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My home has 2 florescent light fixtures - in a closet and the laundry/mud room.

These fixtures are more hassle than they are worth. There's no special operation to the switches, i.e. no dimming, no motion sensing, etc. Just on and off toggle switch. One of the fixtures does have 2 switches - one each on opposite sides of the room (assume this is called a 3-way switch??).

I'd like to replace the florescent fixtures with standard fixtures (like the rest of the house).

I'm not asking how - I've done some cursory research and it seems like it's feasible without much effort. Just a matter of wiring properly.

However....

Are there any hidden pitfalls to replacing florescent fixtures with standard fixtures?

Truth is, I don't know why these two florescent fixtures exist in my home. Are there technical reasons a florescent fixture would be used in a family home where a standard fixture would be ill-advised?

This is not an actual photo from my home, but the fixtures in question are just typical ceiling florescent fixtures - I believe using 18" to 24" bulbs (it's been a while since I replaced a bulb, but the length is in that general range). Similar to the photo below.

enter image description here

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    I think they use use less watts for the same amount of light in the olden days. The use of or not is almost more personal choice if used or not. Today with LEDs the choice is to change. To change just take pictures of the wiring connections before undoing any, and connect new fixtures same as old. Labelling wires if a few before disconnecting, with breaker off can help after.
    – crip659
    Jan 1 at 21:37
  • We need photos. Fluorescent fixture is too vague. Jan 1 at 21:52
  • @RobertChapin similar photo added.
    – Scott
    Jan 1 at 21:56

2 Answers 2

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"Good Idea" is subjective, but replace them if you want to.

These fixtures are more hassle than they are worth.

Huh? I'm not sure what hassle there is in a typical fluorescent tube fixture. Most of the time it just sits there and provides light. Generally speaking, problems with fluorescent lights - either a need for replacement or, more typically, new bulb, starter or ballast, is very infrequent compared to replaced of incandescent bulbs, which is what most people I know think of as "standard fixtures" until very recently.

Fluorescent lighting is relatively efficient. For example, based on this article comparing efficiency, fluorescent lighting is typically in the 60 - 100 lumens per Watt range, compared to incandescent 12 - 17 lumens/Watt and LED 100 - 200 lumens/Watt. The worst fluorescent tube from 20 years ago might be 1/3 the efficiency of the best LED today, but even that is likely to be at least 4 times as efficient as an incandescent bulb. Newer fluorscent bulbs provide faster turn-on, higher efficiency and better light quality (CRI) than older fluorescents.

Which all means that while many people think of fluorescent lighting as "bad for home use" there is really nothing wrong with it. In many homes, it is commonly used in the "not regular living" areas - closets, laundry room, unfinished basement, etc. But there is really nothing inherently wrong with it anywhere.

All that being said, I am all in favor of replacement when and how it makes sense. I have been replacing fluorescent lighting in my house (two rooms that originally had incandescent and I replaced years ago with fluorescent and more recently with LEDs, as well as laundry room, basement, etc. that have had standard fluorescent tube fixtures for decades) one fixture at a time either to fix problems or to provide more light, but some of them - unless the ballasts need replacements - may be around for several more years.

There are 3 ways to replace a typical fluorescent tube fixture with LED lighting.

  • Tube replacement. There are various types, some of which work with the existing ballasts and some of which bypass the ballasts. If you don't like fluorescent lighting because of the "look" (not the light quality) then you aren't going to be any happier with LED tubes.
  • New fixtures that have sockets for screw-in bulbs. This is what many people think of as "standard fixtures". This can make sense in many cases. However, I don't think it generally makes sense in places such as closets or laundry rooms. For that matter, I am pretty sure there are limits now (at least in some locations) on where you can put a regular bulb socket because you could put an incandescent bulb in there and generate too much heat.
  • New fixtures with integrated LED lighting. This is really where things are headed. The key is that good quality LED lighting lasts a long, long, LONG! time. Fixtures with integrated LED lighting can be more efficient than bulbs and more reliable than bulbs because the driver electronics don't have to be crammed into a tiny space together with the LEDs. Many of these fixtures look very similar to a fluorescent tube fixture, but there are a large variety of designs available.

Assuming the old fixtures are either plug-in or attached directly to a junction box, replacement should be easy. It is also generally not that hard to switch between plug-in and hardwired (my preference).

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  • Thank you... the "why" is really more aesthetics and ease of bulb replacement than necessity. I was looking into LED fixtures, as opposed to standard incandescent or LED bulbs for the existing units. I'm a big fan of ambient lighting - or at least warmer light. So I'd much rather replace the low hum of cold blue florescent light with a warmer glow of LEDs. That's the primary catalyst. And "hassle" comes when having to go get bulbs.. I don't keep a stockpile of florescent tubes on hand (because they'll end up broken before I need one).
    – Scott
    Jan 2 at 0:03
  • You've got to look a lot more carefully than just "fluorescent vs. LED". Both types are available in a range of color temperatures - I am sure there are fluorescents you'd like much better than certain LEDs and vice versa. As far as "ease of bulb replacement" - that should be an absolute non-issue. Typical fluorescent bulbs (did a quick Google) 7,000 to 15,000 hours - for typical closet that should be many years and for laundry room at least a few years. With LED, forget about bulb replacement altogether. Really. Good quality integrated will last longer than bulbs, and even the bulbs Jan 2 at 0:07
  • can range up to 50,000 hours or more. Really. "Bulb replacement" is incandescent-think. Jan 2 at 0:07
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    @Scott if your ballast is modern (silent, flicker-free), and your bulbs are correct for the ballast, you should be replacing bulbs no more often than every 5 years. And the bulbs should be 90 CRI or better, beautiful light. Jan 2 at 0:07
  • To be clear.. I've owned the home for approx. 10 years now. Home is a 2007 build. The tubes may have been the original tubes.. replaced laundry room tubes once a couple years ago. So.. I'm not meaning "hassle" like it's a monthly occurrence. By no means. Perhaps the cavalier intention of that comment didn't convey well. Primarily.. I'd prefer a different aesthetic than a box on the ceiling of the laundry/mud room. It's the more frequently used entrance. The amount of light isn't really something I had considered. So.. glad I've asked :)
    – Scott
    Jan 2 at 0:13
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Are there any hidden pitfalls to replacing florescent fixtures with standard fixtures?

You get far less light.

Those are 2-tube 48" fluorescent fixtures, with about 2800 lumens of light from each tube. That's 5600 lumens. If we put that in terms of 60 watt bulbs, that's 6-7 of them.

So if you convert to plain fixtures, you're going to find those workspaces are Rather Dim and difficult to see well enough to work in. This is why they typically use fluorescent; it's a lot of light for kitchen and laundry workspaces where you (or the successful homemaker) wants a lot of light to work.


You may be violating building standards. E.G. you region may require efficient lighting, or it may have been required in exchange for a tax credit which you benefited from. In which case you'll have legal problems for violating it. However this can be maneuvered around by NOT installing bog-standard Edison screw-base fixtures, and going with fixtures that either a) only accept high-efficiency lighting, or b) are integral "socketless" LED fixtures. LEDs are solid-state emitters and will outlive all of us if properly heat-sinked. The problem is, they run on DC and the electronic driver module which converts AC to DC is prone to failure.

One type of socket which only accepts high-efficiency lighting is the "tombstones" used by fluorescents. So you already have it!

These fixtures are more hassle than they are worth. There's no special operation to the switches, i.e. no dimming, no motion sensing, etc. Just on and off toggle switch.

If they're failing a lot, you're putting the wrong tubes in them, or your ballast is shot. Pop the ballast cover off and read the ballast labeling for the correct tubes - typically either F40T12 or F32T8. Unfortunately those two are physically compatible, but not electrically compatible with each other, so using the wrong one will cause terrible performance. Which is a shame, because the latest real fluorescents are really, really good. Fluorescent went down fighting!

A modern T8 programmed-start ballast driving T8 tubes which are 90 CRI, that's as good as lighting gets. LED isn't even there yet. I have a whole site full of that stuff and it is totally trouble-free. I get 5 years out of the tubes that run 24x7; the others have never failed.

The programmed-start ballast uses the preheat filaments to gentle-start the tube, so tube wear from the start is almost nil. You can get 50,000 starts, you can put them on motion sensors even.

If you want dimming or smart bulb controls, then that's totally possible either with real fluorescent or with LED replacement fixtures. It is not possible with LED replacement "tubes" for fluorescent fixtures unless you get into Type C low-voltage arcana. They do make real fluorescent ballasts that accept "0-10 volt" dimming, a commercial quality dimming scheme that runs on extra control wires. They make smart dimmers able to speak 0-10V dimming.

Replacement fixtures can be had which are "smart".

If you want to use Philips Hue or other "smart" screw-in Edison style bulbs, you'll have the problems stated up top: not enough light and possible code/tax violations. Those things are intended as a workaround when you just don't have another option. If you're installing new fixtures, you do have many other options; avail yourself of them.

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  • 2x48" is likely for the laundry room. Most likely the closet is a much smaller fixture. Jan 2 at 0:03
  • Yes.. the closet is a 12-18" fixture I believe.
    – Scott
    Jan 2 at 0:08

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