A Quick Rundown of Ballasts

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If you’ve been scratching your head trying to figure out how to change the damaged ballast in your fluorescent lights, then you should stop and read through this before you get too ahead of yourself. This should help answer some questions.

What are lighting ballasts?

Lighting ballasts are components of fluorescent light fixtures, which may also be called “lamps” by those in the lighting industry. They are an integral part of the fixture, allowing them to work as intended. Ballasts regulate the flow of electrical current that runs through the light bulb. They provide the right amount of voltage to start the light bulb and control it thereafter so that the bulb is not destroyed in the process. Without the ballasts, fluorescent light bulbs would continue to pull electricity from the power source until they overheat and stop working entirely.

What are the different types of ballasts?

There is a limited range of ballasts and each one is designed to be compatible with only certain types of bulbs and when used at the correct voltage. Lighting ballasts are not interchangeable in this way. There are three basic types of ballast: the electronic ballast, the magnetic, and the digital ballast.

Magnetic ballasts (also known as electromagnetic) are the oldest and most simplistic type of ballast. The magnetic ballast is known to be the most durable of the three. It is able to handle higher electric fluctuations and extreme temperatures. You will see these ballasts used in neon lights and they tend to make a humming noise. These ballasts are also the reason why you sometimes see neon lights flicker. Although they are not in use now as often as they used to be, magnetic ballasts can still be found in HID bulbs like metal halides and sodium pressure bulbs. You will see these in outdoor fixtures like street lights or construction lamps because of their ruggedness and ability to stand up to the cold, unlike the new models of ballasts.

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An electronic ballast is the updated companion to the magnetic and is essentially acting as the replacement in many fixtures. Whereas the magnetic ballast operates using steel core and wire, the electronic ballast, as the name suggests, runs on an electronic system. It is much more energy-efficient than the magnetic ballast, which makes it less expensive to use. All ballasts hum to some degree or another but the magnetic ballast by far is the loudest. Comparatively, the electronic ballast is much quieter. All of these traits of the electronic ballast have contributed to the electronic ballast becoming the more common ballast to be found indoors like in homes and offices.

Digital ballasts are the newest of this technology and for that reason are intended to be the most optimized by utilizing computer technology to function. Digital ballasts are meant to be even more energy-efficient than their electronic predecessor because they generate more light with less energy. They are also designed to regulate temperature so that the bulb does not burn out as quickly and instead lasts longer. Digital ballasts are also designed to avoid some safety hazards by shutting down in the case of a damaged bulb or a short circuit. Although these ballasts are not quite as common as the two that came before, digital ballasts are certainly making their way around and being put to use.

So what’s the takeaway here? Lighting is complicated. But if you break things down to their smallest components and not overwhelm yourself, then you can learn just enough to get by and slowly build on that knowledge. And if you need any help getting pieces or anything, you can always turn to Atlanta Light Bulbs for assistance.

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