T5HO Fluorescent Update: Still A Strong Competitor for LED T5

While all the buzz these days is about LED, some traditional light sources still command center stage – T5HO fluorescent is one of them.

T5’s were developed as an improved alternative to T8 fluorescent for certain applications. T5 tubes have a smaller diameter – 5/8” compared to 1” for T8. T5’s also use a different base and ballast than T8, so they cannot be used as direct replacements in existing T8 fixtures. Common applications for T5HO are indirect lighting, direct/indirect lighting, high-bay installations, and wall-washing in commercial buildings.

T5 Fluorescent Compared to T8 Fluorescent


  • Small diameter T5 lamps allow for smaller profile, compact fixtures.
  • Small diameter T5 lamps give a higher source of brightness and better optical control than T8.
  • Small diameter T5 lamps also improve lamp efficacy – T5 provides a roughly 10% improvement compared to T8.
  • Higher lumen output T5 lamps mean either fewer fixtures or 1-lamp fixtures instead of 2-lamp T8 fixtures to illuminate the same space. A single 54WT5HO lamp produces about 5000 lumens. A 2-lamp 32W T8 fixture produces 5500 to 6000 lumens. Similar light output can be achieved with fewer T5 lamps and lower wattage.


  • Potential for glare. Care must to taken when using T5 HO lamps to minimize the opportunity for occupants to look directly at the lamp. The high illuminance of these lamps can cause extreme glare in direct lighting applications. That is why T5’s are most often used in indirect fixtures, cove applications or fixtures with parabolic louvers, mesh filters or diffusers.

T5 Fluorescent Compared to T5 LED

49WT5 HO

  • Lumens: 5000
  • Efficacy: 100 lumens per watt
  • Rated Life: 30,000 to 35,000 hours
  • Price: $3.50 per lamp.

25W to 35W T5 LED

  • Lumens: less than 5000 lumens but usually specified as 49W / 54W T5 fluorescent equivalent
  • Efficacy: up to 125 lumens per watt
  • Rated Life: 50,000 hours
  • Price: $18.00 to $25.00 per lamp (if ballast bypass type the driver is usually an additional purchase)


T5HO fluorescent lamps provide a more powerful, efficient illumination option than T8 at relative low lamp cost for many specific applications.

T5 LED lamps have a 25% higher efficacy than T5HO fluorescent.

T5 LED lamps decrease maintenance costs (re-lamping) T5HO by 30% to 40% compared to T5HO fluorescent.

T5 LED lamps cost (in 2018) roughly 85% to 90% more than T5HO fluorescent.

There is no doubt about the overall trend – fixture manufacturers are focused on LED.  An increasing percentage of fixtures of all kinds being installed in new construction are dedicated LED.

However, T5HO fluorescent has been holding ground in both the new construction and retrofit market. The high cost of T5 LED compared to T5HO fluorescent, plus the strong overall performance of T5HO allows it to maintain a strong position in the commercial and industrial market.

Shop T5 HO Fluorescent Lamps

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Dave Burtner

Dave has been active in the lighting industry since 1994. Formerly a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America and certified by the National Council On Qualifications for Lighting Professionals, Dave now writes blog posts, lighting tips and provides lighting product assistance for the Topbulb website.

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