LED Tubes or linear lamps are one of the most common and economical ways to illuminate large indoor spaces like warehouses, schools, and offices. Given their popularity, they are still America’s most-used retrofit lamps.

LED tubes are known to offer lighting efficiency and comfort. These linear lamps are a mercury-free alternative to traditional fluorescent tubes that contribute towards a facility’s green credentials. They are best suited for users with a limited budget who are looking to upgrade to reap the benefits of LEDs without changing their existing lighting infrastructure.

If you’re considering upgrading your fluorescent tubes to LED tubes, or are simply thinking of replacing other LED tubes, you’ll first need to understand the installation and operation of the three different types of LED Tube Types: Type A, Type B, Type C, and Type A&B.

TYPE A LED Tubes (Ballast Driven)

Sometimes referred to as plug and play, the Type A LED Tubes directly replace linear fluorescent lamps. They don't require rewiring and hence can easily be installed/replaced by the user without the services of an electrician. However, it is also important to know that not all Type A LED tubes are compatible with all existing ballasts. Refer to the manufacturer's terms of use to make sure the same.

Benefits:

  • When upfront cost is the top priority
  • If the existing system (ballasts) are relatively new (less than 10 years old)
  • The user doesn’t want to invest a lot in a leased property but wants to reduce their electric bill.
  • If the user wants the ability to switch back to the original Linear Fluorescent or CFL lamps.

TYPE B LED Tubes (Ballast Bypass/Direct Wire) 

Type B LED Tubes are essentially ballast bypass lamps. They are also called line voltage lamps. They have an internal driver built into the lamp and require to be directly wired to the power source bypassing the fluorescent ballast. They are the most popular type as they are less expensive compared to others and reduce maintenance costs by eliminating the ballast.

Benefits:

  • When the user wants the lowest cost of ownership
  • If the existing ballasts are effectively at the end of their life (10 years or greater) or the user is experiencing significant power failures
  • When the user doesn’t want to worry about ballast compatibility, for instance, in a large installation there would be a variety of ballast types/brands, and all in different life cycles
  • When users don’t want to rely on an electrician to repair the lights in the future.  With the ballast removed, the user only replaces the lamps during maintenance, hence eliminating the need for a ballast.
  • When the user is buying an “LED Ready” fixture
  • When the user has no chance of re-lamping with the old technology.

TYPE C LED Tubes (External Driver) 

Type C LED Tubes work with external drivers. These lamps need a fixture mount driver and their installation happens in the same way as fluorescent lamps and ballasts. The come with programmable outputs, dimming options and a longer lifespan.

Benefits:

  • When rebates are driving the decision to upgrade
  • When the user has no chance of re-lamping with the old technology.
  • When upfront costs are not an issue

TYPE A&B LED Tubes (Dual Mode Internal Driver)

Besides the 3 types of LED tubes, Type A, Type B, and Type C, there is also a type of hybrid LED tubes that are developed as Type A and Type B, also known as Type A+B. A Hybrid LED tube is a combination of Type “A” and Type “B” tubes. They are sometimes also called Type D LED tubes.

This LED tube type can work with the existing fluorescent ballast or can operate without the ballast. This is an excellent choice for those installations that want to use the fast installation method using the ballasts but have a backup plan if the ballast is not compatible, as not all manufacturers' ballasts are compatible. Most manufacturers suggest reviewing their list of compatible ballast before installing Type A&B LED tubes.