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I bought a GE T8 17w LED replacement tube that claims to work in existing fixtures with electronic ballast.

I suspect the source of my problem is that I failed to follow the instructions (turn off the lights first).

Nonetheless, because I've always replaced fluorescent tubes with the lights on, that's what I did with the new LED tube. It came on for 1 or 2 seconds, then went out and stayed out. Again, without reading the instructions, I removed a different (working) fluorescent tube and inserted the same LED tube. Again, it came on for 1 or 2 seconds. Both fixtures now fail to work with a standard fluorescent tube.

All the other fixtures on the circuit still work.

So have I destroyed the ballasts or something? Do I need to get new direct-wire fixtures or rewire the existing ones to bypass the ballast? And then get direct-wire LED tubes and return the ones I bought?

And did all this happen because I left the switch on?

[Edit] Seems like the problem was my fault for not turning off the lights first, but turns out it was not fatal. After testing the known good fluorescent tube in one of the non-working fixtures, I just left it in place. I turned the lights off for a while and then back on, and the tube lit up. I placed a new fluorescent tube in the other previously non-working fixture, and it also works now. This suggests that the electronic starter/ballast reset itself.

Thanks!

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    I can confirm one thing: this almost certainly happened because you left the switch on.
    – KMJ
    Aug 10, 2023 at 23:07
  • Unlike other light types LEDs seem to be quite picky about their power. The incomplete power connection when putting them in might have damage the drivers.
    – crip659
    Aug 10, 2023 at 23:15
  • I'll give you a +1 for acknowledging you are the source of your own pain. How does that old saying go, "Twice bitten, thrice shy"? :) TBH, I rarely bother to turn the lights off to replace a bulb and I could get away with it in the incandescent days. With the price of smart bulbs, though, I should probably revisit my policy...
    – FreeMan
    Aug 11, 2023 at 12:15
  • direct wire usually works a lot better anyway, so return the ones you got and bypass the start/ballast combo that failed.
    – dandavis
    Aug 11, 2023 at 21:27
  • After testing the known good fluorescent tube in one of the non-working fixtures, I just left it in place. I turned the lights off for a while and then back on, and the tube lit up. I placed a new fluorescent tube in the other previously non-working fixture, and it also works now. This suggests that the electronic starter/ballast reset itself. I will definitely remember to turn the switch off in the future.
    – vknowles
    Aug 12, 2023 at 1:43

1 Answer 1

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Fluorescent T8 tubes need something called a starter to operate (wiki). Starter is installed in the light fixture, and ensures the correct operation which is not continuous 230V AC (or different voltage if you're not in Europe, but still AC).

On the other hand, LED tubes typically work on stardard AC, in which case the starter needs to be either replaced with a LED starter (which is just a jumper connecting the two ends of the starter socket), or the starter socket has to be completely bypassed.

Just be aware that some LED tubes might be different, so it's much needed to consult the documentation!

You could have destroyed the starter, the LED tubes, or both. If the fluorescent tubes don't work when reinstalled, I bet you destroyed the starters. However, you might have been lucky, because the fluorescent tubes can explode when the starter fails or a wrong starter is used.

So the right solution is: If you know what you are doing, just replace the starters. If you don't know what you are doing, consult a professional.

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  • (For one, I faced this issue in my bathroom mirror lighting, where I couldn't open the lights fixcures to access the starter. I ended up switching to LED strips glued onto the fixture body, and cutting off power to the fixtures completely.)
    – yo'
    Aug 11, 2023 at 12:06

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