LED T8 Replacement Lamps: Are They Worth It?

Fluorescent Lamp T8
Looking back at 2012, LED lights have made huge leaps. They’ve leaped from small-scale applications to adorn the tops of our most iconic skyscrapers. They’ve hopped into the light sockets of our homes and buildings, and LED lighting control apps have sprung up on our smartphones. Even the prices of LEDs have started “jumping” down.

But, not every LED application is perfect, or even advisable. Many of us still have questions.

For instance – what’s the deal with LED replacements for T8 lamps?

That’s a topic even we haven’t heard much about, so we leaped at the chance to ask Dr. Jack Curran of LED Transformations about it, after a few of us attended a webinar he hosted about LEDs:

Q: Have you found any LED T8 lamps that are good replacements for fluorescent T8 lamps? If not, do you see them ever becoming a viable substitute for the fluorescent version?

A: According to Dr. Curran, the quality of LED T8 replacements isn’t the problem. There are good quality lamps out there, and there’s also junk (like just about every other light and light fixture around). The issue of LED T8s is more complicated. Dr. Curran explained it in 3 parts:

1. Cost. LED T8 lamps are still expensive. $50-$60 compared to $1-$2 for a fluorescent T8 that already can last up to 40,000 hours. It’s hard to see a reasonable rate of return on that.

2. Light Output. LED T8s tend to “dim” in comparison to fluorescents here. Very few LED replacements have a light output over 2,500 lumens, while fluorescents average from 2,800-3,200 lumens.

3. Fixture Performance. Since LED T8s are a more directional light source (they don’t have light shining 360 degrees around like a fluorescent T8) no light bounces off the fixture to illuminate the walls. This can cause a dismal “cave effect” in the room.

So in general, it’s safe to say the LED T8 replacement’s time has not yet come. However, right now there are a few exceptions where they do come in handy:

1. In freezer/refrigerated cases at grocery stores. LEDs love the cold and don’t radiate heat as much as fluorescent lights do. This will save on HVAC requirements and increase the shelf life of produce.

2. For places where the cost to replace lamps is high. If you have a chemical plant, factory, or any other kind of business that has to shut down sections for maintenance, the LED’s long lamp life could be worth it.

3. In areas with sensitive subjects. One example of this would be in a hospital that requires all lights to have no mercury. LEDs pass this test. Fluorescents don’t.

Dr. Curran forcasts that once the cost of an LED T8 gets down to the $10-$15 range, the story will change. Also, as lighting controls become more common in everyday lighting systems, the ability of LED T8 lamps to turn on/off with minimal loss of life will give them another advantage.

Do you need advice about switching any of your light bulbs to LEDs? Have you had any experience with LED replacement lamps? The comments section is yours!

Annie Josey

Annie was the E-Commerce Marketing Specialist at Pegasus Lighting from June 2012 to October 2013. She has a background in English literature, and loves using language to help illuminate the world. So covering lighting news and tips naturally fit her interests. In her personal time she enjoys painting, biking, and reading.