LED vs. Fluorescent

  • Posted on: January 3, 2019
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Flickering or burnt-out fluorescent bulb?  You may be wondering if it’s time to switch to LED bulbs. Here’s a few options, and it can get a little confusing, so hopefully this article can provide some direction on which solution is best for your situation.

Replace the Fixture or the bulbs ?

So what I’m referring to in this article are standard fluorescent tubes that come is 48 inch, 36 inch and various smaller sizes. In addition to the bulb(s), the fixture will include an electrical component called a “ballast”. Either the bulb or the ballast will be defective – which is causing your problem. If you switch to LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs, they come in a few flavors, and here is where the confusion can start. Standard LED replacement bulbs found in the big box stores will typically work with the existing ballast found in the fixture – it will say so on the package, and you have to be certain.  The problem is that if you are not sure if the old bulb or the ballast is defective, you have to replace both.

Option 1 – Replace the whole fixture

Pro – The new fixture will probably include a “bulb” or a strip of LED’s that essentially act as a bulb, so you will never have to purchase additional replacements.

Con – Some of the fixtures have limited configuration or mounting options, so an electrical box must be located in the center of the fixture and this may not be where you want the light located.

Cost – most expensive option.

Option 2 – Replace fluorescent with LED bulbs – Ballast required

Pro –  If the LED bulb can be used with an existing and functional ballast, then all you have to do is install the new bulbs.

Con – If the ballast is defective, you will have to replace it as well as install a new bulb.

Cost – less than Option 1, probably same as Option 3

Option 3 – Replace fluorescent with LED bulbs – NO Ballast required

Pro – Less parts to replace – just the bulbs.

Cons – No ballast LED bulbs can be 2 to 3X more expensive than LED bulbs that require a ballast. These bulbs are harder to find, and less likely found at your local box store. A re-wiring of the fixture is required. This is called a ballast by-pass, and means the lights are working off the line voltage that comes into the fixture. Not something you want to try yourself if you are a little skittish with electricity.

Cost – less than Option 1, probably same as Option 2


So there you have it. If you still have some confusion, contact me for further clarification.

Fixitgary.com offers Light Fixture Replacement and quality Handyman Service in Markham, North York, Thornhill, Richmond Hill, Aurora, Newmarket, Stouffville, Uxbridge, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby.