The End of the Road for T12s

It’s only five months away. T12 fluorescent lamps used to be the standard for commercial lighting systems, but they will soon be totally off the market.

It started back in July 2010, when the U.S. Department of Energy introduced a fluorescent lighting mandate that stopped the production of the magnetic ballasts most commonly used for T12 lamps. And on July 14, 2012, the manufacture and import of most T12 lamps in the U.S. will be halted. After that date, suppliers may sell their remaining inventory, but there will be no more production once the existing stock is depleted.

Now, keep in mind that T12 fluorescent technology is 70 years old. John Philip Bachner of the National Lighting Bureau wrote a fantastic article recently about why they’re being phased out. He challenges facility managers to think of the change as an opportunity rather than a nuisance, and relates a T12 fluorescent lamp to a ’38 Chevy: Both were technological marvels of their eras. You’d think it were strange if someone used a ’38 Chevy for their daily commute, yet millions of T12 fluorescent lamps light U.S. buildings every day.

T12 fluorescent lamps are simply fluorescent tubular light fixtures that are 12/8ths of an inch in diameter. Since the technology of T12 lamps was developed so long ago, it’s leaps and bounds behind in terms of efficiency. T12 lamps can now be replaced by T5 lamps (5/8ths of an inch in diameter) and T8 lamps (8/8ths of an inch in diameter), and building owners will see energy savings as high as 45% per year. Also, there’s a simple payback of just one to three years. Finally, the lighting upgrade will ensure reduced maintenance costs and concerns.

Here’s a closer look at how the regulations will affect T12 lamps.

These T12 Lamps will be affected by the new efficiency standards:

  • 4-foot medium bi-pin T12 lamps
  • 8-foot single-pin T12 Slimline lamps
  • 8-foot T12 800mA HO lamps with RDC bases
  • 2-foot medium  bi-pin T12 U lamps

More specifically, these T12 lamps will begin disappearing in July 2012:

  • most of today’s F40 and F34T12 lamps and almost all FB40 and FB34T12 U-lamps
  • all of today’s 75W F96T12 lamps
  • all of today’s 60W F96T12/ES lamps, with the exception of a few 700/SP and 800/SPX lamps
  • all conventional 110W F96T12 HO lamps that deliver fewer than 10,120 lumens
  • all of today’s 95W F96T12/ES/HO, unless they can provide at least 8,740 lumens

Cold temperature T12 lamps are exempt from the regulations.

If you’re among those that need to replace T12 lighting systems, heed the advice of National Lighting Bureau Chari Howard Lewis:

Those who own conventional T12 systems will need to modernize them or replace them altogether. If you’re among them, don’t wait. Making the change sooner rather than later can result in considerable cost savings, because some of the existing financial incentives will likely be reduced or withdrawn once keeping T12s in place is no longer a reasonable option.

Questions? The comments section is yours!

Emily Widle

Emily graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism. She enjoys scouring the news to report on the latest in the lighting industry as well as bringing valuable remodeling tips and exemplar home projects to light.