LED vs Fluorescent Tubes – Comparison in Energy Consumption, Lighting Performance & Efficiency

LED vs Fluorescent Tubes – Comparison in Energy Consumption, Lighting Performance & Efficiency

Fluorescent tubes have been around what seem like “forever” – they provide affordable lighting for majority of commercial areas: hallways, offices, warehouses, etc. However, just because something has been around “forever”, does that make it the best solution?

We explore the difference in our LED vs. Fluorescent tubes match-up, a first of many comparison posts to come – weighing the commonly often used lighting products to their LED alternatives. There are three main areas worth comparing:

1. Energy Consumption

As the deciding factor for many property managers and companies, energy consumption or electricity use can be the difference maker for not only lighting but many other operational technologies associated with a building. While many facilities managers look to install energy efficient HVAC systems, not many are familiar with the potential savings with LED tubes compared to their current fluorescent lamps. This is especially true for property areas with 24/7 lighting (meaning the light is on all day and night) such as parking garages, hallways, lobbies, amenity rooms and many other locations.

So how much difference does an LED tube make compared to a fluorescent? Below is a simple comparison chart between the two:

 Ballast Factor
Operational Wattage
  Annual Consumption (24/7 operation – 1 bulb)
34 Watt T12 Fluorescent Tubes
43 Watts
376.68 kWh
16 Watt T8 Equivalent LED Tube
16 Watts
140.16 kWh

While the difference is only 236.52 kWh, keep in mind that this is for one bulb only! If the cost of energy is $0.11 per 1 kWh…with just one bulb the building would save approximately $26.00.

Now many of us know we do not have a single fluorescent bulb around, usually a building is setup with fixtures that have two bulbs. Lets assume a 100 (low estimate for larger commercial properties) fixtures with 2 tubes per fixture:

Fluorescent Operation

Annual Energy Consumption: 75,336 kWh
Annual Operating Costs: $8,286.96

LED Operation

Annual Energy Consumption: 28, 032 kWh
Annual Operating Costs: 3,083.52


Annual Energy Savings: 47, 304 kWh
Annual Operating Savings: $5,203.44

That is a big number to reduce off of energy bills, and improve the efficiency of a property. Simply by replacing the type tube in the fixture. Keep in mind that the higher number of tubes being replaced in the property, the higher the annual savings. Depending on the type of existing fluorescent tubes (T4, T8, T12), there is a potential for both ENERGY and OPERATING COST savings with LED tubes.

Yes, we know the next question coming up: but if 16 Watt LED T8 tubes replace 34 Watt T12 fluorescents, will that not decrease the lighting levels of the area?

2. Lighting Performance

The answer to the above question plain and simple: NO, not only will the light levels improve, but will maintain their brightness levels for the entire duration of the LED tube’s life. Which cannot be said the same for fluorescent tubes.

How often have you walked in an underground garage or down a hallway, only to notice the ominous light flickering. As fluorescent tubes expire, their light levels decrease significantly…and eventually they start to flicker. In comparison, LED tubes do not flicker or decrease the amount of light coming from the bulb. The light level always remain the same – as the tube reaches the end of its life, it simply stops working. No decrease in lighting, no flickering, and most importantly no creepy experience for your tenants!

Flickering Fluorescent Tubes

Below is the average lumens (amount of light produced by the tube) for both types of bulbs:

  • 32W T12 Fluorescent: 1,800
  • 16W LED Tube: 1,900

Keep in mind, for the LED the lumens remain the same no matter how long its been working while the lumens depreciate for the fluorescent over time (as mentioned above)! While this difference may not seem like much, but when there is an enclosed area in question – such as an underground parking garage – light levels make a staggering difference:

LED vs Fluorescent Tubes - Before & After


3. Light Efficiency

From the comparisons above, it is fairly clear that LED tubes hold the advantage as an overall lighting solution. Luminous efficacy is basically how well a light bulb produces visible light in comparison to the power consumed and the amount of lumens generated. Simply, it is how many lumens are produced per watt.

If we stick with the two types of tubes we have been comparing so far, we get the following results

  • 32W T12 Fluorescent: 53 (1800 lumens/34 watts)
  • 16W LED Tube: 119 (1900 lumens/16 watts)

That is more than DOUBLE the efficiency of standard fluorescent tubes. Need we say anything else?

The T8 tubes are a clear cut winner for improving not only the environmental impact of your commercial property but the operation costs as well.

Stay tuned for the next series in light technology comparison – coming soon!