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LED Replacements For Fluorescent Lamps

36W fluorescent tubes are the main source of light in supermarkets & retail stores, offices and many factories. There are hundreds of millions of them in use around Australia and many billions in use around the world. But while they are the most efficient light source in offices and the home, they are now being challenged by LED tubes which can directly replace them.

By Leo Simpson

Back in the May 2010 issue we had a feature article on how to slash office lighting bills by using quad phosphor fluorescent tubes made by NEC. In our own office, we substituted one quad phosphor tube for the two
existing tubes in each twin-lamp luminaire. The result was a much brighter office and a cut in electricity consumption due to lighting of about 50%.

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This close-up shot of the end of a LED replacement tube shows the different LEDs used in the Cool White model. It is apparently powered as four sets of 63 LEDs.

Since then we have heard from readers who are delighted with the results of using quad phosphor fluorescent tubes. In one industrial warehouse complex, they replaced all the tubes in what was a dingy and dangerous underground section and the increase in lighting was a revelation. In that case they did not save power but the improvement in illumination, especially at night, made the complex much safer and less prone to graffiti and vandalism. As a bonus, the improved lighting also made their CCTV security system much more effective.

At the end of the above article, we made a brief reference to the existence of LED replacements for fluorescent tubes but discounted them at the time because they were very expensive and the units that we knew of apparently did not comply with Australian standards. We concluded with the remark that “In the next few years that is bound to change.”

Well, the future has a habit of arriving quickly these days. In the very next issue (June 2010), local company Tenrod Australia introduced a range of ecoLED replacement tubes. Naturally, we had to obtain some samples and put them to some comparative tests.

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The tubular extruded aluminum housing provides rigidity and acts as a heatsink. It barely gets warm.

The first point to make about these LED replacements is that they are exactly that. They can be fitted in place of conventional fluorescent tubes since they have the same length and the same 2-pin connector at each end. There are a number of provisos though. First, while they can be used in standard 36W fluorescent fittings which have a conventional ballast, the starter MUST be removed. If the starter is left in place, it is immediate death to the LED replacement tube.

Ideally, the fitting should be rewired so that the ballast, starter and power factor correction capacitor (if fitted) are all removed, to provide maximum efficiency. In effect, the full mains supply is applied across the LED replacement tube.

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