Replace florescents with LEDs above cabinet in kitchen?

fauguyMay 1, 2013

Last year I replaced all the standard bulbs (CFLs and halogens) with Philips LEDs in our table lamps, fans, and recessed lixtures, and I was quiet pleased with the results.

In our kitchen (which was remodeled in '06) there are three florescent fixtures, with each one taking two 48" T12 40W bulbs. Last month two of the florescent bulbs went out, and I replaced all 6 bulbs with Philips Kitchen & Bath florescent that is rated at 3000K and 2800 lumens. But since some of the florescent bulb's color temps in the package were off , I took them back to Home Depot and went to Lowes and got GE florescent kitchen & bath 3000k 2900 lumens. But I noticed that when using the GE florescent bulbs, it creates a noticeable high-pitch buzz from the internal ballasts (which the Philips bulbs were not at loud). It almost sounds light a high voltage transformer sound that you could hear in some CRT TVs and PC Monitors.

Anyway, at this point I'm wondering about replacing them all with LEDs. My concern is the price, and if they would be bright enough for the kitchen. The above-cabinet area where the current florescent fixtures are is an "L" shape, with 10 ft being on the longest wall, and 6 ft on the connecting wall. I'm not looking for dimming features, but but bright enough, since the kitchen and dining room is connected as one open space.

Any recommendations our advice would be appreciated.

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T8 or T12 lamps? The lamp change should not affect ballast noise, but your experiment indicates that it can. If you have T12 lamps and ballasts, I would just swap ballasts and lamps. It is hard to beat the lifetime costs of linear fluorescents. If these are above your cabinets near the ceiling you can't see them so it hard to justify a costly LED set.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 9:54PM
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Currently there are three T12 florescent fixtures, each fixture takes two 48" T12 40W bulbs. I opened them up today, the brand of the fixture is Lithonia, with the ballast being made by Pacific Ballast model EN-234-TP and Sound Rated A.

I'm not sure why the GE brand bubs create more of this high-frequency buzz than the Philips, but the Philips still has it, just not as annoying.

Using six 40W tubes is 240W, so going LED would be using less (probably under 50W), and should be quiet.

I'm wondering if this would work for me....

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 3:14AM
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Modern electronic ballasts with an "A" sound rating are very quiet. They operate above 20,000 Hz,

The LED solution looks expensive to me. If it were my kitchen, I'd gut the current luminaires and install programmed-start, T8 ballasts. If the existing ballasts are instant-start, unfortunately, the sockets would have to be changed and you might be better off with new luminaries if you can find some with good ballasts. If you want two-level lighting, you can use two ballasts/luminaire if they fit, and hook them to separate switches.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 9:39AM
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If you're intent on using LEDs, the light output (in lumens) should be equal to your existing t12 tubes. There are many options from led bars to flexible strips,...

If you want low profile lighting, there are t5 HO fluorescents which produce more light than t8 tubes.

Price out your options to see which makes more sense.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 10:16AM
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Here are two images that show the current Lithonia fixture with the Pacific Ballast, it says they are Instant Start and Sound Rated A. It's just three of them connected in a row, using a total of six T12 40W bulbs. My issue is with the high-frequency buzzing (I do have good/sensitive hearing).

So I'm not sure if changing them all out with a different florescent fixture is the way to go, as you mentioned T8, or see what LED options are available. But if I went with LED, I'd like to keep the price to a minimal ($200-300 max). Regardless, I need the lighting equipment to be silent (little to no buzz or hum), and provide enough light that is equal to the current florescent tubes being used (six T12 40W 2900 lumens).

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 12:42PM
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By the way, Philips now has something out called Fortimo LED strips.

This one is 2ft and provides 2200 lumens:

There is a video demo here:

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 12:47PM
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"residential use" = cheap and inefficient

Cost to rebuild your T12 to an excellent t8 light source:

12 sockets at $0.50 each, but you will probably have to buy non-shorted sockets on the internet.

Three programmed start ballasts like 96714 GE232-MVPS-N $10-15 each if you shop around. Low end if you buy a box of 10.

New triphosphor lamps, like GE 42064 F32T8/SPX50, CRI 86 2800 lumens. $3-6 each depending on quantity purchased.


If you want more light, use high ballast factor ballasts (GE232-MVPS-H) or put some T5 HO luminaires up there for LOTS more.

Philips is interesting stuff, but you have to put those power supply and strips into a luninaire. What is the price?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 3:08PM
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If I wanted to go with T8, wouldn't it be easier to just buy three new T8 fixtures that come with the ballasts, instead of retrofiring my T12 into a T8?

What is the main difference between "rapid start" and "programmed start" ballasts? Since it's in the kitchen, the current rapid start takes about 2 secs for all three fixtures (6 tubes) to come on.

Those Philips Fortimo can be placed into a fixture, but since this is above cabinet (and not seen) it could just sit there open. Though they do makes a defuser that can go over the LED strips.

This post was edited by fauguy on Thu, May 2, 13 at 16:53

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 4:51PM
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I don't think that rapid-start really exists anymore. You choose between instant-start and programmed-start. The former is for lamps to be turned on and left on for many hours. The ballasts cost a little less and they use a little less power, but they chew up lamps very quickly if you operate them frequently. Ask yourself, how often do you go in the kitchen for a few minutes and have the light on for that long?

A program-start ballast should wake up the lamps faster than an rapid-start and use less energy.

All of the inexpensive T8 luminaires that I have seen have instant-start ballasts which are a real mistake in residential situations, IMHO. It might be easier to put in a new luminaire, but if you can read a wiring diagram, find the sockets and are able to install new luminaire, you can re-wire the old one just as easily. It boils down to a little more wiring vs. not having to mount new luminaires. You won't be dumping as much into the landfill either.

Given the choice between new T8 and new T5 for your kitchen-only application, I would probably go with the latter. I bought boxes of 10, 2-lamp and 10, 4-lamp T8 ballasts because I have a bunch of unheated garage luminaires to retrofit and some inside so it made sense for me to buy big and stick with the T8 all the way around. T5 are no good at low temperatures.

Here is a link that might be useful: Program start vs. instant start

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 6:41PM
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Changing everything out to T5 looks like it might be as pricy as going with LED, but T5 might be too bight for the kitchen/dining room, plus the wattage would be 54W per bulbs compared to 40W that my T12 uses.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 6:26PM
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You will get more lumens/watt with T8 and T5 than you did with the T12 as well. As one ages, one needs more lumens.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 8:05PM
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When it comes to lumens, since I'm currently using six T12 40W bulbs rated at 2900 lumens each, my total lumens would be 6X2900=17400 correct?

I looked on the site and their LED strips seems to be rated between 300-500 lumens per ft.

So for example, the one linked below is 3 meters (9.8 ft) and is 378 lumens per ft = 3704 lumens for 9.8 ft. I would been a few of those total to equal my current lumens I'm getting from the T12 bulbs.

But the Philips Fortimo that I mentioned earlier this thread has one that offers 2200 lumens in a 2ft strip module, since it is rated at 34v, instead of the standard 12v or 24v.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 3:50AM
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Often changing the ballast and retaining the existing fixture
is a good choice. The new fixture may leave areas of the ceiling exposed where the old fixture covered and repainting is required. Installing new requires aligning with wall or cabinet for parallel, different fastening points, etc. The swapping of ballasts is really a one-person job.
(While it is true that T8 produces more lumens per watt than does the T12, the total lumens per a lamp of given length is greater with the T12 than with the T8. Thus changing the necessary components and installing T8 to replace the T12 will result in fewer lumens total.
NewT8 may well outperform, for a time, well-worn T12 lamps.)
It now appears that6 the majority of websites on the subject do not agree with my post about the comparative output of the T8. So for the moment, the next post below appears to be the better information.
For this application, presently available LEDs offer little advantage over the fluorescents.

This post was edited by bus_driver on Sat, May 4, 13 at 16:55

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 9:01AM
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No, not only does a T8 lamp produce more ight than a similar length T12, but they maintain light output better as they age. You might be remembering the delamping that took place in some environments where lighting experts decided, for example, that troffers with 3 T12 lamps could be retrofitted with 2 T8s. this resulted in large electricity saving and a small light loss if more efficient reflectors were installed or new open reflector luminaires were installed in place if old ones with covers.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 10:13AM
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I've seen there are a few companies that make T8 LED tubes. It says they can fit in any T12/T10/T8 bi-pin fixture. Some of them, like Philips T8 LED, says you have to remove (bypass) the ballast so the T8 LED is connected directly to the power cables. But other brands want you to replace it with a low voltage ballast. Either way, each T8 LED 48" tube costs about $50/each and has 1500-2000 lumens depending on the model and uses about 20W. So that would be $300 if I went that route, and the wattage would be half of my current T12 40W tubes.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 4:35PM
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I have seen some test results of the present-day LED replacements for fluorescent tubes. Not yet a viable option-- perhaps some day.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 4:46PM
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Many LED "tubes" do not interact with reflector luminaires properly. LEDs are more like point sources than diffuse sources so the early early LED tubes did not function well. I notice that these Philips models give a beam angle, 120 degrees. They might be better. I also notice that they don't work with shunted sockets. In my neighborhood, non-shunted replacement sockets are as rare as unicorns on store and electric supplier shelves. They have to be ordered.

The specifier 4' tube is only 1650 lumens vs. upwards of 2400 for a standard T8 lamp. That is almost 1/3 less light. Lumens/watt for the systems are essentially identical. That is astonishing to me since I assumed that the LEDs would use a lot less power. Maybe the Philips LED tubes have very inefficient power supplies. The LEDs stick you with 4000K and below. I am more of a 5000K guy for lights up that high. I'd rather go to 6500 than drop down to 4000.

The Philips comparison to magnetic T12 is really inappropriate. They must be marketing to people who think that banging two rocks together is a really neat idea.

You might be able to justify them in an application where you have something close to a constant 5 minute on/5 minute off cycle and very expensive electricity. I am thinking Antarctic stations.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 8:06PM
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When it comes to color temp, I like the "Kitchen and Bath" tubes since they are a soft white at 3000K. A few years ago I tried daylight tubes at 5000K, and it was too blue-white that made the colors look washed out and was difficult on the eyes.

When our kitchen was remodeled in 06, the person got rid of the original builder's T12 fixtures and replace them with these Lithonia fixtures. Since then, I've had to replace the tubes twice, lasting only about 3-4 years, even though they are only on for about 4-5 hours total in a day (an hour or two in the morning, on-and-off during the day, and two hours in the evening). So there's no way I'm getting the 40,000 life expectancy on these tubes. Maybe it's because the ballasts are poor quality and are Rapid Start instead of Programed Start? I've also noticed that they "dim" whenever the A/C or oven kicks on, we're using the cloths iron (even through they are all on different breakers. Again, it seems like the current pull of these other items is effecting the ballasts and dimming the tubs for a second.

There is a large lighting store a few miles north of me, and they said they carry LED lights for below and above cabinets. I'm thing of looking there in the next week to see what they have. But if is going to be more than $300 and not even give me as much lumens as I have now, then there's no point of going that route.

At that point, I'm either stuck with what I have, or open them up and put a better quality ballast in there, or do what you mentioned earlier and replace them with T8 fixtures and tubes.

All I know is that I hate it using 240W total, the high frequency "buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" sound is annoying, and the lights dimming for a second whenever a large power item is turned on.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 1:13AM
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Here is a link that might be useful: The comparison between SMD LED Tube and Dip LED tube

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 6:38AM
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One thing that might help with high load-related dimming is a multivolt ballast. I am not sure. They operate on voltages between 120 and 277. It has never been clear to me if they adjust to differing voltages in a discrete or continuous fashion and how fast the adjustment is. Maybe someone else will know that detail.

On-off is probably killing your tubes On the other hand, good program-start ballasts are recommended for occupancy sensor use. At some point, you begin to measure fluorescent lamp life in "starts" instead of hours.

I wish that I could be more certain that the T8 ballasts will eliminate your noise problem completely. All I can say is that I don't hear mine at all. I know, however, that I have some high frequency hearing loss. Any good new electronic ballast operates above 20kHz for efficiency purposes. They are more likely to cause EMF or RFI problems than audible noise. (They need to be designed to avoid frequencies that cause EMF and RFI problems.)

If you buy your ballasts locally, you could just change over one of your three and disconnect the other two for sound testing purposes. If it does not work for you, maybe you can get the store to agree, beforehand, to take the ballasts and lamps back.

One thing in your favor is that your lumnaire appears to have non-shunted sockets and is wired for rapid-start/program start. There are some wiring diagrams (and other information that might be of interest) in this link:

I like ballasts that will continue to operate the rest of the lamps if one goes out. Not all do that. I bought two boxes of ten (one each 1 or 2-tube and 3 or 4 tube) on ebay for $10 or less/ballast. I have a lot of linear fluorescent that came with my house and garage.

Your light quality is likely to be greatly improved with the T8 tubes. I think that high CRI tubes are available in T12 format, they are not as common as for T8. Look for a high-quality lamp. I bought a bunch of GE SPX tubes. (SP are lower CRI). Other manufacturers have other notations. Color is largely a matter of taste. I like a more natural, daylight color.

If you ballasts qualify for the NEMA Premium Ballast program, you are more likely to have good quality.

Here is a link that might be useful: NEMA Premium Ballast

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 11:07AM
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Just received notice of an article about LED panels that are intended to replace fluorescent fixtures. Sounds like a good concept. But it is generally not wise to rush out and buy every new thing that appears.
Except for cleaning, my T8 4-tube kitchen fixture has worked perfectly and required no maintenance. It is used for only a few hours per day.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 9:35AM
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Was that in a email or something on-line?

The buzzzz I'm getting my T12 is really getting annoying.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 7:10PM
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There is a lot of good information here about lighting applications if you have the time

Here is a link that might be useful: Lighting Research Center

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 7:31PM
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