Options for Upgrading T-12s

T-12s are commonly used fluorescent light tubes. They are typically 4 ft. long and have a larger diameter (1 ½ inches) than most other fluorescent light tubes. T-12s in fixtures are usually configured in pairs of two, or in a 4-tube fixture, although you may find single tube T-12 fixtures.

But here is the important takeaway about T-12s: They are highly inefficient. Lighting efficiency is generally measured by the lowest wattage required to produce the most light (lumens).

There are many options available as upgrades from T-12s and these choices have become more affordable than ever. With available utility rebates, payback period for an LED upgrade can be as short as 2 years. The most common options for replacing T-12s, or your old T-12s are:

  • Full Fixture Replacement – replaces fluorescent fixtures with new LED fixtures.
  • Individual Lamp Replacement – replaces individual tubes with LED tubes that contain their own drivers.

A four bulb T-12 fixture uses 170 watts, which accounts for the four bulbs themselves and power for the ballast. Top-performing LED fixtures, which replace the entire fluorescent fixture, use 41 watts. That’s a 75% reduction in electricity usage – which translates to a big reduction on your utility bills.

The replacement of fluorescent tubes with LED lamp tubes with their own internal drivers (ballasts) yields a little less efficient solution than the full LED fixture at 76 watts per four tube fixture; however, the tube replacement still drives significant savings over the T-12 fixtures. The 76 watts represents a 55% reduction in usage.

Why choose one solution over the other?

  • Budget: Tube replacements are cheaper than full fixtures. If short-term costs are an issue, consider this option a way to upgrade for the future without having to spend as much.
  • Aesthetics: There are many styles of fixtures and troffers that can achieve different aesthetic effects. While LED tube replacement options can provide somewhat brighter and consistent lighting, the fixtures and facade are the same as before and cannot be controlled with a dimmer. Fixture replacements offer a significant improvement to controls and settings, and often include programmable touchpads.

The time has never been better to save money by upgrading low-performing T-12 fluorescent lighting.  Whether you choose full fixture or individual lamp replacement, LED lighting offers significantly improved performance, controls, and cost efficiency.