Tubular LEDs Make Fluorescent Lighting Obsolete

David Fessler By David Fessler
Energy and Infrastructure Strategist

Alternative Energy

About three years ago, I started replacing all of my incandescent lightbulbs with their LED equivalents.

Since then, I’ve replaced 95% of the lighting on our farm in Pennsylvania, and I’m saving about $840 per year.

So even though it cost me about $2,000 for all of the LED bulbs, they have already paid for themselves. Plus, LED bulbs last far longer than incandescent ones do.

I’m not the only one making the switch. LED bulb sales in the U.S. continue to gain ground.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Americans have installed more than 874 million LED bulbs.

That’s up from fewer than 500,000 in 2009. In fact, almost 70% of Americans have purchased at least one LED bulb.

I’m not surprised. But the vast majority of LED bulbs’ money- and energy-saving potential has yet to be realized.

And now there is a whole class of new LEDs making yet another type of bulb obsolete.

I’m talking about tubular LED bulbs – or TLEDs for short. They are designed to replace 4- and 8-foot fluorescent tube bulbs.

This is another example of Fessler’s Three Laws of Technology in action:

  1. Technology marches on.
  2. When it comes to technology, change happens much faster than anyone expects it will.
  3. New technology is almost always disruptive and transformative.

If you have an unheated garage, workshop or other space, you may have installed fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent bulbs work well to light large areas.

However, they have a number of drawbacks:

  • Both the 4- and 8-foot tubes contain mercury and must be disposed of carefully.
  • The bulbs flicker. And the lower the temperature, the more they flicker.
  • Being made of glass, they are fragile. Break one and you will have glass and mercury all over the place.
  • Fluorescents don’t dim well, and some don’t dim at all.
  • Fluorescents are nondirectional. They emit light over 360 degrees.
  • And they are generally not efficient with today’s smart lighting controllers.

Today’s TLEDs are a far better choice for lighting wide areas. This is true for both home and commercial spaces.

Here are a few of the benefits:

  • TLEDs are free of mercury and 100% recyclable.
  • Nearly all of them are dimmable.
  • Flickering is eliminated. TLEDs work just fine in extremely cold temperatures.
  • The bulbs are rugged. The tubes are made from high-impact plastic to resist breakage.
  • All of the light is directional and goes right where you want it.
  • TLEDs work very well with smart lighting setups.
  • TLEDs last an average of 50,000 hours. This compares with 30,000 for the average fluorescent.
  • Finally, and most importantly, they are 30% more energy-efficient than the best fluorescent tubes. If your fluorescent tubes are older, you could see efficiency gains of 50%.

As of today, TLEDs have replaced a paltry 6% of fluorescent tubes. And LEDs have made only a 12.6% inroad into replacements.

Just imagine if all obsolete lighting were replaced with LED bulbs…

Americans would be saving an additional 4.428 trillion BTUs, or 1,297 gigawatts, of energy. To put that in perspective, the U.S. total installed electricity generation in 2016 was 1,074 gigawatts.

Clearly we can make a huge impact on America’s need for additional power generation.

Technology marches on…

Good investing,

Dave