Types of Tube Lights

There are many ways to provide lighting to an area. Whereas lighting options were originally limited to fire and then assorted torches, candles and lamps, technological advancements with electricity sparked a flurry of lighting advancements in the 19th century. Today, some of the most efficient means of providing lighting are tube lights.

Fluorescent Tubes

Compact fluorescent bulb

The production technology for today's fluorescent tube lights was first developed in the early 20th century. Electricity is used to excite mercury vapor, which in turn causes the phosphor inside the tube to fluoresce and produce light that's visible to the human eye. Fluorescent lights are often found in commercial settings and other areas where bright lighting is needed for long periods of time, because they are more energy efficient and last longer than incandescent bulbs.

Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL)

Compact fluorescent (CFL) tube lights continue to gain in popularity in both commercial and residential settings. Similar in nature to fluorescent tubes, CFLs produce light via the excitement of mercury vapor which causes phosphors to fluoresce and produce visible light. Instead of using an electromagnetic ballast, CFLs use a built-in electric ballast and can be used in sockets originally designed for incandescent bulbs.

There are many different configurations of CFLs on the market. Twin tube CFLs (also known as a Dulux or Biax bulb) have two tubes parallel to one another. Triple Biax CFLs combine three of the twin tube CFLs into one, producing a greater amount of light. Although quad tube CFLs produce a similar amount of light as twin tube CFLs, they are physically shorter than twin tubes, making them better suited for smaller applications. The spiral CFL gets its name from its spiral shape and is one of the more common models homeowners choose when retrofitting incandescent fixtures, because of the similar light quality. F-lamp CFLs are similar to twin tube, except the alignment has the tubes side-by-side. Lastly, circular CFLs were designed to retrofit fixtures, such as reading lamps, where a circular incandescent was used.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) Tube Lights

Light emitting diode (LED) tube lights are a third type of tube lighting. LEDs produce light when their diode is switched on. This causes the electrons in the diode to release photons and produce electroluminescence. The color of light produced by the LED depends on the photon's energy. These ultra-efficient, long-lasting lights have been used in a variety of applications, including both rigid and flexible tube lights.

Rigid tube LED lights were designed to retrofit traditional fluorescent tube lights. Two rows of white LEDs are placed in the tube that looks very similar to a fluorescent light tube. Before retrofitting a fluorescent bracket, the ballast and starter are removed from the unit. Flexible tube LED lights encase LEDs in a flexible silicone tubing. This allows for a variety of decorative and safety applications, including use as movie theater lighting and emergency airplane lighting.

About the Author

Kimberly Wylie has been a professional, full-time freelance writer for nearly a decade. She is the author of the book "Hiring the Right Candidate" and has written for several online and print publications. A gifted wordsmith, her work has included everything from movie scripts to patent documentation.