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PL Lamps: What Are They and How to Find the Right One

PL Lamps
PL Lamps

This post has been updated from its original 2013 version.

PL fluorescent lamps have been in the conservation game for a while. Specifically named for the original creator/manufacturer, this lighting solution is both easy on energy consumption while being a bit complicated to understand. To take the guess work of it, here are a few facts about PL lamps.

A Philips Brainchild
Philips Lighting took fluorescent lamps into their own hands with the development of PL lighting, twin-tube fluorescent lamps typically found in non-residential settings (office buildings, retail stores, schools, etc.). Other versions of the lamp come in triple and quad tubes and some can be used for more than just lighting, such as germicidal lamps – lamps used for disinfection.

All About the Base
PL bulbs are pin-based, with either two or four pins, and installing them requires a pin-based lighting fixture. There are many base types, like GX23, with the different names representing the pin configuration of the lamp. In order to find the right lamp for installation/replacement, check the base for details of the type, pin configuration, wattage and light color.

Lamp Brightness
The brightness level of PL lamps is determined by lumens, which measures how bright a bulb is. This is different than wattage, which measures the energy output of a lamp. PL bulbs have the upper hand on incandescents because they use up less energy to display the same or a higher level of brightness. For example, a GX23 PL bulb displaying 840 lumens uses only 13 watts of energy while the incandescent version uses 60.

Color Temp: Warm to Daylight
PL bulbs shine in varying light colors. From warm white to daylight, the specific temperatures are:

  • 2700k – warm white
  • 2500k – soft white
  • 4100k – cool white
  • 5000k+ – daylight

Maximum Overall Length
Sometimes a little more information is required to properly install/replace PL lamps. Some fixtures have size limitations known as the maximum overall length (MOL). To find the length of PL bulb, measure from the base to point of the bulb.

Though PL lighting has been around for a while, this cost-effective, energy efficient lamp continues to grow. With a life span between 10-13x their incandescent peers, PL bulbs don’t need to be replaced as often, and (thankfully) you won’t want to.

Maxlite 8W PL LED G24Q 3000K 8PLG24QLED30
Maxlite 8W PL LED G24Q 3000K 8PLG24QLED30
TopStar LED Horizontal Lamp 6W 4000K G24Q PLC18HG24Q-840-06P-P2-EB
TopStar LED Horizontal Lamp 6W 4000K G24Q PLC18HG24Q-840-06P-P2-EB
Maxlite 6W PL LED GX23 4000K 6PLGX23LED40
Maxlite 6W PL LED GX23 4000K 6PLGX23LED40
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CFL to LED Conversion for Pin Lamps

This post has been updated from its original version.CFL to LED Conversion for Pin Lamps

PL lamps, given their name by their originator, Philips Lighting, have been in the game for many years now. These pin-based lamps are widely used and installed in a variety of fixtures, from recessed cans, outdoor fixtures, and ceiling fans, to table lamps and wall sconces. They’re used in both residential and commercial buildings across the country. Like most energy efficient lamps, these were first introduced in compact fluorescent format. While CFLs will always be the better choice over incandescent lamps, by considering CFL to LED conversion, you’ll discover an entirely new range of benefits. Just think of it as leveling up.

Dollars and Sense

For starters, let’s look at wattage. The wattage amount used by a bulb measures how much energy it consumes to illuminate the room. LED PL lamps that use only 12 watts of energy can replace CFL PL lamps that consume 26 watts. By switching out just one bulb, you’re cutting the energy consumption, and equally the costs, for that one bulb by more than half. LED lamps have been made to replace 13, 18, 26 , 32 and 48-watt CFL bulbs.

In addition to saving money long-term, LED technology is such that it removes the glow and flicker that is so commonly associated with fluorescent lighting. The LED lights provide instant-on lighting, and warm up in no time at all. While CFLs typically come with a 5 year warranty and 10,000 hour lifetime rating, their LED counterparts have warranties upwards of 10 years, and are rated to last 50,000 hours on average.

Battle of the Ballast

When shopping for PL lamps, you may notice some are labeled Plug and Play while others are labeled Ballast Bypass. Plug and play lamps attach directly into the socket of your fixture and operate using the ballast that’s already there. No additional wiring is required, making the transition both smooth and simple.

Rewiring is necessary to install ballast bypass LED PL lamps, as the existing ballast has to be removed. They are, however, a great choice for anyone wanting a lamp that will call for less maintenance. Each type is available in horizontal and vertical design for illumination in both commercial and residential environments.

Bulb Base and Basics

PL lamps come in multiple color temperatures and either a 2-pin led bulb or 4-pin led bulb configuration. All have a base of either GU24, G24 or GX23. You’ll want to pay careful attention to these details in order to avoid getting the wrong bulb for your fixtures. They come in color temperatures that range from the warm 3000K to a cool 5000K. The warm, or soft glow at the beginning of the spectrum is ideal for living areas. The cooler light is what is typically found in office buildings, schools, and hospitals. Once you’ve chosen your wattage, ballast, base, and color, you’ll be good to go! You’ve already switched from incandescent to CFL. Now committing to CFL to LED conversion just got a little easier.

Maxlite 8W PL LED G24Q 3000K 8PLG24QLED30
Maxlite 8W PL LED G24Q 3000K 8PLG24QLED30
TopStar LED Horizontal Lamp 6W 4000K G24Q PLC18HG24Q-840-06P-P2-EB
TopStar LED Horizontal Lamp 6W 4000K G24Q PLC18HG24Q-840-06P-P2-EB
Maxlite 6W PL LED GX23 4000K 6PLGX23LED40
Maxlite 6W PL LED GX23 4000K 6PLGX23LED40
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Comparing the 13W GU24 Bulb to Incandescent Bulbs

This post has been updated from its original 2012 version.

Compact fluorescent lamps use significantly less energy than incandescent bulbs, and use energy to produce only light. In comparison, incandescents use a great deal of energy, with the majority of it being used to create heat. There are a variety of CFL bulbs available, with the GU24 base gaining in popularity. The 13w GU24 bulb is a great compact fluorescent replacement for 60 watt to 75 watt incandescent bulbs throughout the home.

When choosing to replace an incandescent light with a GU24 compact fluorescent, it is important to know a few basic facts about the bulb you are planning to buy. Let’s get into the major differences between these two types of bulbs.

Incandescent Bulbs

Energy used to create light: 10%
Energy used to create heat: 90%
Standard power used in a home: 60 watts to 75watts
Base type: Screw in, pin base

GU24 Bulbs

Energy used to create light: 100%
Energy used to create heat: 0%
Standard power used in a home: 13 watts
Base type: GU24

The GU24 base means the bulb has two pins protruding from the bottom that twist and lock only into a GU24 fixture. Also differing from incandescent lights is how light brightness is determined. The amount of light emitted from an incandescent bulb is determined by the amount of energy it uses. The brightness of a compact fluorescent GU24 is measured in lumens. This is how a 13w GU24 bulb with 950 lumens can replace a 60 watt incandescent bulb, and use approximately 78% less energy to do so.

Shop for LED GU24Bulbs>>>

Maxlite 9W LED Omnidirectional A-Lamp GU24 A19 3000K 9A19GUDLED30
Maxlite 9W LED Omnidirectional A-Lamp GU24 A19 3000K 9A19GUDLED30
Maxlite 9W LED Omnidirectional A-Lamp GU24 A19 4000K 9A19GUDLED40
Maxlite 9W LED Omnidirectional A-Lamp GU24 A19 4000K 9A19GUDLED40
Green Watt 9W GU24 LED 5000k G-L4-A19D30C-9W-50-GU24
Green Watt 9W GU24 LED 5000k G-L4-A19D30C-9W-50-GU24
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Understanding Circular Fluorescent Bulbs

This post has been updated from its original 2013 version.

These round bulbs pack a few more features than their fun design suggests, and if you are not savvy to the ways of circline lamps you may have a hard time incorporating them into your home’s lighting. To fully understand and get the best out of circular fluorescent bulbs, keep the following four facts in mind.

Pay Attention to Wattage

Just as with (the soon to be gone) standard incandescent light bulbs, circline lamps use wattages to measure how much power is used to light a bulb. By comparison, circular CFL bulbs emit the same amount of light (lumens) while using less power than incandescents. A circline light bulb of only 13 watts can replace a 60 watt incandescent bulb and has an output of 650-900 lumens. The wattage of the bulb also determines the diameter of the bulb which in turn determines if it will fit the fixture. So unlike standard spiral CFLs you may not be able to go up or down in wattage range because it will affect the size of the bulb possibly rendering it unusable with your fixture.

Color Temperatures Are the Same as Standard CFLs

Color temperatures represent how bright a bulb is. Circular fluorescent bulbs can range in color from warm white to the brightest daylight just like standard compact fluorescent lights. Color specifics are all varying shades of white:

  • 2700K: Warm, equivalent to what is typical in a bedroom or living room
  • 3000-3500K: Soft, suitable for bathrooms
  • 4100K: Cool, florescent-like in color
  • 5000K: Daylight, the brightest color, like sunlight at noon

Circular Bulbs Cannot be Used in Just Any Fixture

This is where using a circular CFL can get tricky. Depending on the manufacturer, some light fixtures only use bulbs from their own line. Yeah, I know it can be tempting sometimes to go with an off/generic brand, but in this case your generic circline lamp may not work in the fixture. When replacing a Circular Lamp, first make sure that there are no manufacturer specifics determining what bulb can be used. Next, determine what the lamp type (e.g. T6 , T9) and pin type is (e.g. 2 pin, 4 pin). When finding the right lamp for your fixture, you have to choose the same lamp type and pin types as these are not interchangeable.

Diameter Matters

For light fixtures that use circular CFLs, bulbs that are too big or too small will not work, even if it is from the right manufacturer. Make sure to replace circular fluorescent bulbs by measuring the diameter of an existing bulb then purchase the right size. If you would rather leave measuring alone, you can also use the manufacturer model number to find a replacement bulb.

While there is more to be taught and learned about circular CFLs, these four facts alone will allow you to make informed purchases and hassle-free replacements. See, it doesn’t take much to become savvy to the ways of circline lamps.

Shop for Circular Bulbs>>>

TCP 32020 20W T9 4-Pin Circular Lamp 27K
TCP 32020 20W T9 4-Pin Circular Lamp 27K
TCP 58W T-6 4 Pin Circular Lamp CFL Bulb 3205841K
TCP 58W T-6 4 Pin Circular Lamp CFL Bulb 3205841K
Philips 22w T5 4 Pin Circular CFL Bulb TL5C-22W830-1CT/1
Philips 22w T5 4 Pin Circular CFL Bulb TL5C-22W830-1CT/1

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Difference Between LED MR16 vs. GU10 vs. PAR16 Bulbs

This blog has been updated from its 2015 version

The main difference between a LED MR16, GU10, and PAR16 light is that the bases are different. Both MR16 and GU10 use pin bases that look and work differently. This is done so that bulbs do not get confused during installation. Since MR16 bulbs run on only 12 volts, they need external transformers to convert the building’s main 240 voltage supply to the 12 volts needed to run these bulbs. On the other hand, GU10 based bulbs can simply be plugged in and are ready for action. Some MR16 bulbs also come with other pin bases such as GU5.3.

As far as MR16 vs. PAR16, the main difference is the size, variety, and heat. Unlike MR16 type halogen bulbs which have dichroic glass reflectors, the PAR bulbs have aluminized glass reflectors which direct the heat generated by the bulb to the front of the bulb. Because of this, PAR16 bulbs are usually not suitable for ceiling installations of 8 feet or lower. PAR16 bulbs also produce more directional yet duller lighting and have a standard, medium screw-in type of base and work in medium sized E26 sockets. MR16, on the other hand, generates heat to the rear of the bulb and produce a lot more light for the wattage because of the multi-faceted reflector (hence, MR).

Although these three types of bulbs are different and should not be confused for correct installation, they will all save energy and minimize replacement and maintenance costs. Switching to any of these bulbs today can show you savings in as little as one year!

Shop for LED GU10, PAR16 and MR16 Bulbs>>>

Green Watt G-GU53-7W-30EP25 7W 25Deg GU5.3 MR16 LED 3000K
Green Watt G-GU53-7W-30EP25 7W 25Deg GU5.3 MR16 LED 3000K
Green Watt G-GU10D-7W-30EP-40 7W Dimmable GU10 MR16 LED 3000K
Green Watt 7W Dimmable GU10 MR16 LED 3000K 40 Degree
TCP LED712VMR16V27KFL 7W Dimmable 40Deg 12V MR16 LED 2700K
TCP LED712VMR16V27KFL 7W Dimmable 40Deg 12V MR16 LED 2700K

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Does Ballast Compatibility Matter When Choosing LED T8 Lamps?

Plug and Play LED T8Traditionally, fluorescent T8 linear lamps have been used as the main light source in commercial buildings such as hospitals, warehouses, schools, and more. LED T8 lamps are quickly replacing their fluorescent counterparts. The LED technology provides higher efficiency, many color and lumen options, and sizes. Advancements in lighting capabilities have also led to more options for installation. When deciding on which lamps to replace your fluorescent T8s with, one of the main things to consider is the ballast type. Knowing the difference between a Plug and Play LED T8 and a Ballast Bypass T8 will make the process of switching even easier.

Type A

Ballast compatibility absolutely matters when the LED lamp you’ve chosen is of the UL Type A variety. The Plug and Play LED T8, also referred to as direct fit, is the easiest of the two types to install. This lamp works directly with the existing ballast to quickly replace the fluorescent T8. While this is the simplest installation method, the LED lamp must be compatible with the ballast of the fluorescent it is replacing in order for the new lamp to work. The makers of the LED T8 typically provide a list of compatible ballasts. Make sure to check out this list before purchasing your replacement lamps.

Type B

LED lamps classified as ballast bypass, direct wire, or UL Type B do have a more involved installation. As a result, it is best to hire an expert electrician to complete the process. The Ballast Bypass T8 does just that. The technology of these lamps works straight from the line voltage that flows through the sockets.The process of retrofitting fluorescent fixtures for this LED type entails the removal of any electrical ballasts as well as verifying non-shunted sockets are in the fixture. The initial installation costs of the lamp is made up for by getting rid of the maintenance costs the ballast would otherwise need.

Both Plug and Play LED T8 and Ballast Bypass T8 options provide as much as 40% more savings in energy use and costs when compared to fluorescent lamps. Having an understanding of how the ballasts impact your fixture, installation process, and overall maintenance can help you better choose which lighting option will work best for you.

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Fluorescent T5 vs LED Bulb Replacement

As recently as 2010, the United States Department of Energy found that nearly 80 percent of lamps being used in commercial buildings were fluorescent. These lights are commonly found in large industrial buildings or other commercial edifices, such as hospitals and schools. They provide up to 75 percent more energy savings than their incandescent counterparts. That being said, as LED technology updates and shifts, even more savings can be realized by switching from fluorescent tubes to LED T5 plug and play or LED T5 direct wire lamps.

LED T5 direct wirePower Up
One of the major identifiers of any light is its wattage. This is the main indicator of how much you’re going to save when you switch. For example, a standard 28-watt fluorescent tube can be replaced by a 15-watt LED lamp. Additionally, a 54-watt high output fluorescent tube is easily replaceable by an LED that consumes only 25-watts of energy. With such a difference in the amount of power being used, savings in energy costs quickly follow installation.

Plug and Play
Plug and Play, or direct wire, LED T5 lamps make switching from fluorescent to LED simple. These bulbs are easy and quick to install. Replacing the ballast in your current fixture won’t be necessary, as it plugs directly into the fixture without any rewiring. This also reduces the the cost of labor and reduces maintenance for facility managers.

Bypass the Ballast
Ballast bypass, also known as LED T5 direct wire lights are slightly different from their plug and play counterparts. These lamps cannot be installed without first removing the existing ballast in a fixture. This is because they operate using the line voltage that flows straight to the sockets, essentially doing what its name indicates, bypassing the ballast.

Time is Money
On average, an LED T5 lamp is rated to last as long as 50,000 hours. This is more than double the standard 24,000 hour life of a fluorescent tube. Installing lamps with this long of a lifespan eliminates the need for frequent replacement. Also worth consideration are warranty periods. Standard fluorescent tubes have a warranty period up to 2 years. Conversely, the typical warranty period for LED fluorescent tubes is 5 years.

These lamps are available in cool and daylight white and designed with high lumen outputs. This provides both consistent color and illumination for a seamless switch. With lower power usage, longer lifespan, and a longer warranty, whether you choose an LED T5 plug and play or a ballast bypass lamp, you’re easily looking at saving as much as 45 percent on both energy usage and costs.

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LED PL Lamps are Long Lasting and Energy Efficient

LED PL lamps, specifically named for the original manufacturer, Philips Lighting, is easy on energy consumption, yet they can be a bit complicated to understand. To take the guess work of it, here are a few facts about PL lamps. pllamp2

All About the Base

PL bulbs are pin-based, with either two or four pins, and installing them requires a pin-based lighting fixture. There are many base types, like GX23, with the different names representing the pin configuration of the lamp. In order to find the right lamp for installation/replacement, check the base for details of the type, pin configuration, wattage and light color.

Lamp Brightness

The brightness level of PL lamps is determined by lumens, which measures how bright a bulb is. This is different than wattage, which measures the energy output of a lamp.

Color Temp: Warm to Daylight

PL bulbs shine in varying light colors. From warm white to daylight, the specific temperatures are:

2700k  – warm white

2500k –  soft white

4100k – cool white

5000k – daylight

Maximum Overall Length

Sometimes a little more information is required to properly install/replace PL lamps. Some fixtures have size limitations known as the maximum overall length (MOL). To find the length of PL bulb, measure from the base to point of the bulb.

How They Stack Up

The five- and seven-watt LED PL Lamps are available in GU24, E26 as well as GX23 and G24q pin base options to replace 13- and 18-watt compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). LED PL lamps have up to a 50,000-hour lifetime, and deliver an 80 color rendering index (CRI) with uniform consistency compared to CFLs. The lamps operate on a 120-277 volt system to easily retrofit into a variety of residential applications, including recessed cans, sconces, and ceiling fixtures.

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Choosing Circular Fluorescent Light Bulbs

circularIt can be difficult replacing a circline CFL. Circular fluorescent light bulbs differ in many ways and sometimes come with manufacture-only specifics. So which one is right for your light fixture, and how can you tell the difference?

Size

Before purchasing circular bulbs, you need to know the diameter of the bulb needed. You can do that by measuring an existing bulb for the fixture, or looking up the manufacturer model number and finding the compatible bulb. Bulbs range from 5″-12″ in diameter.

Wattage and lumens

Wattage is how much power the bulb consumes and lumens is how much light the bulb emits. The lower the wattage and lumen ratings, the less light the bulb will provide. Higher wattage and lumen ratings give off more light.

Manufacture-only specifics

Some light fixtures only allow bulbs from the same manufacturer to be used in it. If a bulb from a different manufacturer is plugged into the light fixture, the bulb will not work.

Color temperature

The brightness of circular fluorescent light bulbs depends on the color temperature. The numbers range from 2700K to 5000K; the higher the number the brighter the bulb. Specifics are:

  • 2700K: This is a warm white color, the type you would expect to see in living rooms and bedroom.
  • 3000-3500K: This bulb is suited for bathrooms, giving off a soft white color.
  • 4100K: For a cool white color, almost florescent white, use a bulb with this temperature.
  • 5000K: You’ll get the brightest color, daylight white – like the color of the sun at noon, from a 5000K temperature circline CFL . This bulb is best suited for when you need the brightest light, like in painting and drawing rooms.
It’s important to keep all of these factors in mind when choosing the right circline CFL. Especially keep in mind manufacture-specifics, and be sure to read the description on either the bulb or the fixture before making a decision.
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Are the pin based bulb interchangeable from one manufacturer to another

This is a question that is posed to our customer service quite frequently.
Unfortunately there is no short yes or no answer.

For the most part, if you are matching up the pin-base and the wattage, bulbs should be interchangable regardless of manufacturer.

It’s straightforward with bulbs like four pin, G24q-3 base. If you match that information up exactly, they should be interchangeable.

It’s much harder with 2 C circular bulbs because different manufacturers will align the pins slightly differently.

Some manufacturers don’t publish a “base type”, which makes matching bulbs nearly impossible. It’s very difficult, for example, to match up Lights of America to other brands successfully.

The future of lighting is the GU24 base, which is completely interchangable regardless of manufacturer. A nice thing about this design is that if the fixture takes a 26w bulb, you can use any GU24 bulb with an wattage bulb equal to *or less than* 26w.

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