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Consumer Technology old T-12 fluorescent tubes are being phased out

Published on July 14th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


Another Light Bulb Deadline Looms — Where’s the Outrage?

July 14th, 2012 by  

old T-12 fluorescent tubes are being phased out

What if they banned a light bulb and nobody cared? Given all the fireworks over the incandescent light bulb phaseout that began earlier this year, there should be another round of outrage over the July 14 deadline for phasing out another highly popular type of light bulb, the T-12 fluorescent tube. But nope, not a peep. Part of the reason could be that the original deadline has been extended, but still, you’d expect someone to at least set off an M-80 or two. Representative Bachmann? Mr. Limbaugh? Anyone?

Phasing Out the T-12 Light Bulb

The July 14 deadline refers to new federal standards for the ubiquitous, four-foot-long fluorescent tubes found in millions of schools, offices, warehouses, factories, retail stores and other establishments, along with untold millions of home workshops.

As with the incandescent light bulb “ban” that stirred so many passions among so many conservative political leaders and pundits, there is no direct ban on using the old bulbs. Once the deadline goes into effect, the old bulbs can no longer be imported and they cannot be manufactured or sold domestically

Also, as with incandescent lighting, the primary reason for phasing out the T-12 is to shift the lighting industry into new energy efficient technologies.

In addition, old T-12 light bulb technology is notoriously finicky, and New Yorkers in particular may recall that concerns have been raised regarding health issues related to old T-12 fixtures.

A Long Road to Better Light Bulbs

The new T-12 standards date back to 1992, with amendments to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (not to be confused with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which includes the new incandescent standards).

The 1992 amendments directed the Department of Energy to conduct reviews and publish new standards as needed. Those determinations were made in 2009 with a deadline of July 14, 2012.

According to a backgrounder provided to CleanTechnica by the Department of Energy, the deadline was extended when a supply issue arose over rare earth oxides, which are key materials in the new technology. China controls more than 95 percent of the global supply, and in 2010 it changed its export quotas, leading to a significant price increase.

Philips Lighting Company, GE Lighting, Osram Sylvania, and Ushio America all applied for extensions, which were granted with the new deadline of July 14, 2014.

China will most likely continue to dominate the global market, but the Department of Energy anticipates that the two-year extension will buy time to develop new technologies that require less rare earth material, and to develop new sources including the recycling stream.

In the meantime, T-12 aficionados are advised that this might be a good time to switch over to the smaller T-8, which according to the Department of Energy “provides a rich source of lighting that delivers a high lumen package, a high CRI (color rendering index) rating and exceptional energy efficiency.”

Image: Some rights reserved by Brett Jordan.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Marty

    I am being told by some one pushing LED lighting that all T12, T8 T5 and CFL’s are going to be phased out and can no longer be manufactured or imported into the US after Jan 1, 2015. Is there any truth in this”

    • Bob_Wallace

      T12 are apparently already history.

      “As part of its ongoing quest to improve energy efficiency in the United States, the Department of Energy’s rulemaking of 2009 will eliminate most of the remaining commonly used types of T12 linear fluorescent lamps by July 14, 2012. The reason is those lamps’ relative inefficiency compared to their more energy-efficient alternatives. Recognize that the magnetic ballasts that are required to operate those T12 lamps were already phased out in October 2010.”


      I can’t imagine CFLs are legislated out. They are as efficient as LEDs.

      I’ll leave it up to your to google T8 and T5 tubes if they are something you use.

      Now to what is important.

      1) If you’ve got a salesperson giving you incorrect information then tell them to go away.

      2) And most important – get one or more honest people in to take a look at your lighting needs (assuming you’re a business) and give you the cost and savings of moving to LEDs.

      Banning of inefficient lighting should put money in your pocket. LEDs are generally one of the best investments a business owner can make.

      If you want to get a feel of what you might save use this savings calculator. (There are others on line.)


  • ChuckS

    So if we switch to T8, will those tubes and adapters be banned in a couple more years? I don’t want to play this game continually.
    The CFLs we were forced into, became hazardous materials and became costly to dispose of properly. When the energy legislators are busy improving our efficiency, are they including the manufacturing and disposal environmental costs of the whole retrofit? (Including the environmental and political consequences of importing from China?)

  • Wyndell Wright

    Forget T-8’s and T-5, go LED. LED’s are far more efficient, they last the longest, and LED’s don’t contain mercury (as is the case with T-5’s and T-8). Moreover, LED’s can be financed privately on a long-term basis. Please go to http://www.municipalenergyconsultants.com for private financing options.

  • Fed Up

    T8 is the same thing as T12! Only smaller and slightly less wattage.
    How long are we going to let these whacko-enviro-nazis dictate our lives?
    And, oh yea — all of you whacko-enviro-nazis out there….there are some REAL solutions. Ever hear of nuclear? Yea, those very green Swiss folks run their country on this efficient, safe energy source. Ever hear of dams…better yet, ever visit one and see the amazing wildlife around and in them? But no, we have to waste time on wind-farms that will NEVER supply the demand (and, just as FYI…you may want to educate yourselves on the actual impact producing ane maintaining a windfarm actually has on the environment).
    I am so sick of idiots with political axes to grind trying to dictate what is “good” technology and what is “bad” technoogy.

  • Wow, and the trolls did descend. 😀

  • Sirsparks Electrical

    Not you Bob, I agree with all you said.  Sorry for the confusion.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I didn’t take it as applying to my comment. Just letting you know that your arrow was not well-aimed….

  • Sirsparks Electrical

    Every single point you make is simply ill informed or downright silly.  Why not support GOP fools instead of us (allegedly).
    There are too many mistakes in your comments to warrant detailed responses.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Who ya talkin’ to Sparks?  

  • PRei

    An alternative link regarding the below  is via http://tonn.ie
    “The Deception behind the Arguments used to ban Light Bulbs and other Products ”

  • PRei

    Government consumer information is good – but then free choice.
     If the T12s were not so popular, there would be no “need” to ban them.
    And if the alternatives are so “great” – why assume consumer stupidity in discovering that.
    Unfortunately , there is no free lunch:
     All products have advantages – energy saving is only one advantage.

    As always, there is another agenda here:
    Allowing manufacturers to carve out profits for enforced replacements,
     including new fittings for those replacements etc

    The bigger picture, including the mentioned 100W etc incandescent bans,  is about saving electricity.
    OK – so if saving electricity is such a big deal (no shortage of future renewable sources, last I heard):
    Why not just tax or even ration electricity then – let people decide themselves how to reduce their electricity use, if so important.
    Besides, coal being the main “culprit”, effectively the same coal is burned at night anyway regardless of light bulb usage, from the way slow base loading day calibrated coal plants operate…

    The morals of this also covered on Freedomlightbulb org

    • Bob_Wallace

      We require seat belts and air bags because without them the cost to users is high.  Users have to pick up the cost of injury to the non-user.

      Regulating away inefficient light bulbs when we have plenty of choices which cut the cost of lighting makes much more sense than increasing the price of electricity or rationing electricity and hurting everyone.

      If your fingernail is too long, cut your fingernail.  Don’t get all in a tizzy and cut off your finger.

      Why would “Freedomlightbulb” advocate for increased costs and economic harm for the country?  Who do you work for?

      BTW, coal is rapidly going away.  It’s gone from ‘dead man walking’ to ‘dead man running to the chamber’.

  • Sirsparks Electrical

    Not only are T8 lamps less expensive than T12’s but the T12 ballast is short lived and much less efficient than the T8 ballast. It also  has cold weather start problems. Anyone with a failed T12 ballast (they fail frequently) can replace it and the lamps with T8, there is no need to change out the luminaire as the  tomb stones (lamp connectors) and length of lamps are the same.  Doing so will save electricity, save on purchase price of a T12 and produce a better light rendition.

    • Northeastilluminating.com

      I am surprised to see no mention of T5’s on this forum. 20-30% more savings than T8, longer lamp life, better light rendition (higher CRI), and the notion of switching to 5 year old technology (T5) versus 30 year old technology (T8).

    • Pete

      Easy answer: The manufacturer of T5 lamps thought they could pull a fast one my making the length non compatible with T12 or T8 fixtures thus requiring a very expensive upgrade. Now they have shot themselves in the foot as nobody wants them.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I see that someone is selling an adapter to let T5s fit T8 fixtures. That’s not efficient.

      The maker of T5s needs to introduce the T5LE – long enough to fit existing fixtures and start selling millions.

      • Pete

        Agreed, at present I don’t even tell the customer about T5’s.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Might want to tell that to the T5 manufacturer.

          There’s a market need that someone is going to fill. No one is going to purchase an adapter or replace their fixtures if a proper length tube comes on market.

          Lunches will be eaten….

      • Northeastilluminating.com

        Aside from selling a product that I stand behind (yes we are all in this for something), the T5 simply provides results that the T8 cannot deliver. There is a reason why we have high customer satisfaction rates from people who switch from T8 to T5 (20-30% savings on light), which accompany the stellar satisfaction in the T12 to T5 retrofit (60-70% savings on light).

        See for T8 to T5 comparison: http://www.ehow.com/about_6668540_t5-vs_-t8-fluorescent-blubs.html

        On to the efficiency (“achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense”): How does a one year return on investment sound? Or the various utility companies that have offered extensive rebates for implementation of the product, which provide savings that are realized even faster? Or a UL Listed solution to the T5 conversion where there is no need to pay expensive electrician wages to switch out a ballast, instead having anyone competent enough to change a light bulb switching out the old lamp for the self-ballasted retrofit kit?

        I do agree that the “T5LE” would be great, but for the time being, this is all that is available. The industry, along with the customer’s satisfaction speaks for itself. We cannot keep the product on the shelves.

        • Pete

          instead having anyone competent enough to change a light bulb switching out the old lamp for the self-ballasted retrofit kit?

          So if you don’t employ an electrician to remove the old ballast you still have a good percentage of it energy waste (*by heat) because it is in series with the new. Where does that leave your efficiency figures?

          • Northeastilluminating.com

            You are correct, the ballast does continue to draw power. However, because of the process in which the ballast is jumped, these figures do not exceed 1-2 watts.

            The LUXADD
            Retrofit Kit increases the frequency from low frequency to high frequency
            which takes the stress of the old magnetic ballast and the whole system runs
            “cool” without the extreme heat development of the magnetic ballast.

            Furthermore our ballast changes the incoming power from AC low voltage to DC high voltage and
            back to AC high voltage for an efficient T5 tube support.

            Based on the
            high frequency operation the stress is taken away from the old magnetic ballast
            and therefore, it lasts the lifetime of an ANSI rated ballast when electricity
            was able to pass through at the day of the retrofit.

            The drastic reduction in energy consumption leaves the 1-2 watts that the ballast still draws insignificant.

        • Bob_Wallace

          You’re a dealer, not a manufacturer, correct? Selling the best available makes sense.

          Manufacturing something not-optimal doesn’t make sense to me. Someone is going to “stretch the T5” if you don’t. If you don’t get there first you will quickly get shoved aside.

          A one year payback is great.

          A six month payback is more greater….

          • Northeastilluminating.com

            When someone “stretches the T5”, we will be one of the first to know about it, and implement it into our energy advisement situations. And it just so happens that we have had paybacks closer to the 6 month range (thanks to generous rebates from National Grid and Con Edison) 😉

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