Safety Hazards for Ballast-Compatible LED Tubes

Sometimes, even the professionals make the wrong choice…

Recently, a utility company announced a rebate policy that only accepts ballast-compatible LED tubes for end user incentives and rejects all other internal-driver type LED tubes due to safety concerns. What the utility company fails to recognize, however, is that ballast-compatible LED tubes are also dangerous as well as not very effective.

If a ballast-compatible LED tube is inserted into a fixture while the power is on, the whole tube is energized, even if the other end of the tube is not inserted into the fixture. Because of this, the person installing the tube could be shocked if they touch the tube that is not yet installed. Since most electricians leave the power on during installation, they are at risk for being shocked. It is recommended to have the power off, install the whole tube, and then turn the power on.

Ballasts are not all created equal, so ballast-compatible tubes tend to behave differently, and may not all be compatible. Many do not realize some ballasts that are capable of driving three fluorescent tubes can only power two ballast tubes. When this happens, all three tubes in the fixture are not illuminated, even though the tube is still ballast-compatible. However, as mentioned before, all ballasts are not created equal and this causes a problem as companies and facilities have multiple ballast types from multiple companies.

Besides safety hazards, they are about 30 percent less efficient than other internal driver tubes.

On the other hand, many utility companies are reluctant to provide rebates or return incentives on ballast-compatible LED tubes. The concern lies with the fact that companies who purchase these tubes may reuse the fluorescent tubes once the incentive money is paid out on the initial LED conversion, which defeats the entire purpose.

To avoid LED tubes all together, it’s possible to replace fluorescent fixtures with new luminaires designed for LED sources, like LED troffers. To find the best way to upgrade your lighting to LED, check out my recent blog: Upgrading Troffer Luminaires to LED.

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