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Fluorescent Lamp Identification


Fluorescent lamps are identified by a standardized code that reveals valuable information about operating characteristics and physical dimensions. Manufacturers' codes, found on the lamps and in catalogs, may vary slightly from the generic designations. However all major lamp manufacturers base their codes closely on the identification system discussed below.

The best way to learn lamp identification is through example. Below is a range of fluorescent lamps, one for each popular starting method:

Rapid-Start (40 Watts or Less) and Preheat Lamps
Example: F30T12/CW/RS 

"F" … fluorescent
"30" … rated nominal wattage
"T" … indicates shape; this lamp is shaped like a tube
"12" … diameter in eighths of an inch; this lamp is 12/8 (1.5) inches in diameter
"CW" … color; this lamp is a cool white lamp
"RS" … mode of starting; the lamp is a rapid-start lamp. Preheat lamps do not have "RS" as a suffix

 

Rapid-start lamps are the most popular fluorescent lamp type used in commercial applications such as office buildings.

Note that some lamps may be designated F40T12/ES, but the lamp draws 34 instead of 40 watts; the "ES," a modifier which stands for "energy-saving," indicates this. ES is a generic designation; actual manufacturer designations may be "SS" for SuperSaver, "EW" for Econ-o-Watt, "WM" for Watt-Miser and others.

After the mode of starting, another number may be added to indicate color rendering and color temperature if the lamp's color (CW, WW, WWX, etc.) is not indicated. The number will often be three digits, the first indicating color rendering (a "7" standing for "75," for example) and then the next two indicating color temperature (a "41" standing for "4100K," for example).

High-Output Rapid-Start Lamps
Example: F48T12/WW/HO

"F" … fluorescent
"48" … nominal length of the lamp in inches
"T" … shape; this lamp is shaped like a tube
"12" … diameter in eighths of an inch; this lamp is 12/8 (1.5) inches in diameter
"WW" … color; this lamp is a warm white lamp
"HO" … high output lamp operating on 800mA current

Very High-Output Rapid-Start Lamps
Example: F72T12/CW/VHO

"F" … fluorescent
"72" … nominal length in inches
"T" … shape; this lamp is shaped like a tube
"12" … diameter in eighths of an inch; this lamp is 12/8 (1.5) inches in diameter
"CW" … color; this lamp is a cool white lamp
"VHO" … very high output lamp operating on 1500mA current; instead of VHO, it may read "1500" or "PowerGroove" (brand names)

Instant-Start Lamps
Example: F96T12/WWX

"F" … fluorescent
"96" … nominal length in inches
"T" … shape; this lamp is shaped like a tube
"12" … diameter in eighths of an inch; this lamp is 12/8 (1.5) inches in diameter
"WWX" … color; this lamp is a deluxe warm white lamp

Other Fluorescent Lamps

"FC" instead of "F" means the lamp is circular.

"FB" or "FU" instead of "F" means the lamp is bent or U-shaped. The suffix "U" can also be used for U-shaped lamps, followed by a "/" and a number that indicates the distance between the lamp's legs in inches. "FT" instead of "F" is used for twin-tube T5 lamps.