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T5 vs. T8: How Do You Know If You Really Need T5 Lighting?


Do You Really Need T5 Lighting and Does It Matter?

Let's take a look at the differences between T8 and T5 fluorescent technology and see how they stack up. This is important because the T5 lighting could cost you 2x more than T8 Lighting.  Here's why. 

What Is The "T"?t5 vs t8 fluorescent lighting what does the t mean

The "T" is just simply a code that is used to identify the size of fluorescent bulbs.  As focus on energy saving technologies has grown and become popularized, these codes have come to designate levels of energy efficiency, as well as indicate lamp tube diameter.

Size Of The Bulbs

A T5 bulb is roughly the same diameter as a $.10 dime.  A T8 bulb is closer to the size of a $.05 Nickel.  The T5 is the smaller of the 2.

Which Bulb Has The Highest Efficiency

T8 = higher efficiency

T5 = highest efficiency

While the chart above is generally true, it is important to evaluate the application and determine the cost benefit of T5 over T8.  By doing so, you will be able to determine if the increased efficiency of T5 justifies the increase in initial and long term maintenance costs.

Do T5 and T8 Bulbs Cost The Same?

A standard 4 foot T8 lamp costs between $3.00 and $5.00, and a standard T5 lamp costs between $5.50 and $12.00. That is why you must carefully consider what is the best application so that you aren't spending 2x more than you have to.

The T5 does cost nearly 2x more, but that same margin cannot be applied to performance.  The T5 does not outperform the T8 by the same margin. In fact, in many low level interior applications, the performance differences are negligible.

Both the T5 and T8 lamps have a general life expectancy of around 36,000 hrs. at 12 hrs. per day burn time.

Brightness Levels T8 vs. T5

There are several different factors that determine levels of efficiency. The quality of light, often referred to as lumen output(also called "brightness" by the Department of Energy) is an important factor to consider. 

Quality of light measured is measured in CRI (Color Rendering Index), and quantity of light measured in LPW (Lumens per Watt).

Can I Use A T5 Fixture In Area Where The Ceiling Height Is Less Than 12'?

You can use T5 in this situation, but you have to remember the extra cost involved with the T5 fluorescent bulbs.  But cost shouldn't be your only factor, so you have to explore the technical aspects to understand why the T5 may not be the best fit.

Here is an average comparison of the T5 and T8. 

Comparing Color Rendering Index    

T8 = 85CRI     
T5 = 85CRI      

Comparing Lumens Per Watt (LPW)

T8 = 90LPW 
T5 = 99LPW

As you can see, as far as performance, the T5 in this setting barely beats T8 as far as CRI and LPW values.  If you didn't understand the numbers and compare all of the variables, you could get stuck with lighting that costs much more....even though you are not getting any better lighting.

With the numbers being this close, you could never justify the substantial increase in fixture, lamp and ballast costs which is what you would get with the T5 in this case.

Where Is T5 A Better Fit?

In this situation, you couldn't justify the extra expense of using the T5 technolgy.  While it obviously isn't a good idea to switch from T8 to T5 in the above scenario, it would be very good if it were a switch from T12 to T5 standard output lighting.

T5 standard output lamps have their place, it's just understanding the applications and the desired results. T5 lighting tubes produce best at an ambient temp of 35C(95F) which would make one think that they don't do well in the cold. That's not completely true, see the ambient temperature rating that manufacturers use is that of the air against the bulb.

The temperature that T5 lighting works in depends greatly on fixture design. Be sure to do your homework before you choose.

If You Don't Have Time To Do The Homework, Hire A Professional

We recommend always using a qualified lighting consultant or designer.  Guessing on the wrong  kind of fixture can cost you dearly.  In this case, it would cost you nearly 2-3 times more just for the t5 fluorescent tubes. 

By using a lighting designer versed in energy efficiency, you can get help with lighting layout, application, and finding those pesky incentives and tax deductions your business will qualify for.

Learn More About Energy Efficiency

You can download our Free Ebook: A Business Owners Guide To Energy Efficiency to learn more about the benefits of upgrading to fluorescent lighting technologies. 


Related Articles About T5 and T8 Fluorescent Technology:

T8 vs. T5: How To Determine Which Light Is The Right Light

T8 Lighting: Energy Efficient Applications And Uses For T8 Fixtures

Energy Efficient Solutions: How To Transform Existing T12 To T8

5 Reasons Why You Will Fall In Love With Fluorescent T5 Lighting


T5 Vs T8. You have not considered ballasts -electronic , magnetic, Quick start? integral control, dimming capability. Height etc. Please include this data to make it more clear.
Posted @ Sunday, January 20, 2013 3:43 PM by Bhadresh
Talking about the tube T5 vs T8..of course you do not explained more about the T5 which current application is more energy efficient than T8. There is no indication about the consumption from a hot T8 and cold T5...Are we talking energy efficient product or marketing of of the T8 product...
Posted @ Sunday, February 17, 2013 11:03 PM by Danny Liu
An agricultural environment can be highly corrosive, have extreme temperature swings and high mounting. For this the T5HO works best in vapor proof fixtures when mounting above 14' lens height (T8HL less than 14'). The T5HO lamp was designed to opertae in 95F ambient and the T8 was designed for 75-78F ambient(schools, hospitals and office buildings). When using enclosed fixtures heat produced by the lamp will likley create a very warm temp within the fixture. Lumen output and life expectancy will be reduced significantly if using T8 expecially. When mounting heights exceed 14' and enclosed fixtures are used in cold temperatures the T5HO or LED fixtures (not LED Tubes) are your best choice. Another advantage of the T5HO lamp choice is the standard ballast design is Program Rapid Start verses Instant Start in typical T8 systems. PRS ballast are like a soft start on a motor, they extend lamp life and will ignite at -20f. 
T8s are a good choice in many apps but T5HO provide more bang for the buck with fewer fixtures required in high mounting applications. T5HO lamp costs are much lower today than only one year previous. 
Posted @ Saturday, March 16, 2013 12:16 PM by Jim Flood
I read this post and found great information. This information very useful and you are doing really great work. Thanks a lot for sharing with us.
Posted @ Monday, May 13, 2013 4:23 AM by Electrical works Australia
I'm remodeling a 1980's kitchen that has 6 - T12 tubes in a 9' recessed ceiling with lens (at 8'). The kitchen is too dark with the T12's and I'd like a bright, natural light. Recommendations? Thank you!
Posted @ Tuesday, June 11, 2013 8:45 AM by Mike D
Nice article, and what about T5 vs t5 HO (High Output) bulbs? High output bulbs have bigger efficiency that can go past the 100 lumens to watt ratio!
Posted @ Wednesday, August 07, 2013 6:55 AM by midowo
If 95 F temperature is uncomfortable in the living place. I don't think T5 is good for home use. It may be good for industry where it does not shutdown for the most of the time.
Posted @ Sunday, August 18, 2013 10:02 AM by Sam101
T5 lamp looks better by all means
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Posted @ Wednesday, February 19, 2014 1:38 AM by eric
So it seems the T5 cost more for the higher lumens since one can get 6500k with either. Now for a horticultural application which is how the T5s are heavily marketed, can you speak directly as to their if any benefits over T8s when growing greens? I cannot find any evidence or results over which is best. All I read is here say incl in gardening blogs. Has anyone done any experiments/comparisons between the two? Does the plant need a certain amt? Im not talking about bringing anything to flower which has to do w the k # but want plants like basil into a full sized mature plant.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 19, 2014 7:00 AM by Lisa
Instead of comparing dimes and nickels to flourescent lightbulbs why don't you say that the T8 bulb is 8/8 of and inch in diameter, whereas the T5 bulb is 5/8 of an inch in diameter...duh. :)
Posted @ Sunday, March 16, 2014 10:30 PM by Sonny
Your article is truly helpful. But do you know, a T8 fluorescent ballast controls the color and output and allows the light to work at a higher voltage. The quality of light is also determined by the ballast as well.
Posted @ Monday, April 07, 2014 3:23 AM by Peter Griffin
@ Sonny 
Your comments of March 16, 2014 showed how ignorant you are. You criticized the author for his use of metaphors to describe the differences in diameter of the bulbs (nickel and dime). Then you came up with the really bright statement that he should have used, instead, the "T8 bulb is 8/8 of an inch"? What school did you go to? The T8 has a 1" diameter and the T5 has 5/8". DUH??
Posted @ Tuesday, April 08, 2014 9:38 AM by Manny
It is fine to say that T8 is 8/8 because it reinforces the fact that the number after the T is how many eights of an inch.
Posted @ Friday, May 23, 2014 10:37 PM by Trebor
useless "article"
Posted @ Friday, June 06, 2014 11:25 AM by looking for info
There is more information in the comments than in the 'article'. I've seen gradeschool science reports with more information -- and what was the point? I appears the author is attracted to T8 lights, but has little understanding of the difference between the two. I did not know that the lights' names are based on 1/8"s of an inch. The author talks about his/her great chart, but it has two data points of comparison which could have been drawn from any random bulbs - no reference cited - and comparisons to other size (diameter) bulbs are omitted. Note that once you have the fixtures, you can not just switch bulb type, so the information presented should be as complete as possible, it is not very complete at all.
Posted @ Sunday, June 29, 2014 8:56 AM by Dog Man Ten
Dear Sir or Madam, 
Glad to know that you are marketing in LED light, our factory, Desire Lighting, can supply you with various LED lights, especially LED tube, such as T5 internal driver tube,T8 tube(UL/TUV certificate),T10 waterproof tube(IP68),LED strips and so on. If you are interested in our products or have any questions, please feel free to contact us. 
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Posted @ Wednesday, July 16, 2014 1:34 AM by Carina
Can anyone suggest me which light is better t5 or t8 or any other type for reading purpose?
Posted @ Saturday, October 25, 2014 12:55 PM by Gaurang Chauhan
Posted @ Monday, January 12, 2015 6:26 AM by janak
I am looking to replace 10 lights in my garage, that are at a 12 ft height. I presently have 2 bulb standard 4 ft shop lights wired into conduit on the ceiling. I am looking for a significant increase in lighting and am curious, if I should change the whole fixtures or can I change the ballasts in my 2 bulb fixtures and change out the light bulbs to T5 bulbs at a 65ooK level? There is little info, out on the curcuit, that supports sucha a change
Posted @ Monday, January 19, 2015 9:37 AM by Dave Seeney
You need all new fixtures. I would suggest using 4-bulb T5-HighOutput 8-foot fixtures. They are about $80 each. I have 1 of these per garage stall and it is bright, but it would be awesome to have two of these per garage stall on individual switches so you can normally put one set one but sometimes put two sets on.
Posted @ Monday, January 19, 2015 9:43 AM by robert
LED's are not bright enough to replace conventional fluorescent tubes either T8 or T5. The lumen of an LED tube is very low compared to both the T8 and T5. And there is too much glare from the LED tube. T8 and T5 are almost the same except that the T5 has a lower wattage that produces the same lumen as the T8 hence you save on electricity. But the problem is you need to change your fixture if you switch from T8 to T5, since T5 tubes are shorter. There are retro fits available in the market to augment this problem though.
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I want to know the cost savings in replacing 90 Twin T-8 36w fluorescent lamps with twin T-5 28w fluorescents. 
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If you pay 16 cents per Kw hour then it will save 11.6 cents per hour or 93 cents every eight hours.
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Posted @ Sunday, April 12, 2015 2:49 PM by Ebony Landon
Good day Guy 
I am Miller from Sontec Products Lighitng. 
Our company mainly produce grille lights and fluorescent fixtures.Liek 4X20W T8,4X40W T8 etc. 
Pls notice that our UL file is E467785 and E474946. 
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Posted @ Thursday, April 16, 2015 10:19 PM by Miller
You did not take into consideration that the typical T5 tube is rated around 28watt where the typical T8 is 36 watts. So the T5 LPW may only be marginally better than the T8 but when you consider the T5 also uses over 25% less power then the savings do start to stack up.
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I have 8 -T-12HO fixtures with 2 bulbs per fixture and switches control 2 fixtures all mounted at 10 foot ceiling height in a Michigan garage. Cold temps start up required. I would like to get a more energy efficient bulb/light fixture of same or better light /lumen output or just add some LED fixtures to use for the short term use when I go to garage for getting a piece of firewood out of woodbin or getting something from a vehicle. The current bulb I have in the fixture is rated at 8600 lumens and 4600K and 100 watts per bulb in fixture. So each time I flip the switch I am using 400 watts for lots of lumens that I can't find a LED fixture too match unless it costs vast amounts of money I do not have. Any suggestions? Garage is 20'x40'
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