LED lighting is cheaper than fluorescent lighting

Comparison of fluorescent tubes and LEDs: which is better?

Different versions of fluorescent tubes are used in many places, both in the private and in the commercial sector. T5 and T8 fluorescent lamps are most often found in basements, garages, workshops or as hall lighting. In this article you will find out how well the old fluorescent tubes compare to modern LED tubes.

Table of Contents

Comparison of fluorescent tubes and LED tubes

Fluorescent tubes come in a wide variety of designs and sizes. The most common nowadays are tubes of the type T5 and T8 used. These are used in private households, for example, to illuminate the basement or garage. In the commercial sector, fluorescent lamps are often used to illuminate offices, workshops or halls.

The larger fluorescent tubes are mostly used where large-area and uniform lighting is required. Small sizes can be found in mirror cabinets or as ring lights in mirrors or magnifying lamps.

Common names for the tubes are:

  • Fluorescent tube
  • Fluorescent lamp
  • Neon tube

The more modern LED variants are called LED tube or with the English word as LED tube designated. In the following sections you will find a comparison of the old and new technology as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both variants.

How it works in comparison

Even if in many cases the fluorescent lamps can simply be exchanged for LED tubes, the internal function of the two technologies is completely different.

How does a fluorescent tube work?

A fluorescent tube contains a Noble gaswhich when switched on by a high voltage ignited becomes. This ignition voltage is generated by a choke or electronics in the Ballast generated. During the process, the gas in the glass body is ionized and the Fluorescent lights up on the inner glass wall.

The first generation of fluorescent lamps was with Neon gas filled, which is why the slang term is often used today Neon tube used. Due to better properties, other noble gases such as argon or krypton used.

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How does an LED tube work?

A modern LED tube is basically a normal LED light source. The only special feature here is the type of construction. Through the Tubular shape the LED bulbs fit into the existing sockets existing lighting systems and can therefore be converted without much effort. The function of the LED lamp is otherwise identical to that of other LED lamps:

The light emitting diode is a Semiconductor component. The LED chip contained in it sends Photons that we perceive as visible light. In an LED tube there is a carrier board on which a large number of LEDs are soldered in rows. There is also a power supply unit for generating the low voltage and an LED driver in the tubular housing.

LED or fluorescent tube?

In terms of efficiency, fluorescent tubes are pretty good compared to incandescent and halogen lamps. But how does it compare to LED tubes? In the next sections you will find a detailed comparison of all important properties.

Advantages of LED tubes

Depending on the type, LED tubes have a very high efficiency of 90 to 150 lumens per watt.

Here you will find LED tubes with 150 lm / W

Many LED tubes have a color rendering index of Ra> 80. There are also LED tubes with an Ra> 90 or even Ra> 95. However, the disadvantage is the decreasing efficiency at high CRI values.

Here you will find LED tubes with Ra 95

LED tubes must be marked as dimmable so that their brightness can be easily adjusted. The dimmer used must also be suitable for LED lamps.

Depending on the type, LED tubes have a very long service life of 30,000 - 50,000 hours. The number of switching cycles is usually 100,000 and more.

No switch-on delay

LED tubes produce their full brightness immediately after being switched on. There is no pre-heating phase or the typical flickering of fluorescent lamps.

The beam angle of LED tubes is 160 ° for most tubes. This means that they radiate their full light completely into the room. There is no need to use or clean the reflectors.

The light-emitting diodes in an LED tube are supplied with direct voltage by the LED driver. The output current is regulated in the kilohertz range. This means that there is no visible flicker.

Does not contain mercury

There is no toxic mercury in LED tubes. Due to the electronic components, defective LED tubes still have to be disposed of as electronic waste.

In many cases, LED tubes are made of impact-resistant polycarbonate. This makes them insensitive to light impacts and vibrations.

Disadvantages of LED tubes

Higher acquisition costs

The acquisition costs of LED tubes are currently several times that of fluorescent tubes. Due to the long service life and high energy efficiency, the purchase pays for itself after a few years.

Advantages of fluorescent tubes

Depending on the type, fluorescent tubes have a very high efficiency of 45 to 100 lumens per watt.

Many fluorescent tubes have a color rendering index of Ra 75 to Ra 85. In the meantime, there are also fluorescent lamps with an Ra> 90. However, the disadvantage is the decreasing efficiency with high CRI values.

Whether a fluorescent tube can be dimmed depends on the ballast used. Conventional ballasts are unsuitable for this, but there are special electronic ballasts with which the connected tubes can be adjusted in terms of brightness.

Relatively long lifespan

The service life of fluorescent tubes is between 5,000 and 20,000 hours, depending on the type and ballast used. On conventional ballasts, the service life of the tubes is more in the range of the lower value. The upper value can at most be achieved on an electronic ballast with a few switching cycles.

Favorable acquisition costs

The fluorescent tubes themselves are very cheap. The ballasts, on the other hand, are more expensive, but they have a very long service life.

Disadvantages of fluorescent tubes

Flickering when switching on

Fluorescent tubes with conventional ballasts are known to flicker when they are switched on. With electronic ballasts, fluorescent lamps can also be switched on without flickering. However, there is a short switch-on delay of around one second due to the preheating phase.

Due to their structure and functional principle, fluorescent tubes radiate their light evenly in all directions. This is only beneficial in a few situations. Usually the light has to be directed in the desired direction by a reflector. This also reduces energy efficiency.

When operated with conventional ballasts, fluorescent tubes flicker with every zero crossing of the mains frequency of 50 Hz. The resulting 100 Hz flicker can lead to fatigue and headaches. The stroboscopic effect is particularly tricky in connection with rotating machines:

Despite the high speed, the impression can arise that the shaft of the machine is only turning slowly or even standing still. Electronic ballasts work in the kilohertz range and can reduce the flicker effect.

Contains toxic mercury

There is toxic mercury in fluorescent tubes. It is important to ensure that the tubes do not break when they are replaced. If they are defective, they must also be disposed of as hazardous waste.

The elongated tube is made of thin-walled glass and is sensitive to shocks and vibrations. Particularly because of the toxic substances they contain, careful handling of the tubes is mandatory.

Comparison table: fluorescent material versus LED

In the following table you will find a compact overview of the most important properties of the fluorescent tube compared to the LED tube.

propertyLED tubeFluorescent tube
Switch-on delay100% light immediatelyFlickering when switching on
Direction of radiationdirectional radiation360 ° radiation
Efficiency90 - 150 lm / W45 - 100 lm / W
Colour reproductionup to Ra 95up to Ra 90
Light qualityflicker free100 Hz flickering
Dimmabilitydimmable version availableonly with dimmable ECG
Free of harmful substancesdoes not contain mercurycontains toxic mercury
lifespan30,000 - 50,000 hours5,000 - 20,000 hours
robustnessbreak-proof made of polycarbonatefragile glass
costshigher acquisition costscheap tubes, expensive VGs

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Compared to fluorescent tubes, LED tubes have almost only advantages. After being switched on, they immediately shine without flicker with their full light output. The environmental balance is also very positive due to the fact that no mercury is used and the 40 - 60% savings in energy consumption. The higher acquisition costs are quickly amortized due to the high efficiency and long service life.