Reuse LED Strips in Fluorescent Fixture




Introduction: Reuse LED Strips in Fluorescent Fixture

About 10 years ago, I put some fluorescent fixtures in my garage so I could have ample lighting for making and fixing stuff. Well, at least twice, I've had to replace the fixtures because the bulbs wouldn't light. Yes, I made sure the bulbs were good in other fixtures, but no light. And there was no user changeable ballast or starter. So I was stuck. Buy new fixtures.

This last winter, I had two of the four fixtures go bad, and I was really dreading spending $20 or more on each new fixture, so I put it off.

A few weeks ago, I went to visit my parents, and my dad had a box full of some old under-the-cabinet LED strips. I thought to myself, this is the answer. Remove the fluorescent tubes and electrical components, attach the LED strips, use some old 12V DC converters, and boom. Free lights that would last for years and years with minimal energy use.

So, I packed up the LED strips and flew home. My plan to spend $0 almost worked. I wound up having to buy two LED driver power supplies from Amazon as the standard 12V converters I had induced some flicker in the LEDs.

This is what you need:

(1) Fluorescent tube fixtures ( mine were two tube ,48 inch models)

(2) Some 12V LED strips, buy your own, or scavenge like me.

(3) Self-tapping sheet metal screws

(4) LED Driver Power Supplies

(5) Basic soldering skills or LED strip connectors (I got skillz)

(6) 5.5mm x 2.1mm panel mount DC socket (or a screw terminal socket)

Read on to see how its done.

Step 1: Take Apart the Old Fixture

Unplug and remove the old fixture.

Take out the old light bulbs. Be careful, they break easy and are a pain to clean.

Once you have it on your work table, remove the plastic end caps so you can remove all of the electrical components. My cheaply constructed fixtures had no screws or bolts, so I was able to pry off the end caps with a flat screwdriver. I had to cut the wires to fully remove both ends, but cut them close to one end so I could save them for future use.

Step 2: Attach the Clips

My LED strips came with some spring clips.

Attach them to the fixture with some self-tapping sheet metal screws.

Step 3: Connect the LED Strips and Plug

This is the time where your soldering skills come into play.

Or if you are not confident in your soldering, you can get some 2 pin LED connectors from Amazon.

To keep things easy, and standard, use red and black wire. Solder black wires to '-' and red wires to '+'.

To get power into the strip, I used a 2.1mm x 5.5mm Panel Mount DC socket. Again, if you are not big on soldering, you can get one of these DC connector sockets that have screw mounted terminals. The LED power supplies I bought came with the screw terminal sockets.

Step 4: Test!

Once everything is connected, plug in our LED power supply, and then plug it into the socket in your fixture.

If you've done everything correctly, then you should be bathed in beautiful LED light.

Lastly, hang your fixture, plug it in and you'll be good to go. In my garage, the power outlets in the ceiling are controlled by the wall switch, so I don't need a switch on my fixture. Depending on your setup, you might need to add a switch to the circuit or just plug and unplug as needed.



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    13 Discussions

    LEDs don't heat up, because the diode doesn't "conflagrate" the way all incandescent or flourescent devices do. All of the "escent" devices use some form of material destruction via heat to cause the "escent" materials to turn to gas, releasing free electrons as light.

    LED's, OTOH, create light by first exciting individual electrons in the diode material such the the electrons move "up" to a higher valence shell in their atom. Because the amount of energy to get them there is supplied, but they leak rapidly and fall back to their original shell, the leakage and draining sheds energy, as, voila, LED light. But no heat, except the residual heat caused by any energy form passing through a working load, e.g., the electrons.

    Unfortunately, if we try for too much light, we get too much work heat, and we cook the LEDs, creating "droop" ( a non-technical, but accepted, term for the loss of light output over time from a hot LED). LEDs typically reduce light output if overheated to about a minimum level of 50% of rated power. But your use here should not cause unacceptable heating, and you'll love the fact that LEDs just generally don't care about ambient (COLD) temps.

    My garage is unheated and fluorescent light do not work well in the cold canadian wheather. How do led behave?

    1 reply

    From what I understand, they behave considerably better. Pretty much instant light - no slow warm up.

    It probably isn't an issue with your setup, but you might consider wiring those LED strips differently.

    Especially since your strips wrap around and go back to the start, you could have positive lead come from one end, and the negative lead come from the other end.

    The LED are in small parallel groups along the strips, but the power rails will get farther and farther away from the source the farther down the strip you go.

    Just a thought.

    1 reply

    That is a good idea.

    Will have to consider that for future projects.


    I've got several strips salvaged from roadside t.v.'s, I used them in movie poster light boxes but the concept is the same as yours too. ☺

    1 reply

    great reuse of old fixture. how is light output compared to tube bulbs?

    3 replies

    It's actually really good. The LEDs are a bit older, so they still have some of that bluish hue to them, but for the garage, they're perfect.

    And I don't think I'll ever have to worry about them going bad like my fluorescent bulbs.

    Another nice thing about LEDs is you don't have to worry about slow/no start in cold weather. Being a native of Minnesnowta, I've had too many cases where the florescents in my garage either don't light at all orgive me—maybe— 20% of the light I expect.

    And I even have some LED strips looking for a job...

    Good call on the temps. I think thats what killed mine in the past. Living in KS, we have +100 F in the summer and 0F in the winter, and my garage is not the most insulated part of my house ;-)

    Good luck with your LEDs!