Perhaps you’ve heard of the term ‘light ballast.’ This type of ballast works very similar to the ballasts used on boats. It provides stability by keeping the flow of current into a fluorescent light steady. This way, it gives enough voltage to a lamp to get it started. Without this ballast to control the flow, it could cause any fluorescent light bulb that is connected to a high voltage power source to overheat in just a matter of seconds. If you’re planning on using fluorescent lighting in your home or office, you need to understand what a ballast is and how it works.
- Different Types of Ballasts
There are two different types of ballasts that you need to know about, magnetic and electronic. A magnetic ballast is from older technology and is most often used when a rapid start method is needed. They are less expensive but generally will cause your lighting to hum and flicker at a rate of about 120 times per second. They work by heating up the cathodes before the ballast sends the voltage to start the lamp.
Electronic ballasts are usually quieter. They do not have the same flicker that you find with the magnetic ballasts and have better energy efficiency. They can work as a rapid, instant, or programmed start.
- Replacing Ballasts
Fluorescent lights do not usually need to be replaced as often as the regular and more traditional light bulb, which could easily burn out in just a few months. With ballasts in fluorescent lighting you can expect to need replacements in about three years. They do not fail suddenly but have a more gradual fading of light output. Learn the signs of failure so you can anticipate when it’s time to replace your ballast. Look for any dimming, buzzing, flickering, or color change. These are usually indicators that your ballast is about to go.
- Ballasts For LED Lighting
Because of their quality of lighting as well as consistent output, LED lights have become the preferred choice for all sorts of conditions. Not only are they more affordable, but they can last for an extremely long time before needing to be replaced. Because they use less power, they don’t usually need a ballast, but if you have plans to switch your current fluorescent lighting so you can use the new LED tech, you could utilize something called a driver, an additional piece of circuitry that brings it all together. If you feel you want the ballast, there are some LED varieties that have been designed to work with ballasts found in fluorescent and or HID fittings.
- HID Light Ballasts
HID light ballasts are very similar to the ballasts found in fluorescent lamps, but there are some differences. They have a more complex circuitry. HID lamps need to be able to power on and off quickly with as little warm-up time as possible. Their ballasts have been designed to allow for faster heating and cooling of the gas without damaging the bulb. The current that flows into HID lamps needs a very precise regulation. Too little could damage the condition of the luminaire over time.
- Electronic Light Ballasts
Ballasts used for electrical lighting use induction coils which have been arranged in a specific sequence in order to control the power flow. They are the better choice when compared to the cheaper magnetic options. They work at a higher frequency, so you won’t have any problems with light flickering or hear any of the buzzing sounds that are common with magnetic lighting. They can control the current at a lower frequency than other electrical equipment would so there are no waveform inconsistencies when delivering power with the electronic light ballasts.
Ballasts used in fluorescent, HID, and LED lamps can be very confusing. However, understanding how these works will help you to make a better choice when it comes to choosing the best one to suit your specific needs.