These substantial tubes are designed to provide expansive coverage of light, suitable for very large areas or spaces with high ceilings. Applications: Perfect for industrial settings, large commercial warehouses, gymnasiums, and certain retail environments that require broad, consistent illumination over a large area.

LED U-Bend Tubes – U-bend LED tubes are shaped in a U-form and are typically used to replace fluorescent U-bend tubes. Their unique shape allows them to fit in fixtures where straight tubes cannot be used. These are often found in office settings, schools, and healthcare facilities, especially in troffer and grid lighting systems. They are excellent for spaces needing efficient lighting without the bulk or length of straight tubes.

LED Tube Light Diameter

Chart showing different diameter sizes of led tube lights including T5, T8, and T12 tubes

There are a variety of LED tube sizes based on both length and diameter. When it comes to length, the most common type is by far 4 ft. LED T8 Tubes.

Longer tube lengths are typically not recommended as these are fairly inefficient due to unnecessary energy consumption.

When it comes to diameter, the most common tubes are T8 tubes followed by T5’s and T12’s. Here’s a simple breakdown of LED tubes based on diameter.

T8 = 1 inch diameter
T5 = 0.625 inch diameter (5/8 inch)
T12 = 1.5 inch diameter

It’s important to note, T8’s and T12’s are often used interchangeably provided they’re compatible with the existing ballast. We suggest checking the milliamp (mA) requirements of the ballast prior to installation.

Correlated Color Temperature (CCT)

Chart showing various color temperatures for LED tube lights including 3000K warm white, 4000K cool white, and 5000K daylight

Another way LED tubes are differentiated is by their color temperature which is measured in Kelvins. Although the color temperature scale can range from 1,000K to 10,000K, we’re going to talk about the most common and practical color temperatures for tube lighting purposes.

3000K LED Tubes – 3000K LED tubes emit a warm white light, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere. These tubes are ideal for residential settings like living rooms and bedrooms, where a warm and relaxing ambiance is desired. These tubes are also commonly used in hospitality settings such as restaurants and hotel lobbies to create a welcoming environment.

3500K LED Tubes – 3500K LED tubes emit a neutral white light that strikes a balance between warm and cool tones. The color temperature of 3500 Kelvin falls in the middle of the spectrum, providing a clean and clear light. These are ideal for environments where both comfort and clarity are important. They are commonly used in office settings, retail spaces, and residential areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

4000K LED Tubes – 4000K LED tubes produce a neutral or cool white light that is brighter and crisper than 3000K but without the harshness of higher Kelvin temperatures. This color temperature strikes a balance between warm and cool light. These tubes are versatile and suitable for a variety of settings, including office spaces, kitchens, bathrooms, and retail stores. They provide clear visibility without being too stark, making them ideal for task lighting, general workspace illumination.

5000K LED Tubes – 5000K LED tubes offer a bright and vibrant light that closely resembles natural daylight. This color temperature is on the cooler side of the spectrum and helps in enhancing concentration and alertness. These are perfect for workspaces, industrial settings, and anywhere high levels of focus are required. They are also used in retail environments to accurately display products. The daylight-like quality makes them suitable for studios, workshops, and garages, where clear, precise visibility is crucial for detailed tasks and operations.

6000K LED Tubes – 6000K LED tubes produce a very cool, almost daylight-like white light. This color temperature is on the higher end of the Kelvin scale and often has a slightly bluish tint. It’s known for its crisp and vibrant quality. These are best suited for areas that require a high level of brightness and clarity. Typical applications include industrial settings, garages, laboratories, and some retail environments.

The picture below illustrates the differences in color temperature and provides an idea of what each type of LED tube looks like.

LED tube color temperatures showing 3000K warm white, 4000K natural white, 5000K daylight

LED Tube Light Ballast Compatibility

When choosing LED tube lights, it’s important to determine whether or not the existing fixture has a ballast. Certain installations require different types of tubes. Here’s a chart detailing the type of tube you should select based on the functionality,

Infographic chart showing different types of LED tube lights including Type A retrofits, Type B ballast bypass tubes, and Type A and B hybrid tubes.

Type A Tube Lights (Ballast Compatible)

Type A tube lights, also known as ballast-compatible or plug-and-play LED tubes, are designed to directly replace fluorescent tubes in existing fixtures that use a fluorescent ballast. These LED tubes are engineered to work with the electronic ballasts already installed in the lighting fixture, making them one of the easiest types of LED retrofits.

Type B Tube Lights (Ballast Bypass)

Type B tube lights, also known as ballast bypass or direct wire LED tubes, require the removal or bypass of the existing fluorescent ballast in the lighting fixture. This type of LED tube is wired directly into the power source, eliminating the need for a ballast. This conversion is slightly more complex than installing Type A tubes.

In Type B tube light installations, the fluorescent ballast is removed or bypassed, and the fixture is rewired so that the mains voltage is directly applied to the tube’s connections.

Single-ended power: Requires non-shunted tombstones at one end of the fixture. Only this end will be connected to the power supply (live and neutral).

Double-ended power: Can use either shunted or non-shunted tombstones and requires live and neutral connections at both ends of the tube, making it slightly easier and safer to install.

For the benefit of the reader, we’ve also included a section later in this article that discusses LED tube light tombstones in greater detail.

Type A+B Tube Lights (Universal)

Type A+B tube lights, also known as universal or hybrid LED tubes, offer a highly versatile lighting solution. These tubes are designed to be compatible with both existing fluorescent ballasts (Type A operation) and direct line voltage (Type B operation). This dual-mode functionality allows for flexibility in installation and use, making them a convenient choice for various lighting environments.

Type C Tube Light (External Driver)

Type C LED tube lights, which utilize an external driver, represent a significant advancement in lighting technology. Unlike Type A and Type B LED tubes that work with internal drivers or directly from the main voltage, Type C tubes are powered by an external driver that replaces the traditional fluorescent ballast. This external driver handles the power conversion outside of the tube itself, providing enhanced control and efficiency.

LED Tube Tombstones

LED tube tombstones, also known as lamp holders or sockets, are essential components in the installation of LED tube lights in fixtures that were originally designed for fluorescent tubes. Tombstones provide the physical support to hold the tubes in place and the electrical connections necessary to power the tubes. When retrofitting from fluorescent to LED tubes, understanding the wiring and the type of tombstone needed is crucial for safety and functionality.

Types of Tombstones

Shunted Tombstones: These have a single electrical path and are typically used with fluorescent fixtures that have instant-start ballasts. They are not suitable for most single-ended LED tube installations which require non-shunted tombstones.

Non-shunted Tombstones: These have separate points of entry for the wires, allowing for independent wiring to each contact. They are essential for most LED tube installations, particularly for single-ended power configurations where one end of the tube receives all the power.


Ensure that the tombstone is compatible with the type of LED tube you are installing (Type A, B, or C) and that it meets the voltage and current requirements of the installation.

LED Tube Light Power (Wattage & Lumens)

Wattage refers to the amount of power used by the tube light. LED tube lights are generally more energy-efficient, meaning they use less wattage to produce the same or greater light output (lumens) compared to fluorescent tubes.

Lumens measure the total amount of visible light emitted by a source. LED tube lights often provide more lumens per watt than fluorescent tubes, indicating higher efficiency.

Efficiency (Lumens per Watt)

LED Tubes: Typically range from 100 to 160 lumens per watt or more. This high efficiency means that LED tubes can provide the same amount of light as fluorescents while using significantly less power.

Fluorescent Tubes: Generally offer around 60 to 100 lumens per watt. While they are efficient compared to incandescent bulbs, they are less efficient than LEDs.

Wattage Comparison: A common LED tube light that might use 18 watts can replace a fluorescent tube light that uses 36 watts, essentially halving the energy consumption while providing comparable or better brightness.

Light Output (Brightness): When replacing a fluorescent tube with an LED, it’s crucial to look at the lumens rather than the watts to ensure you are getting the desired brightness. For example, if a 32-watt fluorescent tube emits about 2,800 lumens, an LED tube might only need 15-20 watts to produce the same lumens.

Practical Conversion Example: To replace a 4-foot fluorescent tube that uses 40 watts and produces around 2,350 lumens, you might use an LED tube light of about 15-20 watts that also produces around 2,350 lumens or more.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section provides answers to commonly asked questions in relation to LED tube lights. Visit our LED tube light FAQ page for a full list of expert answers to commonly asked questions.

Q. What are LED tube lights?
LED tube lights are energy-efficient replacements for traditional fluorescent tube lights. They fit into the same fixtures but use LEDs to produce light, which makes them more energy-efficient, longer-lasting, and environmentally friendly due to their lack of toxic materials like mercury. LED tubes provide bright, high-quality light and are available in various color temperatures, making them suitable for a range of settings from offices to industrial environments.

Q. What are LED fluorescent replacements?
LED fluorescent replacements are lighting solutions designed to replace traditional fluorescent tubes with LED technology. These replacements are highly energy-efficient and provide longer lifespans than fluorescent tubes. They can directly fit into existing fluorescent fixtures and are available in different forms, such as plug-and-play models that work with existing ballasts, or ballast-bypass models that require simple rewiring during installation. These LED replacements emit less heat, use less energy, and do not contain hazardous materials like mercury, making them a more environmentally friendly option.

Q. Will led tubes work in fluorescent fixtures
Yes, LED tubes can work in fluorescent fixtures, but it depends on the type of LED tube light and the existing fixture’s configuration. When converting to LED, check the specific requirements and compatibility of the LED tubes with your existing fluorescent fixtures to ensure proper installation and operation.

Q. How long do LED tube lights last?
LED tube lights typically last between 30,000 to 50,000 hours. This long lifespan is significantly greater than traditional fluorescent tubes, largely due to LEDs’ efficiency and lower operating temperatures, which reduce wear on the components. The actual lifespan of an LED tube can vary depending on usage patterns and the quality of the fixture.

Q. What are long light bulbs called?
Long light bulbs, especially those used in commercial and industrial settings, are typically called tube lights. The most common types are fluorescent tube lights, which are often referred to by their diameter and length, such as T8 or T12 bulbs.