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Cree aims to make fluorescent tubes obsolete with LED T8 series

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May 5, 2014

The Cree T8 is an LED tube designed to replace conventional fluorescent tubes

The Cree T8 is an LED tube designed to replace conventional fluorescent tubes

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Fluorescent lights aren't on the top of many people’s favorites list. Ever since they were introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, they've been notorious for their cold, bluish light that is the definition of “uncomplimentary” and accompanied by flickering and a telltale buzz. Cree, Inc. is aiming to relegate fluorescent tubes to the pages of history with its new T8 series of LED tubes that promise LED-level energy savings and greatly improved light quality.

LEDs have proven a useful alternatives to both incandescents and fluorescents when it comes to bulbs with their durability, economy, and promise of better light, but when it comes to tubes, LEDs haven’t quite made the grade. It’s easy enough to shape an LED to match a fluorescent tube, but the color leaves much to be desired and they aren’t as bright as they need to be.

The Cree T8 is a new series of tubes designed to replace conventional fluorescents. According to Cree, the T8 is capable of putting out 2,100 lumens per tube for 21 watts of power, or 3,800 lumens for a two-tube fixture. In part, this is due to the oval shape of the tubes which is designed to avoid wasting light illuminating the inside of the fixture.

The Cree T8 is 30 percent more efficient than conventional tubes

With a 30 percent energy savings, Cree says that the tubes will pay for themselves within three years. It has a near-universal driver compatibility and the company claims that the T8 has the industry’s best color quality, capable of covering both the 3,500 K and 4,000 K color temperature ranges.

Cree is claiming a 50,000-hour lifetime for the T8, which is also dimmable and compatible with over 90 percent of electronic ballasts (that is, the circuitry used to regulate fluorescent tubes), including instant start, programmed start, and rapid start ballasts.

The Cree T8 produces 2,100 lumens per tube

“Similar to what we've achieved with the Cree LED Bulb in the residential market, the Cree LED T8 Series is revolutionizing the commercial lighting market with a product that saves energy, delivers superior light quality and is universally compatible with nearly all existing fluorescent T8 ballasts," says Chuck Swoboda, Cree Chairman and CEO. "There’s no reason to install another linear fluorescent tube again."

The Cree T8 is available in the US and Canada for a suggested retail price of US$30.

The video below introduces the T8 series of LED tubes.

Source; Cree via Gizmodo

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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13 Comments

I think the LED lights are better than floriscent lights since they don't have mercury in them. I believe the LED lights will last longer too. I think LED and OLED lights will (should) replace floriscent lights since they are safer and longer lasting.

I liked the Cree Sam that they were going to make (not sure if they made it or not). It was a three wheel electric car with a 'plastic' looking body. I thought it was really neat. I liked how the doors open. The passenger sits behind the driver.

BigGoofyGuy
6th May, 2014 @ 06:01 am PDT

I don't believe the claim these LED lights will last 50,000 hours.

All of the other high priced energy saving light bulbs make similar claims yet they last about the same amount of time as standard (and very low cost) incandescent light bulbs.

robo
6th May, 2014 @ 08:18 am PDT

They might overtake standard fluorescent tubes in general lighting uses, but maybe never replace them entirely as long as there is a medical need for specific nanometer wavelength bulbs that are dependable and reliably within emission tolerances.

Kelvin temp is one thing, specific wavelength is another.

flylowguy
6th May, 2014 @ 08:38 am PDT

Nothing new. I have been getting LED fluoro tubes from China for some time now. They good, but only a little more efficient then fluoro. A lot more expensive, it is a new technology. To reply to robo comments: theoretically LED should last for ever, but I had many failures of their power supply modules, poor soldering, poor components, etc. Industry may need to develop a concept of 'fluoro starter' mean separate LED lights from its power supply.

mebaddad
6th May, 2014 @ 08:44 am PDT

@Robo

It depends - they are generally more sensitive to heat and quality of power. I have purchase my fluorescent lights when I moved into my new house about 18 years ago - I was quite an early adopter. Got some General Electric branded, 9w.

I have replaced only 3 bulbs 4 years ago; they burned up all together because my kid was playing with the light switch (like clickclickclickclickclickclick ... poof) ... at least in my case, they was really a good investment.

I'm going to replace my neon tubes as soon as CREE will publish the full light spectrum, I need something that is suitable for plants and animals.

Ruzzolo
6th May, 2014 @ 08:55 am PDT

"the tubes will pay for themselves within three years"

*IF* they last that long! As someone who has attempted to use LED lamps in a daily routine, I find that most LEDs will fail within 2 years. Especially if the mains are not consistent. You see, LEDS, like most electronics are sensitive to spikes and surges in the electric line. Some of the chinese knock-offs will fail just by your laser printer cycling on and off...More expensive LEDs will fail during brown-outs. So yeah...I want to put these things at $30 a pop ($120 per fixture) and have them fail whenever I get a power surge...not likely. Until these things come with a minimum of a 3 year replacement warranty, it's too much of a risk to invest in these things!

Ed
6th May, 2014 @ 12:01 pm PDT

3 year payback? I can't see how they claim this, unless you run your lights about 48 hrs per day ;) This is not nearly like going from notoriously inefficent incandescent to LED (600% more efficient.) The existing fluorescent T8 bulbs can be extremely efficient, inexpensive, bright, long lasting. I have some that are 89 lumens/watt. So this is only about 20 to 25% more efficient, though they cost 12x more. You can get a 30 pack of Philips f32t8 about $2.35 per tube. It would cost me about $360 just to outfit my two 6-tube high bay shop lights with these LEDs. And the light output would be about 30% dimmer which would be a problem. But these only cost me about $90 per year to run. At 25% savings that would be $23 per yr saved, taking about 15 years for payback.

It's true that the color temp of the really efficient fl. tubes tends to be cooler. LED color temp has been much improved lately. Cree is making some great stuff, yet I still think they will need to get a lot closer to the cost per tube of fl. to be competitive, and please stop with the specious cost savings claims.

HerrDrPantagruel
6th May, 2014 @ 12:12 pm PDT

Fantastic. As a designer I have always loathed fluorescent bulbs. They are the hideous bane of the interior designer. As well, studies have shown that they make people fidget and incapable of focus. What a great combination of traits for people who attend school!

steveraxx
6th May, 2014 @ 01:50 pm PDT

Many fluorescents come with older magnetic ballasts which often emit an annoying sound. They can also affect recording sound from wireless microphones and their color cast can make white balancing a video recording next to impossible.

These problems all disappear with LED/Cree.

Also, the 'compatibility with electronic ballasts' the article speaks of may be another way of saying that the ballasts must be bypassed and are not needed.

Bypassing would mean you can't just insert these into the fittings and be done. That would be a major hassle on a ladder.

moreover
6th May, 2014 @ 09:04 pm PDT

One place LED tube replacements make plenty of sense is in lighting grocery store coolers and freezers.

They save electricity two ways, through reduced power to produce the light and they give off very little heat, which means the refrigeration compressors need to run less.

Want to cheaply boost the light output of a fluorescent tube fixture? Get a roll of aluminum flue tape and apply it to the white painted "reflector" to drastically increase the amount of light bounced downward.

Gregg Eshelman
7th May, 2014 @ 12:05 am PDT

I bought 6-7 different LED bulbs in 2012 for my sons science project. At the time some of the bulbs were $18 - $33/each (amazon prime) and we measured them all on a "Kill A Watt" and ran all the numbers into excel calculating savings over time adding in the up front purchase cost.

At 15 cents a watt the 60w incandescent bulb came out to $79 to power for a full year and $400 to power for 5 years.

Between the CFL and the LED aside from the difference in the initial purchase price there was only about a $4 difference over 5 years of usage ($81 vs $85) but there are other factors to consider. The CFL needs to be replaced more often both bridging the purchase price gap and adding labor costs for a business, and LED do not contain mercury and tend to be MUCH more durable. I was using an LED bulb in a cheap metal lamp while remodeling a room and knocked over the lamp by mistake. Even though it landed on the LED bulb the metal lamp broke and the bulb didn't.

All the LED bulbs we bought for the project are still in use. There are some lights that seem to burn through CFL's that we replaced with LED and have been fine since.

Now that 60w LED replacement bulbs are down to about $6 at home depot I don't see a good reason to use anything but LED. You can buy almost 20 cheap LED lights for under the cost of running a single 100w incandescent bulb for a year ($131).

Daishi
7th May, 2014 @ 04:16 am PDT

A potential niche market could be replacement of ultraviolet tubes for water sterilization. Many rural homes use well or rain water through two physical filters (5 micron fiber and then charcoal), and then through a UV sterilizer tube to the house water supply. The UV lamps are usually replaced about annually. They have become expensive, and seem to be mostly produced in China, with some quality control problems.

A durable UV water sterilization light would have an existing market, and humanitarian applications in underdeveloped countries.

bajessup
8th May, 2014 @ 12:16 am PDT

I also want to add that the bulbs out now use less power than the ones I picked up in 2012. The Philips 433227 is 10.5 watt that is meant as a 60w replacement compared to 2012 when LED's were around the same as CFL at 13 watts.

G7 Power Vintage is a glass 40w replacement bulb that is only 3.6 watt compared to the LED's I had from 2012 that were between 8.1 and 11.5 watts (CFL is 9). That is a huge improvement in efficiency over 2 years. Assuming you turn it off some of the time it costs under $2/year to power.

Operating 12 hours a day at 15 cents a kWh it saves $3.50 - $5/year over even my older LED's. With current efficiencies the financial reasons to use anything but LED is pretty much gone.

Companies still overestimate lumen ratings but the 500 lumen G7 is almost 140 lumens per watt (lpw) at warm (2700K) color and philips/cree etc. have hit 200 lpw in the lab. Fluorescent lights will basically be obsolete by 2016.

Daishi
8th May, 2014 @ 12:55 am PDT
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