To answer the question posed by the title of this article, we’ll need to introduce some more information about metal halide lamps in general and then about ballasts. The short answer is: if the lamp in question is a metal halide lamp, then yes, it needs a metal halide ballast, but let’s see if we can shed some light on the reason why.
A metal halide lamp, or an MH lamp, is a type of high-intensity discharge, or HID lamp. They are very popular for lighting up large outdoor spaces and because of their high-quality output of very bright white light. They are also relatively energy-efficient and last a decently long time, although they can produce a fair amount of heat.
To keep things relatively simple, suffice it to say that metal halide lamps produce light via a different method than incandescent lamps. Whereas incandescent lamps have a filament that creates electroluminescence when current passes along it, metal halide lamps contain a fused tube that itself contains a gas as well as mercury and metal salts, known as metal halides. When current passes through the gas in the tube, it heats up and thus turns the mercury into mercury vapor and ionizes the metal halides, which glow. Different versions of these lamps produce different color temperatures, but they are largely appreciated for their quality, bright output.
That is the basic operation by which a metal halide lamp operates. A ballast, in general, is a structure that helps to regulate the current and sometimes the voltage to a lamp in order to ensure that the lamp operates properly and offers its stated performance. Think of it in the way that a ballast works with a ship. A ship may float with a ballast, but it will be nowhere near as stable or seaworthy as it is under ballast. In the same way, a light that requires a ballast might burn too dimly, too brightly, may flicker, or may even burn out without a ballast. In short, they are required.
It is also important to remember that metal halide lamps are not the only lights that need ballasts. Fluorescent lamps and HID bulbs also need ballasts in order to operate efficiently and properly, and even LED lights need a component known as a driver in order to operate properly.
A metal halide lamp, then, needs a metal halide ballast in order to operate properly. A metal halide ballast first enables the lamp to function by providing the start voltage, which is a higher amount of energy in order to heat up the gases in the tube and vaporize the mercury and metal salts. After the lamp begins to glow, an MH ballast provides supply voltage, which is exactly the amount of potential and current required for the lamp to operate at its specific brightness, to prevent it from getting too hot or from burning out prematurely.
Now that you have a cursory insight into how a metal halide lamp works, as well as how an MH ballast does, all that’s left is to find them. If you are looking for MH ballasts or MH lamps, you can find them at Atlanta Light Bulbs. In fact, you can find a multitude of lamps, ballasts, and other lighting fixtures and accessories on their website, including but not limited to high-pressure sodium and low-pressure sodium lamps, electronic metal halide ballasts and other HID ballasts and ballast kits. Plus, if you aren’t sure of a lamp’s ANSI code, you can always give their team a call at 1-888-988-2852 to learn more about the specific types of lamps and what they need. Check out their website, AtlantaLightBulbs.com, or give them a call at the number listed above to learn more.