In the 1990s, longer T5 tubes were designed in Europe (making it to North America in the 2000s), in addition to the shorter ones already in use worldwide. The lengths of these tubes are designed to fit within 300 mm (one-foot) modular units (such as modular ceilings, modular cupboards, etc.), each being a multiple of 300 mm, less a constant fixed amount for end-caps and the construction of the unit end. The use of T5 tubes rather than T8 or T12 allows the tubes to be fitted into smaller spaces, or more tubes for more light, and the smaller light source also enables more accurate control of beam direction by means of optics (reflectors and lenses in the luminaire). Each tube length is available in both a lower-power high-efficiency (HE) version, and a higher-power (but lower-efficiency) high-output (HO) version. The loading (watts per unit length) of the T5 HE tubes is similar to the original 4/6/8/13 W T5 tubes, and some manufacturers produce a range of fittings spanning both these ranges of tubes. When originally developed in Europe, operation from both switchstart series ballasts and electronic ballasts was specified, but electronic ballasts were rapidly taking over at the time, particularly in the commercial lighting space where these tubes are most commonly used, and switchstart series ballast operation is no longer specified by manufacturers, only electronic ballasts.
T5 fluorescent is the first linear lamp type to be served only by electronic ballasts. It is smaller than T8 and T12 lamps, with a miniature bi-pin base. It is notable for its lumens-per-watt efficiency, due to its peak light output occurring at 35 °C (95 °F) air temperature. There are three types of ballasts available for T5 lamps: instant start, rapid start, and programmed start electronic ballasts. T5 lamps operate at frequencies greater than 20 kilohertz. Most manufacturers claim that their T5 ballasts have a total harmonic distortion (THD) of less than 15%. Most T5 ballasts are very quiet and carry class “A” sound ratings. Dimmable ballasts exist for T5 lamps.
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