How to Direct Wire LED Tubes?

Direct wire LED tubes provide an efficient and long-lasting lighting solution for fluorescent fixture retrofits. By bypassing the fluorescent ballast and directly wiring the LED tubes to AC power, you can take advantage of the extended lifespan and energy savings of LED technology. This comprehensive guide covers the ins and outs of direct wire LED tube installation and wiring for residential, commercial and industrial lighting.

Overview of Direct Wire LED Tubes

Direct wire LED tubes:

  • Are designed to replace fluorescent tubes in existing fixtures
  • Don’t use the fixture’s ballast – wires directly to AC power instead
  • Come in various lengths, colors, brightness levels
  • Provide 50,000+ hour lifespan with no flickering or hum
  • Offer dramatic energy savings over fluorescent lighting

While direct installation takes a bit more effort than simple plug-and-play retrofit LED tubes, the payoff in performance and efficiency is worthwhile.

Benefits of Direct Wire LED Tubes

Direct wire LED tubes offer these advantages:

  • More affordable than complete fixture replacement
  • Maintain existing fixture housing you’re already familiar with
  • No ballast compatibility factors to consider
  • Avoid the buzzing sound ballasts produce
  • Simplified wiring without multiple connections
  • Consistent bright illumination across entire tube length
  • Qualify for utility rebates since ballast is removed
  • Further energy savings since no transformer required

Overall, direct wire retrofits provide better light quality in a streamlined installation.

Working Safely with Electrical Systems

Exercise caution when servicing existing hardwired electrical fixtures:

  • Turn off power at circuit breaker before accessing any wiring
  • Use a contactless voltage tester to confirm power is off
  • Review all safety protocols related to your local electrical code
  • Wear insulated gloves and eyewear when working with wires
  • Take photos of connections before disconnecting or capping wires
  • Use insulated wire nuts, junction boxes, and straps for exposed wires
  • Avoid powerlines when using ladders or lifts to reach fixtures

Safety should be your top priority. Having proper tools and focusing fully on the task at hand prevents electrical hazards.

How to Choose Direct Wire LED Tubes

When selecting direct wire LED tubes:

  • Match the length and base style to the existing fluorescent fixtures
  • Verify lumen output meets your brightness needs
  • Select suitable operating temperature range and IP rating
  • Ensure certifications like ETL/DLC for safety and performance
  • Consider additional features like dimming, color temperature adjustability, integrated sensors
  • Choose from quality brands for best reliability

Taking dimensions and assessing features ensures you select optimized LED tubes.

Tools and Materials Needed

Typical tools and materials for direct wire LED tube installation:

  • LED tube retrofit kits
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • Voltage meter
  • Insulated screwdrivers
  • Wire nuts or wago connectors
  • Ladder or lift
  • Safety glasses and gloves
  • Junction box(es)
  • Wire strain reliefs
  • Zip ties
  • Electrical tape

Having everything needed on hand makes direct wire retrofitting much smoother.

Step-by-Step Guide to Direct Wire LED Tubes

Follow these steps to safely install direct wire LED tubes:

1. Disconnect Power and Remove Fluorescent Tubes

Shut off power at the breaker. Use a contactless voltage tester to confirm it is off. Remove the fluorescent tubes for recycling.

2. Remove Ballast Cover and Disconnect Ballast

Take ballast cover off. Disconnect input power wires, lamp holder wires, and ground wire from ballast. Cap wires individually.

3. LED Wiring

Connect AC supply line wire to LED input wire with wire nut. Repeat for neutral. Ensure grounded fixture remains grounded.

4. Mount LED Tube

Attach LED tube to lamp holders. Ensure tube pins align properly with lamp holder contacts for power transfer.

5. Install Ballast Cover

Replace ballast cover to hide wires and live parts. This completes the retrofit.

6. Restore Power and Verify Operation

Restore power at breaker. Power up fixture and confirm LED tube illuminates properly. Celebrate easier maintenance and energy savings!

Take precautions working with live wiring. Follow all electrical codes. Having an electrician assist is recommended.

Wiring Multiple Direct Wire LED Tubes

When wiring multiple direct wire LED tubes in a single fixture:

  • Connect all the AC line wires together, joining with a wire nut
  • Repeat for all the neutral wires
  • Ensure the fixture ground remains connected
  • Connect any daisy-chain wiring between the LED tube ends
  • Keep wires neatly managed inside wire channels
  • Avoid pinching wires when reinstalling covers

Proper grouping of input and output wiring maintains even illumination across multiple LED tubes.

Using Direct Wire LED Tubes in Shop Lights

Retrofitting shop light fixtures with direct wire LED tubes is straightforward:

  1. Disconnect shop light power and remove fluorescent tubes.
  2. Remove ballast cover panel. Disconnect ballast input and output wires.
  3. Connect AC supply line to LED tube line input using a wago connector. Repeat for neutral.
  4. Mount LED tube using supplied lamp holders. Align pins properly.
  5. Replace ballast panel cover. Reinstall wiring covers.
  6. Restore power. Verify bright, even LED illumination.

The simplicity of shop light construction makes direct wire LED conversion very simple. Just disconnect ballast and connect supply power.

Considerations for Wiring Enclosed LED Tubes

For enclosed fixtures, consider:

  • Heat buildup without sufficient ventilation can damage LEDs. Ensure adequate airflow.
  • Moisture resistance is critical. Use damp rated LED tubes and fixture sealants.
  • Diffusers and lenses should be rated for LED fixture temperatures.
  • Indirect wall wash lenses optimize illumination from LED tubes.
  • Occasionally clean LED tubes and lenses to maintain light levels.

Take steps to create an enclosure optimized for the needs of LED technology. This maximizes performance and LED lifespan.

Using Direct Wire LED Tubes in Recessed Ceiling Fixtures

Recessed can fixtures require:

  • Check can rating. Use insulated LED tubes for direct contact with insulation/combustibles.
  • Verify damp/wet rating if used outdoors or in bathrooms.
  • Open airflow is crucial. This may require trimming can edges.
  • Use diffuse lenses to avoid harsh glare and blend light evenly.
  • Position recessed fixtures properly to avoid shining light directly into eyes.

With the right LED tubes and accessories, recessed cans provide attractive illumination and ambiance.

Troubleshooting Direct Wire LED Tube Problems

IssuePotential CausePossible Solutions
One LED tube not lightingWiring issueCheck wiring connections and continuity
Line/Neutral reversedVerify line and neutral connect properly
Tombstone contactAdjust/replace lamp holders
Flickering lightLoose wiringCheck wiring terminals for good contact
Dying LEDsReplace old LED tube
Uneven light colorLED variationReplace inconsistent tube
Defective power supplyTest/replace power supply
OverheatingInsufficient ventilationImprove air flow in enclosure
Too many tubes per circuitReduce number of LED tubes on circuit

Double check wiring connections and component ratings when troubleshooting.


Direct wire LED tubes allow you to upgrade existing fluorescent fixtures for the benefits of cutting-edge solid state lighting technology. By directly connecting the LED tubes to AC supply voltage, you can bypass aging fluorescent ballasts while maintaining the original fixture housing. Direct wire LED tubes outshine fluorescents in longevity, efficiency, and light quality. Follow proper precautions and wiring techniques for a safe and effective LED tube retrofit. With dramatic energy savings over their lifespan, direct wire LED tubes provide a smart lighting investment delivering quick payback and simplified maintenance.

FAQs About Direct Wire LED Tubes

Q: Are direct wire LED tubes plug-and-play?

A: No, direct wire LED tubes require rewiring the fixture to bypass the ballast. Plug-and-play LED tubes don’t need rewiring.

Q: Can I put a direct wire LED tube on a dimmer?

A: Yes, if using a 0-10V or PWM LED dimmer. Make sure the LED tube and dimmer are compatible.

Q: Do I need to ground direct wire LED tubes?

A: Yes, you should connect the fixture ground wire to maintain a grounded configuration after ballast removal.

Q: Can I use a direct wire LED tube in a totally enclosed fixture?

A: Yes, but make sure the LED tubes are rated for enclosed fixtures to avoid overheating.

Q: How long do direct wire LED tubes typically last?

A: Around 50,000 hours of use. LED tube lifespan exceeds fluorescent tubes by 2-3 times.

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