LED vs Fluorescent Tubes - Comparison in Energy Consumption, Lighting Performance & Efficiency

Fluorescent tubes have been around what seem like "forever" - they provide affordable lighting for majority of commercial areas: hallways, offices, warehouses, etc. However, just because something has been around "forever", does that make it the best solution?
LED vs. Fluorescent Tube Comparison


We explore the difference in our LED vs. Fluorescent tubes match-up, a first of many comparison posts to come - weighing the commonly often used lighting products to their LED alternatives. There are three main areas worth comparing:

1. Energy Consumption

As the deciding factor for many property managers and companies, energy consumption or electricity use can be the difference maker for not only lighting but many other operational technologies associated with a building. While many facilities managers look to install energy efficient HVAC systems, not many are familiar with the potential savings with LED tubes compared to their current fluorescent lamps. This is especially true for property areas with 24/7 lighting (meaning the light is on all day and night) such as parking garages, hallways, lobbies, amenity rooms and many other locations.

So how much difference does an LED tube make compared to a fluorescent? Below is a simple comparison chart between the two:

  Technology
 Ballast Factor
Operational Wattage
  Annual Consumption (24/7 operation - 1 bulb)
34 Watt T12 Fluorescent Tubes 
0.88
43 Watts
376.68 kWh
16 Watt T8 Equivalent LED Tube
1
16 Watts
140.16 kWh

While the difference is only 236.52 kWh, keep in mind that this is for one bulb only! If the cost of energy is $0.11 per 1 kWh...with just one bulb the building would save approximately $26.00.

Now many of us know we do not have a single fluorescent bulb around, usually a building is setup with fixtures that have two bulbs. Lets assume a 100 (low estimate for larger commercial properties) fixtures with 2 tubes per fixture:

Fluorescent Operation

Annual Energy Consumption: 75,336 kWh
Annual Operating Costs: $8,286.96

LED Operation

Annual Energy Consumption: 28, 032 kWh
Annual Operating Costs: 3,083.52

Savings

Annual Energy Savings: 47, 304 kWh
Annual Operating Savings: $5,203.44

That is a big number to reduce off of energy bills, and improve the efficiency of a property. Simply by replacing the type tube in the fixture. Keep in mind that the higher number of tubes being replaced in the property, the higher the annual savings. Depending on the type of existing fluorescent tubes (T4, T8, T12), there is a potential for both ENERGY and OPERATING COST savings with LED tubes.

Yes, we know the next question coming up: but if 16 Watt LED T8 tubes replace 34 Watt T12 fluorescents, will that not decrease the lighting levels of the area?

2. Lighting Performance

The answer to the above question plain and simple: NO, not only will the light levels improve, but will maintain their brightness levels for the entire duration of the LED tube's life. Which cannot be said the same for fluorescent tubes.

How often have you walked in an underground garage or down a hallway, only to notice the ominous light flickering. As fluorescent tubes expire, their light levels decrease significantly...and eventually they start to flicker. In comparison, LED tubes do not flicker or decrease the amount of light coming from the bulb. The light level always remain the same - as the tube reaches the end of its life, it simply stops working. No decrease in lighting, no flickering, and most importantly no creepy experience for your tenants!

Flickering Fluorescent Tubes

Below is the average lumens (amount of light produced by the tube) for both types of bulbs:

  • 32W T12 Fluorescent: 1,800
  • 16W LED Tube: 1,900

Keep in mind, for the LED the lumens remain the same no matter how long its been working while the lumens depreciate for the fluorescent over time (as mentioned above)! While this difference may not seem like much, but when there is an enclosed area in question - such as an underground parking garage - light levels make a staggering difference:
LED vs Fluorescent Tubes - Before & After

3. Light Efficiency

From the comparisons above, it is fairly clear that LED tubes hold the advantage as an overall lighting solution. Luminous efficacy is basically how well a light bulb produces visible light in comparison to the power consumed and the amount of lumens generated. Simply, it is how many lumens are produced per watt.

If we stick with the two types of tubes we have been comparing so far, we get the following results
  • 32W T12 Fluorescent: 53 (1800 lumens/34 watts)
  • 16W LED Tube: 119 (1900 lumens/16 watts)
That is more than DOUBLE the efficiency of standard fluorescent tubes. Need we say anything else?

The T8 tubes are a clear cut winner for improving not only the environmental impact of your commercial property but the operation costs as well.

Stay tuned for the next series in light technology comparison - coming soon!

21 comments

We've just replaced over 700 T8 fluorescents with direct replacement LED T8's - all in our strata parkades. The cost was approximately 7,000 Canadian dollars. The light quality is excellent - will advise on energy savings over the next several months.

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Awesome Gary, are the lights on 24/7 or do they have a set schedule on a weekly basis?

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The glaring omission here is the cost of each LED tube vs. the fluorescent tube needs to be included to offset the energy savings. You must also include the expected life of the LED tube vs the fluorescent in that calculation as the LED tubes should have a longer life.

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Pricing varies from supplier to supplier, and with the government's incentive program that cost difference is much closer than expected. As you mention the life of an LED tube. vs fluorescent is much more significant, which of course drives down the overall maintenance cost of lighting. Many more factors play a role in the ROI of LED lights not just the initial product costs, especially for commercial properties!

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Where can I find information on the governments incentive program concerning lighting?

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I own a small business and last year replaced one third of my High Output Fluorescent lights (for the unheated area). The cost was around 500.00 and the energy savings this year is 1000.00. Plus they work perfectly at 30 below or 30 above. This is a no brainier. The bad news for a small business or do it yourselfer is you just can't buy 8ft lights unless you go to a contractor or go online and order. I think our big box stores are missing out on something big here.

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Depends on where you are, the incentives are different. In Ontario specifically all the information you can find here: https://saveonenergy.ca/

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Great to hear you've gone LED! We'll the quality of the T8 tubes really has to be inspected and confirmed before mass ordering (as a big box store). They have to look at what sells. We would highly recommend going through a contractor (at least for now) as they are more knowledgeable about the product, rebates, electrical work, ballasts, etc.

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-Lovely Sharing ! We are leading led industry in india known for its open-minded products and a combination LED lighting range.

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LEDs get old too you know. Depends on lifetime and L70B20 (or for another example L80B10). By lifetime - for example 50 000 hours with L70B20 means that LED tube or luminaire with LEDs will not drop lower than 70% of total lumen output, the second number - in our example 20 - means that not more than 20% of chips will fail in the same time, while the total lumen output is still above 70%. So, you want your first number higher and second lower. But LEDs age and it depends on temperature and they get hot too 70-90°C and higher, depends on type.

Unless LEDs are driven by special driver which takes that in account and lowers the current and sets it higher and higher over the hours. So at first you get same light for X power consumption and after years your X gets bigger but you have same lumen output from luminaires.

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EVERY LED fixture I've ever used has incrementally faded over time. Estimates for longevity, intensity, and actual power savings are overstated. Articles like this are based on only a short-term experience, or what I'll call ignorance.

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Why you didn't compare with 16 W Fluorescent light as you had taken 38 W light? Could you please explain this?

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did you change the ballasts as well? or just put the led in the old ballast. Thank you.

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This was super informative thankyou.

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Nice Blog dear, with the technology today LED lights will be more uses of these useful lights in the future. I want to thank you for this excellent information!! I

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Nice info...!!

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thx this really helped for my assignment

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This is a great and informative article

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It used comparable light outputs 1900lumens for the 16W LED vs 1800lumens for the 32 W Flourecent.

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