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I am trying to replace the burnt out fluorescent bulbs in my basement with compatible LED lights, but I'm having trouble finding a type that works.

These are the bulbs I'm replacing: sylvania workshop f40 24618 e5l2

This is the ballast: Universal Manufacturing Corp. Cat. No. 720-LR-TC-P

I'd really rather not have to rewire or replace all the fixtures in my basement, but I've had zero luck finding an LED replacement bulb that works. Any help is greatly appreciated.

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    See diy.stackexchange.com/q/271764/18078 (including the comments below the accepted answer) but realize that if your ballast itself is bad, you'd have to replace the bad ballast to use a "drop in" LED replacement, while all you have to do with a direct-wire type is remove the bad ballast and make a minor wiring change.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 2, 2023 at 20:03
  • See also: diy.stackexchange.com/q/104851/18078 which might qualify as a duplicate. But not exact, so no VtC from me.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 2, 2023 at 20:14
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    Sometimes it's cost-effective (accounting for your time) to pull out the whole old-school fixture and install an "LED fixture" in it's place rather than screw around with re-wiring, etc.
    – gnicko
    May 2, 2023 at 22:31
  • Assuming the fixture and ballast are still good, I would just replace the bulb.
    – SteveSh
    May 3, 2023 at 1:14
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    @gnicko is correct. Just buy new LED fixtures. They are cheap. May 3, 2023 at 4:45

4 Answers 4

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Executive Summary

Save yourself a headache: remove the ballasts and rewire the fixtures to directly power LED bulbs designed to work without a ballast.

Longer Version

I had exactly the same problem: I had a mixture of old-style and newfangled electronic ballasts and it was a total crapshoot whether a bulb that worked in one would work in the other. Mostly not on both the one and the other and those that did work would randomly just stop working.

The "compatible ballasts" lists that the manufacturers provide are not only mostly wishful thinking, but you have to take the fixture apart to find the ballast model number anyway.

Bypassing the ballast involves clipping a couple of wires to/from the ballast and hooking them up to eachother without the ballast in the way.

The wiring diagram for removing the ballast is included in the package or is directly on the sleeve for the direct-wire LED bulbs. There are only two wires coming into the fixture in the first place; one goes to one end, the other to the other. Rocket science it ain't.

You've been meaning to clean them up anyway; might as well rewire them too! Putting them back up without the ballasts is way easier, too; those old ones are heavy!

Please take the ballasts to be properly recycled! The old ones are full of incredibly nasty stuff; the older the nastier. The electronic ones can have lead solder depending on when and where they were made. Think of it this way: if you throw them in the trash, they will come back to haunt you through your faucet.

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I'd really rather not have to rewire or replace all the fixtures in my basement, but I've had zero luck finding an LED replacement bulb that works.

Wait. Have you been trying different plug-and-play or universal LED replacements, and they haven't been working???

If you try a "direct-wire" LED yeah, they're not going to work... but if you've been trying P&P or universals, those should work - and if they don't work, the problem might not be the fluorescent tubes. It may be the ballast.

I say that because the tube doesn't look burned out.

I would try swapping with other fixtures. If it proves to be the ballast, then your wish "to not re-wire" isn't going to happen. You'll either be installing a new ballast, or wiring the fixture for ballast-bypass and using direct-wire LEDs. But that's not hard: all yellows to white, and all red/blue to black. Blue wire nut for the yellows and orange wire nut for the red/blue/black. Mind you, that's for that particular rapid-start ballast; other fixtures vary.

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In this same situation, I replaced the fluorescent bulbs with better ones and called it a day. Why?

  • As other posters have noted, the amazing quoted lifetimes of LEDs involve some wishful thinking, while fluorescent technology was perfected decades ago.
  • There is a very small difference in efficiency between fluorescent and LED, in most applications.
  • It is now easy-ish to find higher-quality fluorescents that provide a much better quality of light than your old "workshop" bulbs, really as good as most LEDs. Any "big box" store should have, at least, bulbs that say "kitchen" as part of their description and/or name. These cost about twice as much as "workshop" bulbs (i.e., they're still cheap) and last just as long, reliably.
  • Replacing the bulbs is so much less trouble (as you have discovered) and less expensive (as you have no doubt noticed), and there is just no compelling reason not to, IMHO.

The push to replace fluorescents with LEDs, everywhere, is as much driven by fashion and ignorance as anything else. Fluorescents have gotten an undeservedly bad reputation from all the bargain-basement fluorescent tubes out there.

TL/DR: the practical advantages of LED over fluorescent are slim, and there are some practical advantages of fluorescent over LED.

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    The lifetime of LEDs is unfortunately a lot more dependent on their design and situation than other light sources. A cheaply made LED will have its other electronic components die out quickly, even if the diode itself is fine. If it's placed in an enclosure, it will die quickly due to the heat frying those same components. And certain shapes and forms aren't as friendly to them, like Edison-style bulbs. Well-made LED light sources in a flat arrangement with no enclosure will last virtually forever. May 3, 2023 at 19:28
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    Getting fluorescent bulbs with as good a light quality as LED bulbs should easy - they're both terrible. I can't condone using new fluorescent bulbs though because of the mercury they contain. May 3, 2023 at 21:55
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    You can easily find LEDs as bad as fluo. But it is fairly easy to get a high-CRI LED that outputs very nice black-body-like smooth spectrum, while I have not yet found a fluorescent light that outputs anything but crap. But for a basement it might not matter all that much. May 4, 2023 at 7:02
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When you replace a flouroscent with an led baton you have to short thr starters or put in led starters. This generally works.

Howver, the ballast is still there and I am told by the shops here that to achieve the full power saving, you need to remove the ballast.

Also, note that none of my leds are lasting and they are not the cheap Chinese ones. 3 out of 6 batons have died since 2017.

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