The latest safety standard for LED tubes: what you need to know

If you are thinking of replacing a fluorescent lamp with an LED tube, you should be aware of an important new safety standard introduced by the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) in December 2014. It’s called IEC 62776 and it covers safety specifications for double-capped LED tubes.

The standard does not apply to all retrofit LED tubes; only those where the tube is powered by the existing control gear, either electronic or magnetic, so no internal modification of the luminaire is required (except replacing the glow starter by a ‘dummy’ to complete the circuit, which is not considered a modification under this standard).

Retrofit options

Generally, retrofit LED tubes come in two types: those where no modification to the luminaire is required (where IEC 62776 applies) and the more common type where some rewiring or bypassing of the existing control gear is needed.

In the latter, you rewire the luminaire so that the incoming mains goes straight to the lamp caps. Whether or not this is a good idea is a hotly disputed topic in the lighting world, and there is currently no specific safety standard for these lamps. However, there is general agreement among European laboratories that tests for these lamps should apply the appropriate aspects from related safety standards such as 60598, 61347 and 62301 together with a risk assessment and a detailed review of the modification instructions supplied.

Currently, most of the major lamp manufacturers build their LED tubes to meet the new IEC 62776 standard, but you should always check with your supplier.

Remember that IEC 62776 (and the other standards mentioned above) are about safety. They do not tell you anything about performance factors, such as light output, colour rendering, beam distribution or energy efficiency. There are good and bad ones out there, so it’s worth checking these details carefully too.

Thanks to Havells-Sylvania, the Lighting Industry Association and the Lighting Industry Association Laboratories, Osram, Philips Lighting and Valtavalo for their help with this article.