Replace Fluorescent Tubes in a Light with LED Bulbs

A few months ago I helped my brother rewire some lights for his shop to use LED bulbs instead of flourescent tubes. I decided to do the same thing for my kitchen light, which had been flickering and didn’t always light up every tube.

Years ago, a friend rhetorically asked me, “Are you an electrician?” after I screwed up some wiring, which left us without heat on the coldest night of the winter. I’d say I’m the perfect man for this job. šŸ˜‰

Jokes aside, it is an extremely easy wiring task. Electrical stuff can be scary for a lot of people, so I figured I’d document my process. Fair warning… IĀ am not a professional and I’m not telling you how to do this. This is just an explanation of what I did. I’m also not a lawyer.

I did this at night, guided by some battery-powered LED lights, so the lighting in the photos isn’t very good.

First IĀ TURN OFF THE BREAKER connected to my light. Absolutely no shortcuts here. Then I took the tubes out and removed the fixture covers.

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Those black boxes are the ballasts, which limit the current in a circuit. To use LED bulbs those need to be bypassed. I cut all of the wires and removed them.

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Then I stripped the ends of every wire I had cut.

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In these particular fixtures, one side used 2 blue and 2 red wires and the other side used 2 yellow wires. The yellow side did use some short white wires to connect one tube to the other, but those white wires were not directly connected to the ballast.

This is the key step. All of the wires on one side of the fixture needed to be connected and then connected to either the black (hot) or white (neutral). It doesn’t matter which side goes to white and which goes to black, but it’s very important that everything on one side of the fixture goes together.

As you can see here I grouped by dark (blue and red to black) and light (yellow to white) colors. I screwed a wire nut on each bundle of wires. When I have 3 or more wires connected like this I gently pull on each wire to make sure nothing will come loose.

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Before I closed everything up, I flipped the breaker and made sure the light switch was on. Then I took one LED bulb and tested it in each spot to make sure everything worked. There’s nothing worse than having to take something apart after it’s been closed up. Everything worked great, so I wrapped each wire nut with electrical tape.

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For the final step I put the covers back on over the wiring and slipped in the LEDs.

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It made a huge difference in my kitchen. Here are some unedited before and after shots.

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The camera really shows how green the light was from the flourescent tubes.

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You can see how much more natural the wood looks.

What happened with that wiring mistake I made years ago? We got drunk andĀ survivedĀ a cold night. I woke up early the next morning determined to figure out what I had done wrong. I fixed the mistake and learned not to assume that speaker wire running through a basement ceiling was useless. I’m probably lucky the wires I cut were only used for thermostats instead of something with a higher voltage.

I didn’t let my friend’s joke discourage me from trying. To this day I continue to learn.

Shop Lighting

The lights in my basement were pretty bad. If you’ve watched any of the videos I’ve done in the workshop you’ve probably noticed.Ā The area pictured below was lit by 2 light bulbs.

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Time to fix this so I ordered two sets of 4 LED lights off Amazon. At $20/light I didn’t expect much in terms of quality, but the reviews were solid. They are made with really cheap materials, but function fine. I put 3 of the new lights in this area. Incredible difference!

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Each light has a plug instead of wiringĀ and the cord has a switch built-in, which is really nice. I won’t be stuck with my lighting placements if I change my mind and it’s easy to turn individual lights on and off as needed.

The other area of the shop was almost as bad, with some dark corners. It was lit with 3 of the typical tube lights you find in drop ceilings. Here are before pictures…

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I wanted to remove the drop ceiling while I was at it so I’d get back about 8 inches of vertical space. I made a time-lapse of this part of the project. Over 6 hours of video at 80x speed to get it down to 5 minutes.

I used the other 5 LED lights in this larger area. When I showed pictures to my buddy he said, “Looks like you painted but itā€™s only lights.” He’s right! I’m really happy with the results.

I’ve already ordered another batch of lights for the laundry room and bathroom, though I’ll be keeping the ceiling in those locations.