Buying Fluorescent Ballasts: 3 Factors to Consider

Feb 10, 12 Buying Fluorescent Ballasts: 3 Factors to Consider

Unless you’re an electrician, you’ve probably never changed a ballast. Chances are, when your garage fixture or kitchen light went out, you changed the bulbs, and when that didn’t work, you went to an overpriced hardware store and bought a brand-new fixture. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, you could’ve saved a lot of money by switching out the ballast—an investment of only $10 to $15.

But with so many options out there, how would you know which ballast to pick? The truth is, it’s pretty simple. There are tons of fluorescent ballasts to choose from (we have nearly 300 on our site!), but most business owners and even homeowners will find it easy to wade through that seemingly never-ending selection if they concentrate on just 3 key specs: Bulb type, start method, and ballast factor.

Bulb Type

Needless to say, this is the most important part. If you don’t know what type of fluorescent bulb you’re using, you’re going to have a hard time figuring out which type of fluorescent ballast to buy. Fortunately, most fluorescent fixtures will use one of three common bulb types: An F40T12 (4′ long; 1.5″ in diameter), an F32T8 (4′ long; 1″ in diameter) or an F54T5 (46″ long; 0.625″ in diameter). If your bulbs don’t meet one of these descriptions, you’ll need to check the etching near one of the ends of the fluorescent bulb (a good idea even if you think you know the bulb type).

Start Method

Once you’ve determined what type of  fluorescent bulbs you have, don’t burn them out prematurely by choosing a ballast with the wrong starting method. As discussed in a previous article on how to extend the life of a light bulb, an instant start ballast hits the fluorescent bulb cathodes with about 600 volts every time you flip the light switch. As you might imagine, the bulb can only stand so many of those on/off switches. Consider where your fixture is installed. Offices, boardrooms, and retail spaces tend to stay lit for long periods, so use an instant start ballast should be fine, as long as you don’t switch the lights off and on more than about 3-4 times a day. Hallways, stairwells, and bathrooms are switched much more frequently, especially since the lighting in these areas is often controlled by an occupancy sensor. In these areas, it’s best to use a programmed start ballast, which will heat the bulb cathodes more slowly and prolong its life.

Ballast Factor

Finally, you need to consider light output. “What?” you say. “You mean the bulb isn’t exactly the brightness it says it is on the label?” Nope. The light output shown on a fluorescent bulb’s label, expressed in lumens, is figured using a normal light output ballast with a ballast factor between 0.77 and 1.1. A normal ballast factor is usually the right option, for “normal” circumstances. But if you don’t need your room quite as bright, you can save electricity by using a low output ballast with a ballast factor below 0.77. On the other hand, if you are lighting a warehouse or manufacturing facility where brightness is important, you will need a high output ballast with a ballast factor above 1.1, which will push the bulb to be 10% or more brighter than stated on the label.

Of course, if you need something more specialized like a sign ballastdimming ballast, or circline ballast, you’ll likely need an equally specialized electrician. The same principles still hold true, however, so if you need to call an electrician, at least he’ll be impressed by how much you know!

 

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Cyalume Glow Sticks

Aug 22, 11 Cyalume Glow Sticks

As a form of recreational light, “glow sticks” are popular options for children who go out trick-or-treating on Halloween and are fun options at parties and other recreational events. However, they have many practical uses as well. They are great options for safety lighting and are popular devices for the military, law enforcement, and other emergency personnel. They are useful for signaling, illumination, surveying, perimeter control, and many other uses. Cyalume safety products has taken advantage of the glow stick’s potential as a safety product by creating a line of industrial and military-grade chemiluminescent “Lightbars.”

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Using Halogens and Light Dimmers as a CFL Alternative

Want to save energy but don’t like CFL light bulbs? You’re not alone. CFLs are among the most efficient, commercially available lighting sources, yet these bulbs aggravate many homeowners and business operators. Despite technological improvements, some still complain that CFLs do not dim well, flicker, or cast an unappealing light. Fortunately, those who find themselves among those who do not like CFLs have an alternative in halogen light bulbs.

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Going Green for Spring

Mar 07, 11 Going Green for Spring

Using Bulbs that Use Less Electricity

By using light bulbs that use less electricity, you are reducing the amount of energy you use in a given day. And the options for bulbs that are more energy efficient continue to grow. Recent legislation in California banned the sale of 100W incandescent light bulbs. The main reason for this was the energy wasted with incandescent bulbs. Over 90% of the energy the bulbs use is heat waste, not light. Less than 10% went to creating the visible light. This is a very inefficient use of energy. To fill in the gap created by the loss of these bulbs, manufacturers are offering a number of options.

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CFL Mercury Concerns

Feb 28, 11 CFL Mercury Concerns

Many people have concerns about mercury present in CFL light bulbs, but we are here to discuss why the mercury concern has been blown out of proportion. The fact are very simple, nobody wants to expose their family and home to possible mercury contamination, but how can we alleviate these concerns with the growing popularity of CFL bulbs? The best way to address these concerns is to look at the reality of the situation. According to the Energy Star program, the average CFL bulb contains 4 milligrams of mercury. To put that into context, this amount of mercury is equivalent to the amount of mercury in a bite of albacore tuna. Also, an old-fashioned thermostat would have at least 500 milligrams.

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