You may have heard of some people refer to LED Tubes as Type A, Type B or Type C tubes. What does that mean? And, if you’re considering upgrading your fluorescent tubes to LED tubes, or are simply thinking of replacing other LED tubes, you’ll first need to understand installation and operation of the three different types of LED tubes options: Type A LED tubes, Type B LED tubes, and Type C LED tubes.
So, what are the differences between UL Type A, B, and C tubes? why the operations and maintenance considerations should be taken in? and what kind of effect will it give to the installation cost and benefits of your projects? To get straight of it, first, let’s take an overview of the explanation issued by GE:
As a rapidly growing lighting technology, LED linear tube options are raising questions throughout the industry — it’s important to know the options and which one will work best for you.
When considering LED Tube refits, it is important to understand the financial aspects as well as the installation, operations, and maintenance implications with three different options, which are UL Type A, UL Type B, and UL Type C.
Type A – Easiest Installation
LED Tube with Integrated Driver – Compatible and Operated on Existing LFL Ballast
Description: This UL Type A tube, is designed with an internal driver that allows the tube to operate directly from the existing linear fluorescent ballast. Most of these products are designed to work with T12, T8 and T5 ballasts.
Advantages: UL Type A offers the simplest installation process— retrofitting involves a simple swap of the existing LFL with a UL Type A LED tube. Unlike the other options, no electrical or structural modification of the existing LFL fixture is required.
Disadvantages: However, with these benefits come some limitations. The lifetime of a UL Type A solution is dependent not only on the design life of the LED tube but on the linear fluorescent ballast life, which could result in additional maintenance and costs within the lifetime of the product. Ballast compatibility will vary by manufacturer and must be checked before installation.
Additionally, a UL Type A tube sacrifices efficiency due to the additional power loss from the existing ballast and is limited in dimming and controllability.
Type B – Simplest Total System
Ballast Bypass LED Tube – Wired to Mains
Description: Like the UL Type A, this UL Type B tube operates with an internal driver. However, UL Type B’s internal driver is powered directly from the main voltage supplied to the existing LFL fixture, requiring several important and unique considerations. GE’s Type B system requires an in-line fuse. GE offers in-line fuse & socket kit, for ease of installation.
Advantages: UL Type B offers the simplest total system— retrofitting involves wiring directly to main voltage, bypassing the ballast which removes any compatibility issues, as well as eliminating maintenance costs associated with ballast replacements.
Disadvantages: Installation of a UL Type B involves electrical modification to the existing fixture in order to connect the tube to the power supply. The existing LFL and its corresponding ballast must be removed from the fixture. Sockets should be replaced. (GE requires replacing with unshunted sockets.)
UL Type B is more efficient than UL Type A, with no power loss as a result of removing the existing LFL ballast, but similarly lacks control capabilities.
It is important to note that the fixture’s incoming power wires are connected directly to the sockets, meaning installers are potentially exposed to the main’s voltage during installation. For replacement safety reasons, strict adherence to installation instructions is critical when rewiring existing fixtures and utilizing UL Type B tubes. Safe installation can be completed, but total installation time and cost will increase because of additional precautions required.
Type C – Best Performance
LED Tube with Remote Driver
Description: A UL Type C tube, offered among GE’s Refit Solutions as the LED Tube with remote driver, operates with a remote driver that powers the LED linear tube, rather than an integrated driver. Like UL Type B, UL Type C involves electrical modification to the existing fixture, but the low-voltage outputs of the driver are connected to the sockets instead of line voltage.
Advantages: Installation for UL Type C tubes involves removing existing tubes and ballasts, and it may involve replacement of existing sockets if damaged. The fixture input wires must be connected to the LED driver, and the driver’s low-voltage output wires must then be connected to the sockets before installing the new LED linear tubes. Once installed, this driver can power several LED tubes throughout the fixture.
The UL Type C offers excellent system efficacy, best system compatibility, and greatest overall performance. It can be integrated with robust dimming and control functionality, helping to offset moderate labor and installation costs with heightened efficiency well into the future.
If retrofitting an existing fixture that is UL approved with a UL-approved LED tube, the fixture will remain UL approved. If retrofitting an existing fixture that is not UL approved with a UL-approved LED tube, the fixture with the LED tubes would need to be submitted to UL for approval if UL certification is necessary.
GE’s Refit Solutions will keep intact the existing fixture’s UL certification because Refit Solutions are certified by UL. GE customers must read the instructions provided with Refit Solutions prior to installation to understand the inherent risks involved in altering existing systems.
As a more controllable technology than LFL, LED lighting can be successfully integrated into facilities energy-efficiency planning. And with new LED tube options, the installation work can be done without as much hassle. GE’s Refit Solutions can provide efficient LED lighting anywhere fluorescent tubes currently exist.
So, which LED Tube option is the most cost effective and the best solution for your application? Review the table below to compare each solution.
|Type A without Ballast Replacement*
|Type A with Ballast Replacement*
|Cost Per LED Tube
|# of Tubes
|Cost Per Driver/Ballast
|Socket Kit w/Fuse
|Total Fixture Retrofit Cost (4 Tubes)
|Labor Cost ^ ($/hr
|Total Fixtures Retrofits Cost (4 Tubes)
|Plug and Play: Fast and Easy refit with not wiring
|Minimizes compatibility issues
|Increased Efficiency Best Option for use with controls
|Fewer compatibility issues. Reduction of external components (driver/ballast)
|Quick re-lamps requiring no professional electricians and minimal investment. Ballast is less than 5 years old.
|Retrofits where time and simplicity are imperative. The existing ballast is older than 5 years
|Retrofits where future proofing and life-time cost and efficiencies are paramount. Applications with immediate and/or future need for controls.
|Retrofits using professional electricians with the ability to execute proper re-lamps in the future, ensuring only specified Type B lamps are used.
Calculations are for example only and are meant to be directionally accurate in comparing options, but are not absolute.
* Ballast replacement is recommended if the installed ballast is more than 5 years old.
^ Labor rates will vary, but less skill is required to simply replace lamps. Costs based on certified electrician estimated hourly chargesand minimum wage for Type A without ballast replacement (sources: Promatcher.com and bls.gov.)
As you can see, Type A without Ballast replacement offers an easy plug & play solution with the lowest initial cost. Type C has a higher upfront cost, but is the best future-proofing solution as it offers the ability to work with controls that are currently in place, or that are installed at a later time.
Type B is the simplest total system, eliminating compatibility issues, but also has the highest installation cost. To determine the best solution one must consider the initial installation cost, long term maintenance implications, intended application, and overall which benefits are most desired.
– Above Type A, Type B and Type C definitions of LED tubes are from GE, source: products.currentbyge.com
Besides the 3 types of LED tubes, Type A, Type B, and Type C, there is also a type of hybrid LED tubes which are developed as Type A and Type B, also known as Type A+B. A Hybrid LED tube is a combination of Type “A” and Type “B” tubes.
This is a tube that can (may) work with the existing fluorescent ballast or can operate without the ballast. This is an excellent choice for those installations that want to use the fast installation method using the ballasts but have a backup plan if the ballast is not compatible. Some of the more clever designs allow the tube to be both SEP or DEP.
Following is the designation from DLC:
Type A and Type B
Dual Mode Internal Driver (UL Type A and Type B):
U-bend, Four-foot or two-foot LED “tubes” designed to replace U-bend four-foot or two-foot fluorescent lamps, respectively. Products in this category have the ability to operate off the existing fluorescent ballast and also have the ability to operate off of line voltage if the troffer is rewired to bypass the ballast. These products connect to the troffer using standard pin-base connections to the lamp holders. Note that due to testing considerations, at this time only products that can operate off specific ballasts types are eligible.
These four types of LED tubes are with advantage as well as disadvantage respectively, choosing the right products for your projects can bring you significant results.
As always, feel free to reach out if you have questions or if we can help. You can also leave your comments below for further discussion!