The Truth About Plug and Play LED Tubes


Although it may seem like yesterday the Plug and Play LED tubes were introduced to the market, a lot of things has happened since. More than 4 years has gone by since manufacturers started distributing the plug and play tubes and although the product has had an immense impact on the industry, many question marks regarding the performance, safety and efficiency has occurred throughout the years.

In short, the plug and play tubes brought another dimension to the industry by providing an easier way of installing led tubes. Typically, LED tubes must be retrofitted which involves electrical work as the wiring has to be reworked and the electrical ballast has to be removed to make way for direct-wire tubes.

As a result, the plug and play (type A) tube provided an alternative way of joining the LED movement. By simply removing their fluorescent tubes and plugging in their new LED tubes, homeowners and electricians could transition into more efficient lighting in a matter of minutes. The advantages of this type of tube was clever, smart and easily sold – making it the perfect addition to any LED distributor.

However, despite the many benefits that the plug and play led tubes may bring it comes with certain features that may be disadvantageous for some. For example, no matter the type of LED tube that is being used, there is no doubt that

bypassing the ballast is the most futureproof and longsighted solution.

With this in mind, the purpose behind the plug and play tubes can be questioned. Despite of the flexibility it provides, it adds another layer to the complexity of choosing the right LED tube.

If you are debating whether to choose a plug and play tube, the answer lies in knowing the characteristics of the product and whether the tube will successfully satisfy your LED lighting needs and requirements – which we will clarify for you here.

What Are Plug and Play LED Tubes?

Plug and play, as the name implies, are LED tubes that do not require any customized retrofitting to be installed. Also known as universal ballast compatible or ‘Type A’ tubes, plug and play LEDs are designed with an internal driver that allows the bulb to operate with a linear fluorescent ballast. Most Type A LED tubes are compatible with different ballasts, such as; T5, T10 and T12 fixtures.

With expensive electrical work out of the equation, plug and play provides users with feasibility and ease of use.

What Is The Difference Between Plug and Play LEDs and Other Types Of LEDs?

While plug and play remains one of the most feasible and simple – with a one-for-one swap and no technical work involved – there are other options as well.

If you’re looking to shift from conventional fluorescent lights to linear LED bulbs, there are three other options for you to consider.

  • The Ballast Bypass, also called Direct Wire or Type B LED, removes the need for ballasts. They work straight from the line voltage that flows right into the sockets. As such, this may require you to hire a professional electrician to remove the ballast and check if the sockets need to be replaced.
  • Remote Driver or Type C tubes that require you to use an LED driver, instead of a fluorescent ballast. Compared to the ballast bypass, the Type C tube does not have an integrated internal driver in the tube. Instead, the LED driver is separate from the tube allowing for more flexibility when it comes to installation.
  • Hybrid LED tubes, also known as type A+B, which sometimes is considered the future of LED tube lighting since it works with a ballast as well as without one.

It is important to be aware of the difference between Plug and Play LED Tubes and other types of tubes as this might be the decisive factor to which tube is suited for your needs. As LED technology keeps improving, many new types of tubes are being marketed with new names.

What Are the Disadvantages of Plug and Play LED Tubes?

Like every other type of LED tube, plug and plays also come with certain disadvantages. Considering these before making a purchase is imperative in order to get the best out of your LED lighting.

Issues with Ballast (Ballast Failure)

The main disadvantage that is generally associated with plug and play led tubes is the fact that they are only compatible with ballasts. While this is the apparent benefit of the product, it also comes with the risk of ending with an unusable tube.

If the ballast that the plug and play tube is connected to would fail (stop working), the ballast would have to be replaced in order for the plug and play tube to work again. In this case, both time and effort would be needed to make things right – making the tube not so advantageous after all.

This is where a hybrid tube would come in handy - as it in this case could be wired directly (single or dual ended), without the ballast.

Ballast Compatibility

The second disadvantage is significantly less critical (its more of a consideration than a disadvantage).

Type A tubes are generally compatible with most ballasts, however there have been cases where the ballasts aren’t compatible – leaving the customers with no choice but to return the product.

Want to know if our Plug and Play tubes are compatible with your ballast? Check the products specifications or reach out to us!

Energy Usage – (Compared to other types of LED tubes)

The third and final disadvantage is the fact that the plug and play led tube do not bring the same energy savings as its counterparts. (although it does save you tons of energy compared to traditional lights)

The reason behind this lies in the extra watts use that comes with the ballast. Since the ballast is needed for the plug and play tube to work, it adds on an extra 3-5W to the equation when compared to the direct-wire led tubes.

Assuming the tubes you want to use are 18w and will be running 24/7, the following example showcases how removing the ballast can save you a lot of kWh per year.The illustration above only show hypothetical numbers, if you want to get actual numbers use our  LED Return on Investment Calculator.

Although 43kWh per year may seem like a small number, it only represents the savings for one fixture. Most projects that include LED tubes are made with up to 100+ fixtures, meaning that the difference in kWh reaches up to thousands.

What Are The Advantages Of Plug And Play LED Tubes?

As one of four LED tube variants, plug and play tubes have several advantages over their conventional counterparts.

Easy Installation

The most obvious advantage of the tube is the fact that you can use the plug and play LED tube with your existing ballast and the installation shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. As long as the plug and play tube is compatible with the ballast of your choice, the swap from a fluorescent light to an LED bulb tube should be extremely simple and convenient.

Compared to other types of LED tubes, providing guidelines on how to install plug and play led tubes tend to be very brief. Here’s a summarized version:

(we advise you to always make sure to read the enclosed installation instructions and take extra precaution before installing any LED lights)

  1. Make sure the power is turned off to the fixture at the breaker switch before starting your installation.
  2. If the power has been on for a longer while – make sure the fluorescent tube isn’t too hot before touching it.
  3. Remove the fluorescent tube.
  4. Put the Plug and Play LED tube into the fixture and make sure the pins are properly attached to the sockets.

Low Upfront Costs

The second advantage to plug and play tubes is the direct cost associated with purchasing the tube. Not only are plug and play tubes generally cheaper than other types of led tubes – they also usually don’t require any assistance from a professional electrician.

This means that you can go from fluorescent lights to LED lights by spending less than ~7 $ per tube!

(if you are ever unsure of how to install your tube and have minimal experience with electrical components – we still recommend you consult with a professional electrician before performing any electrical work)

Energy Usage – (Compared to fluorescent lights)

The third, and again very obvious, advantage to this type of LED tube is the decreased usage of energy. LED lights in general are up to 80% more efficient than fluorescent lights, providing more light for far less used energy.

The benefits of switching to LED lights are countless, meaning that you can rest comfortably knowing you are making an effort to save the environment while at the same time using quality lighting products.

Are Plug and Play LED bulbs worth it?

Plug and play LEDs offer a highly cost-effective and feasible solution for people who want to save costs by utilizing existing conventional ballasts. However, as the availability of hybrid tubes are becoming more frequent, the demand of plug and play tubes are slowly decreasing.

One might argue that, because of the presence of the hybrid tube, there is no room for the plug and play tube in a LED tube collection. The hybrid LED tube offers the same flexibility as the plug and play tube - while at the same time providing users with a fallback option in case their existing ballast would fail. Consequently, LED users should invest in hybrid tubes, which also gives them the option to wire their tubes directly as single or dual ended.

We believe the best option when it comes to transitioning to LED lights is to always bypass the ballast. This way, not only do you save energy from the moment you have installed your tube but you also minimize the chances of your fixture to fail in many years to come.

What are your thoughts on the Plug and Play LED Tubes? Do you think they will seize to exist as the hybrid tubes are becoming more recurrent? Leave your comment below.

At Hyperikon we are proud to offer our customers with a diverse portfolio of LED tubes consisting of Direct-wire tubes, Hybrid Tubes and Plug and Play Tubes. It is our main priority to be able to assist our customers in whatever LED project they are taking on – whether it be a simple tube switch to larger construction and development work.

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