Fluorescent tubes and their technology
Where fluorescent tubes are being used and how they work.

In the seventies fluorescent tubes attracted much attention in the residential sector and were often used for background lighting. Due to the further development of the LEDs technology they are almost no longer being used in living rooms. Although they are very efficient with a light output of up to 104lm/W, they can only be used to a limited extent due to their rod-shaped and tubular design.

In recent years they almost exclusively played a role in office spaces, restaurants and hotels, stadiums, tunnels, shops, museums and factory halls. In the living space segment, they are generally only being used in kitchen cabinets and bathroom cabinets.

How fluorescent tubes work

In technical jargon, fluorescent tubes are also called compact fluorescent lamps and operate on the principle of low-pressure gas discharge. The glass tube is filled with a noble gas with low pressure and a very small amount of mercury.

The inner wall of the tube is coated with a fluorescent material. Between two electrodes (at the end of the housing) an electric field is created by electric current which makes a gas discharge possible. The evaporating mercury emits UV rays. As soon as the UV radiation hits the fluorescent light, it turns into visible light. The light color can be varied by a corresponding mixture of the gases (fluorescent).

The advantages of the fluorescent lamps are the following: the long life of up to 90,000 hours and the high efficiency of the tubes.
Christine HillerLighting expert at Houzz & HQ Designs

Depending on the desired color, the manufacturer fills in e.g. helium, krypton, argon, nitrogen or neon, thus achieving light colors of cold white (approx. 5000-6000K), neutral white or warm white (< 3300 K). This makes it possible to design fluorescent lamps for a wide range of applications. In energy saving lamps for domestic use, the less harmful amalgam is used instead of mercury. The only disadvantage is the slightly delayed start-up speed which is almost not noticeable. Fluorescent tubes with amalgam technology show a constantly high luminous flux over a wide temperature range.

Connection of fluorescent tubes

Fluorescent tubes are not suitable for direct connection to the power supply. They must be operated with a ballast. There are conventional and electronic ballasts.

For fluorescent tubes with conventional ballast, the ballast is mounted usually under or next to the fluorescent tube and relatively easily accessible. For small portable lamps, e.g. compact fluorescent lamps (energy saving lamps), it is not visible from the outside of the base. The ballast contains the technical basis for the ignition of the gas inside the tube and ensures a constant voltage and thus flicker-free light. The installed starter which must be replaced temporarily, is only necessary for the ignition process.

Due to the fact that starting with a conventional ballast can cause some flickering, they have almost been completely replaced by the electronic ballasts in recent years. They control the ignition process of the fluorescent lamps electronically and significantly improve the lifetime and efficiency.

Socket versions

There are fluorescent tubes for different socket versions. In the following table we present the most common in house use. Especially our Kelvin data can be interesting for those who want to match the light color to the living room. You can find more information on Kelvin and light colors in a dedicated article.

Fluorescent tubes and the different sockets

Leuchtstoffröhren (EN)

wdt_ID Socket Type Diameter (mm) Shape Length (mm) Watts Light Color Remarks
Socket Type Diameter (mm) Shape Length (mm) Watts Light Color Remarks

Today there’re already LED fluorescent tubes which is kind of a contradiction, because an LED works completely different than the fluorescent tubes described here. What this means is usually a lamp in the “shape” of a fluorescent tube but with the modern LED technology and its advantages. This is primarily done in such a way that the customer doesn’t have to carry out complex installations but simply replaces the tube.

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