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Daylight Tubes Explained

Author: Glenn Harper
Published: February 2, 2016

Daylight tubes are fluorescent lamps that emit light with a natural daylight colour. Daylight seems neutral to our eyes, especially in the middle of the day, but in fact it’s a cool bluish white. It has a colour temperature of between 5000K and 6500K. The higher the figure along the kelvin (K) scale, the cooler or bluer the light is. Most daylight bulbs and tubes are rated at around 6500K.

Daylight benefits

A chief benefit of using daylight tubes is that the light looks brighter and more natural than other artificial lighting and is less likely to cause eyestrain. Cool white light also increases alertness and concentration, making it ideal for offices and schools. It’s a good choice for high productivity and exam success. You’ll find it in city cafés, too, where fast customer turnaround is needed.

An example of how light colour affects us is seen in a computer screen. This is effectively a 6500K light that upsets sleep patterns if used late at night. The reason we have warmer lights in the home, generally, is that they help us unwind at the end of each day. Daylight is for our busier times.

Daylight tubes v SAD tubes

You can think of SAD tubes as enhanced daylight tubes. They’re used to help or prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder: a form of depression caused by lack of exposure to daylight.

Like regular daylight tubes, SAD tubes emit a daylight coloured light, but they are more consistent at bringing out natural colours in surrounding items. This superior colour rendering also makes them useful in settings such as art studios, photo labs or print shops.

Tube sizes

The most popular fluorescent tube sizes are the T5 and T8. The ‘T’ tells you the lamp is tubular, and the digit indicates the tube’s width in eighths of an inch (e.g. the T8 has a 1” diameter).

Fluorescent tubes generally increase in energy efficiency the thinner they get, to the extent that some compete with LED technology. You can see that in the G.E. 28W High Efficiency T5 Daylight Tube, which produces an impressive 87.5 lumens of light per watt.

T8 tubes are popular partly because they replace phased-out T12 tubes in older fittings. The two use identical caps for connection. To extract the best possible performance and lifespan from a T8 tube, modern high-frequency (HF) fittings are recommended.

Positive light

Poor lighting is dismal in a home and creates a downcast mood in a workplace. Daylight tubes or SAD tubes produce lots of natural-looking light for work or pastimes and will put you in a better place. They’re also cheap to buy and run.

Why not take a look at our current range of daylight tubes.

For more advice, inspiration and news take a look at our Lighting Advice section.