4 Minute Read

For decades, fluorescent tubes have been a longstanding fixture in many offices, classrooms, warehouses, and other facilities. While they do a fine job providing light (generally, the stereotypical harsh cubicle office glare), lighting technology has rapidly advanced in the intervening decades to provide energy efficient lighting solutions that virtually all facilities should consider. LED lighting is a viable, common sense replacement for fluorescent lamps, so let’s examine the differences between fluorescent and LED lighting solutions.


The two different technologies utilize entirely different methods of producing light. Fluorescent bulbs contain inert gas within the glass casing while LEDs are a solid state technology. Fluorescent lights produce UV radiation and then convert it into visible light through the use of a phosphor coating inside the bulb. LEDs emit electromagnetic radiation across a small portion of the visible light spectrum and don’t waste energy by producing waste heat or non-visible electromagnetic radiation (such as UV). Now, let’s take a look at three disadvantages of fluorescent lighting, and three benefits of completing an LED replacement.

Why should you consider LED fluorescent tube replacement?

When it comes to a head-to-head comparison, LED lighting has some clear advantages over fluorescent tubes. Here are three excellent reasons to consider LED replacement for any fluorescent lights (and here is an in-depth blog comparing the two):

  1. Fluorescent lights contain toxic mercury. Mercury and the phosphor inside the bulbs are hazardous materials that present a waste disposal issue at the end of a light’s life. Broken bulbs release a small amount of toxic mercury as a gas, and the rest is contained in the glass itself. For this reason alone, building and facility managers should consider LED replacement for fluorescent tubes. Incandescent bulbs have already begun to be phased out, and it’s not impractical to consider that fluorescent lights may one day be banned outright due to their hazardous content.
  2. Fluorescent lights age significantly if they are frequently switched on and off. Typical lamp life for a fluorescent bulb is about 20,000 hours, but this can degrade as a consequence of frequent switching (turning on and off). Burning life is extended if lamps remain on continuously for long periods of time. Replacing your fluorescent tubes with LEDs is especially worth thinking about if your facility utilizes motion sensors that frequently activate and time out.
  3. Fluorescent lights are omnidirectional. Omnidirectional lights produce light in 360 degrees. This is a large system inefficiency because at least half of the light needs to be reflected and redirected to the desired area being illuminated. The need for reflection and redirection of light means that the output is much less efficient for omnidirectional lights (due to losses) than it would be for the same light if it were directional by its nature. It also means that more accessory parts are required in the light fixture itself in order to reflect or focus the luminous output of the bulb (thus increasing unit costs).

Why choose LEDs to replace fluorescent tubes?

LED lighting technology is superior to fluorescent tubes in three important ways: decreased maintenance costs, improved lighting quality, and a smaller energy footprint. Let’s examine these claims in more detail.

  • LED fluorescent tube replacement will lower your maintenance costs. Although LEDs have higher upfront costs, they last longer and require less replacing over time. For instance, metal halide bulbs are typically changed en masse before the end of their useful lifetime. Fluorescent lights have a better lifespan (7,000 to 25,000 hours) relative to some bulbs, but not compared to LEDs (50,000+ hours); LEDs have the longest lifespan of any lighting technology on the commercial market. Fluorescent bulbs require regular relamping and ballast replacement in addition to the labor cost to monitor and replace aging or expired components...all of this adds up over time. Note: Like metal halides, fluorescent lights sometimes need to be changed out before the end of their useful life to preempt serious degradation effects like flicker or changing light color (turning pink).
  • Improved lighting quality from replacing fluorescents with LEDs. Light emitted from LEDs is likely to be much higher quality than traditional lighting solutions for two principal reasons. First, the way that objects are revealed when subject to LED emissions is very close to natural light. This means that objects will generally appear in color like you are used to seeing them during the day. Second, the amount of light that hits the target area is likely to be much higher for a given power rating than it will be with virtually any other light. In other words, the area you care about will get all of the light! LEDs also have better color rendering and correlated color temperature. Fluorescent tube lighting is commonly associated with a cold, bluish appearance, whereas LEDs display a whiter light.
  • LED replacements for fluorescent tubes consume less energy - saving you money. Foot candle is a measure that describes the amount of light reaching a specified surface area as opposed to the total amount of light coming from a source (luminous flux). LEDs are very efficient relative to every other lighting type on the market. Typical source efficiency ranges between 37 and 120 lumens/watt. Where LEDs really shine, however, is in their system efficiency (the amount of light that actually reaches the target area after all losses are accounted for). Most values for LED system efficiency fall above 50 lumens/watt. Fluorescent and CFL lights are very efficient compared to incandescent lights (50-100 lumens/watt source efficiency), but they lose out to LEDs principally because their system efficiency is much lower (<30 lumens/watt). This is due to all of the losses associated with omnidirectional light output and the need to redirect it to a desired area.

Stouch Lighting can help you with LED replacements for fluorescent tubes.

As a manufacturer-neutral lighting distributor, Stouch Lighting aims to craft customized solutions for individual clients. We have completed LED retrofit projects across a variety of industries - please visit our case studies page by clicking here to view our work. Most importantly, we are here to help you answer questions, and we would be happy to complete a return on investment calculation for you if you are considering replacing your fluorescent lighting with LED lighting. Thank you for reading, and happy retrofitting! 

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