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I have two bathroom light fixtures with very old magnetic ballasts and F14T12 fluorescent bulbs. These are, of course, a 1.5-inch diameter. I've been doing some bathroom renovations and I thought this would be a good time to think about energy-efficient upgrades, especially since it is getting harder to get these bulbs and ballasts.

Thus far, I have found basically two options for replacement (while keeping the existing fixtures, which I want to do):

  1. Upgrade to electronic ballasts and switch to T8 bulbs.
  2. Switch to LED bulbs. It seems that some of these might work with the magnetic ballast, but I'm happy to eliminate the ballast altogether.

The problem I am running into is that both of the above options seem to involve bulbs that are 1-inch in diameter, as opposed to the 1.5-inch diameter of the current bulbs. The question: Are there any replacement options for these bulbs that are the same 1.5-inch diameter, and that would look roughly similar to the existing bulbs?

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  • Can we see a picture of a fixture? It's unusual to have fixtures other than shop lights where the bulb is visible, so it's hard to imagine what your objection is to an LED replacement. I like doing that because it's usually easy to ditch the ballast, you eliminate buzzing and flickering and you can often brighten up the room by using LEDs that are higher in wattage than the direct equivalent (sometimes cooling is a problem if you do that).
    – jay613
    May 9 at 2:13
  • I don't have a photo right now, and they are disassembled so I can't really take one. Picture two vertical exposed bulbs on either side of the mirror.
    – Eric Marsh
    May 9 at 2:24
  • Hmmm....If the ballasts are working and the tubes are working, what problem are you really trying to solve? In a bathroom, I couldn't imagine you'd have those on for more than a very short time each day, and florescent is already pretty efficient, even if old. I doubt you'd get cost recovery on energy savings in your lifetime. Just run with what you got, If ballasts fail, then replace. Stockpiling a couple of replacement tubes is probably a good idea. But just because something's old, doesn't mean it's bad. May 9 at 3:51
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    I see, vertical bulbs on both sides. So, if you like that, what is the question? Is it just energy saving? I agree with @GeorgeAnderson, buy some bulbs and ballasts, enough to last 20 years. The energy savings from replacing two 14W bulbs with LEDs in a vanity will be trivial. If you enjoy the fixture, just stick with it.
    – jay613
    May 9 at 12:02
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    Or ... shop around. You might find a replacement ballast-bypass LED that looks nice. Some of them are meant to be exposed to view, and just because the bulb is T8 doesn't mean it won't look nice. Some are frosted. Some are clear and some of those have the LED elements arranged in a different patterns. Maybe you'll find something nice.
    – jay613
    May 9 at 12:11
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Nope, 8” is the wave of the future.

Nobody wants to make T12 LED retrofits because the extra diameter serves no useful purpose, makes packaging bulkier and could have fitment problems in fixtures made for T8.

As big a fan as I am of real fluorescent, I advise oddball fixtures like this simply be converted to LED with ballast-bypass "tubes". While real fluorescent will be supported in T8 for the foreseeable future, the odd sized tubes will be pricey.

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  • I don't have any love for real fluorescent (though no real problem with it either), but the bulbs are exposed in my vintage 50s bathroom, so I either need to find something that looks similar or stockpile T12 bulbs. Price isn't really a factor for me, as in the scheme of my bathroom work two bulbs won't move the dial much, even if they are expensive.
    – Eric Marsh
    May 9 at 2:26
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    @Eric stock up on T12 ballasts too. May 9 at 20:53
  • Good point. I saw somewhere online that some modern T12 bulbs exist that work with electronic ballasts. Any idea where one might find some of those?
    – Eric Marsh
    May 10 at 1:38
  • Shopping off topic, but try 1000bulbs.com Jun 8 at 4:07
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    @EricMarsh sorry I missed this... you have it backwards. The ballasts specify which bulbs they work with. There is an abridged list right on the ballast, and the full list is on the ballast's data sheet. So yes. There ARE electronic ballasts made to drive T12 tubes. I just don't like them because they are phasing out T12 tubes in favor of T8. Jun 8 at 5:03

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