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LED Tubes - The Difference Between T5, T8 & T12’s Explained

LED Tubes - The Difference Between T5, T8 & T12’s Explained

LED tubesare extremely popular energy efficient lamps used in commercial, industrial and public facilitiesfor a variety of good reasons. Firstly, compared with their expensive-to-run fluorescent counterparts, LED fluorescent tubes provide solid medium to long-term term savings on both energy and maintenance costs. But there are different types of fluorescents lamps (T5, T8 & T12 ) that you need to be aware of for retrofitting; the main differences being their size and age. But, fear not, at Clear Sky LEDs, we have LED Tubes that will replace any fluorescent tube.

When it comes to knowing which tube to buy to retrofit your existing florescent tubes, many customers enquire about the differences between the T5, T8 & T12 LED tubes which we will explain below:

T Classification for Tubes:
The T in front is used to specify the shape of the bulb and lets you know that the LED light bulb is a Tube. Following the T, the numbering specifies the diameter of the lamp measured in fractions of an inch. LED tubes are measured in 8ths of an inch. So T5 Tubes are 5/8ths (16mm), T8 tubes are 8/8ths (26mm) and finally, the T12s are 12/8ths (38mm) of an inch in diameter. This means the tubes increase in size along with the number after the T. As seen below:

T5 T8 T12 Fluorescent Lamps

The T12 fluorescent is the first and oldest commercial fluorescent tube ever used. And it is amazing how many of these tubes are still burning in South Africa even though replacement T12 fluorescents are hard to find and generally expensive. They are typically found in 6ft 1800mm or 8ft 2400mm lengths. These old school fluorescents usually sport a Single Pin Socket type. Many customers have often believed that the T12 fluorescent cannot be replaced and for a time this was true until the introduction of T12 LED Tube retrofits which allow you to retain your existing fluorescent fittings making the retrofit option the cheapest solution for T12s.

The T8 fluorescent is the most prolific commercial lamp in the world. Literally, there are hundreds of billions of them burning globally! So it’s likely that if you have fluorescents that need replacing, it’s going to be these lamps for which there are many and varied T8 LED Tube ranges available to do the job. The tubes have a G13 Bi-Pin Base.

The T5 LED Tube is the youngest sibling to the fluorescent family and it is the most efficient. Prior to the appearance of LEDs in linear systems, the market required a higher lumen alternative to T8 fluorescents, which resulted in the development and launch of the T5 fluorescent tube coming to market. The technology of LEDs keeps improving and we now have T5 LED tubes which are much more efficient and longer lasting than T5 fluorescent tubes. It is important to note that the T5 lamp is also smaller in length than T8 lamps and uses its own fittings and sports a miniature bi-pin G5 socket type.

It is also important to note the T5 fluorescent lamps can either come in Standard Output or High Output (usually marked with “HO” on the lamp). Its important that you choose an LED retrofit lamp that is the right length and also offers sufficient lumen output to replace the T5 lamp. We have T5 LED lamps to cater to all sized and outputs. Have a look through our ranges or contact us for more information.

Summary of main differences between T5, T8 & T12 LED Tubes

  1. Diameter and Pin/Socket Type: The diameter between T5, T8 and T12 fluorescent tubes are different, as follows: The T5 is 16mm and uses the small G5 pin which is smaller than the T8 & T12, as seen in our picture above. The T8 is 26mm in diameter and uses a G13 bi-pin socket. T12 lamps are 38mm wide and can have G13 bi-pins or single pin types.
  1. Diameter/Efficiency Rule:The bigger the diameter, the more energy the fluorescent lamps use and the less efficient they are. This means that a T5 fluorescent lamp puts out more light per watt of energy used than a T8 or T12 lamp. An LED tube is of course the most efficient option.

Some Good Advice: If you are switching from fluorescent tubes to LED’s; don’t get too caught up with wattage. It is more important to look at the length and type of existing fitting and match this with the right LED tube at the right lumen output (light output) for the application.

For offices, retail spaces, hospitality, and applications with similar ceiling height, 4ft fittings are generally the most popular. For factories, industrial areas and other applications with taller ceilings, 5ft LED tubes or more common as they offer more light. We offer high output options to maximise the light output from any standard length fitting if required.

Other Questions? Don’t hesitate to write to contact us at:

Authors: Laura Bradfield & Callum Grant

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