How To Choose A Ballast For Fluorescent Lamps: Device, How It Works, Types

When a ballast for fluorescent lamps (FL) fails, the luminaire ceases to function correctly. Only a quick replacement of the faulty element with a functioning one can bring it back to normal operation.

The part can be bought in a specialized store, the main thing is to choose the right module of the right modification. This is the subject of our article.

We will tell you what is the ballast, what tasks it performs in the operation of a fluorescent lamp. We will give a detailed classification, as well as describe the specifics of functioning and application of different modules. We will help you to choose the right ballast, taking into account the parameters of the lamp and the manufacturer of the control device.

Content of the article:

  • Peculiarities of connecting a LL to the mains
  • What is a ballast
  • General principle of the element
  • Ballast types and characteristics
    • Special features of electromagnetic products
    • Electronic ballast modules
  • Ballasts for compact lamps
  • What to look for when choosing
  • Selection of ballast by manufacturer
    • Brand ballast features
    • Best electromagnetic manufacturers
    • Compatible electronic modules
  • Conclusions and useful video on the topic

Brand ballast features

The fluorescent lamp is a practical and economical module designed for the organisation of lighting systems in domestic, industrial and technical premises.

The only difficulty is that it is not possible to connect the device directly to the centralized electricity supply.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

The electromagnetic ballast consumes about 25% of the luminaire's power and thus reduces its efficiency and efficiency level by a quarter

It is because creating a steady activating discharge in fluorescent lamps and then limiting the increasing current requires some specific physical conditions. It is these problems that the installation of a ballast device solves.

What is a ballast

The ballast is a device that regulates the starting functions and connects fluorescent lighting devices to the electrical connections.

It is used to maintain the correct operating mode and effectively limit the operating current.

It becomes more relevant when the electrical load is insufficient and the necessary current limit is missing.

General principle of operation of the element

The daylight tubes contain an electrically conductive gas medium with a negative resistance. This manifests itself in the fact that when the current between the electrodes increases, the voltage drops considerably.

The ballast connected to the control system compensates for this and ensures correct operation of the luminaire.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

When a high current is applied to any luminaire, it may malfunction. To prevent this from happening, the lamp is designed with a ballast that acts as a converter

It also raises the total voltage for a short period and helps the luminescents to light up when the central network lacks the capacity to do so. The additional functions of the module vary according to its construction and type.

Ballast types and characteristics

Electromagnetic and electronic ballasts are the most common today. They work reliably and ensure the long proper functioning and comfortable operation of fluorescent lamps of all types. They have the same general principle of operation but differ somewhat in their individual possibilities.

Peculiarities of electromagnetic products

Electromagnetic-type ballasts are used for lamps connected to a central power supply using a starter.

Transmission of voltage in this version is accompanied by a discharge, followed by intense heating and closure of the bimetallic electrode elements.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

Electromagnetic ballast differs from electronic even in appearance. The first has a more massive, taller construction, while the second is an elongated thin board on which all the working elements are located

The moment the starter electrodes close, the operating current increases sharply. This is due to the limitation of the maximum resistance of the choke coil.

After the starter has completely cooled down, the bimetallic electrodes open.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

If the starter fails in the electromagnetic ballast design, a false start occurs in the luminescent operation. In this case, the lamp blinks 3 or 4 times at the moment of switching on and immediately before it is fully ignited, and only then starts to burn. This leads to unnecessary energy consumption and significantly reduces the total operating life of the light source

When the luminescence circuit is opened by the starter, an active high voltage pulse is immediately generated in the induction coil and the luminaire lights up.

The advantages of the product are:

  • A high level of reliability proven over time;
  • the operational comfort of the electromagnetic module;
  • easy assembly;
  • affordable price making the product attractive for light source manufacturers and consumers.

Most positive aspects, users note an extensive list of minuses that spoil the overall impression of the device.

Such items are noted among them as:

  • the presence of a strobing effect in which the lamp flickers at a frequency of 50 Hz and causes an increase in human fatigue - this greatly reduces performance, especially when the light is placed in a working or training room;
  • the longer time required to start the light - from 2-3 seconds in the beginning to 5-8 by the middle to end of the operating life;
  • audible specific hum of the choke unit;
  • higher electricity consumption leading to inevitable higher utility bills;
  • lower reliability of the starter element;
  • cumbersome construction and its substantial weight.

When purchasing, all these conditions must be taken into account in order to understand the future costs of operating a household lighting system equipped with luminescents.

Electronic ballast modules

An electronic type ballast is used for the same purposes as an electromagnetic module. However, these devices differ considerably in construction and in the execution of their duties.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

The cheapest electronic ballast, has a simple autogenerator circuit with a transformer and a basic output stage, functioning on bipolar transistors. The big disadvantage of these devices is the lack of protection against abnormal operating modes

The wide popularity of the products came in the early 90s. At that time, they began to be used in conjunction with a variety of light sources.

The high cost compared to electromagnetic products was initially compensated by manufacturers for the good economy of the devices and other useful characteristics, properties.

The use of electronic ballasts allowed for a 20-30% reduction in the overall electricity consumption while maintaining the full saturation, power and strength of the light flux.

This effect was achieved by increasing the basic light output of the lamp itself by These are the ones that usually fail for various objective reasons and render the lamp inoperable

Mild start-up and gentle operation mode made it possible to almost halve the luminescence life, thus lowering the overall operating costs of the lighting system. The lamps needed to be replaced much less often, and starters were no longer needed at all.

In addition, the electronic ballasts got rid of operating background noise and annoying flicker, while achieving stable and even room lighting even with line voltage variations between 200-250 V.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

For a fluorescent lamp not to hum or flicker, only a high-frequency current of 20 kHz or more must be supplied. To realize this, the circuit must include a rectifier, a high-frequency generator and a ballast, which acts as a switching power supply

Additionally, it is possible to control the lamp brightness, adjusting the light output to the individual wishes and needs of the user.

The following criteria stand out among the main advantages of the products:

  • low weight and compact design;
  • practically instantaneous, very smooth turning on without placing undue stress on the fluorescent lamp;
  • complete absence of blinking visible to the eye and discernible noise effect;
  • high operating power factor of 0.95;
  • direct electric current savings of 22% as the electronic module is hardly warmer than the electromagnetic one and does not consume any unnecessary energy;
  • additional protection built in the unit to guarantee high level of fire safety and to reduce potential risks in operation;
  • significantly improved luminescence durability;
  • light flux with good color uniformity, without fluctuations even after long burning, without causing eyestrain to room occupants;
  • high luminaire performance at negative temperatures;
  • the ballast is able to automatically adapt to the lamp, thus creating an optimal operating regime for the lamp and itself.

Some manufacturers equip their electronic ballasts with a special fuse. It protects the devices against voltage fluctuations, fluctuations in the central network and the mistaken activation of the luminaire without a lamp.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

Today health and safety authorities recommend that fluorescent lamps installed in office buildings be equipped with electronic rather than electromagnetic ballasts in order to improve working conditions and increase productivity

The only disadvantages of electronic products usually mention the cost, much higher than electromagnetic modules. However, this may only matter at the time of purchase.

In the future, during intensive use, the electronic ballast will fully work off its price and even begin to bring benefits, seriously saving electrical resources and taking some of the load off the light source.

Ballasts for compact lamps

Compact fluorescent lamps are devices similar to traditional incandescent lamps with an E14 and E27 screw base.

Can be found in modern and rare chandeliers, sconces, floor lamps and other light fixtures.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

The design of compact fluorescents makes higher demands on the electronic \"stuffing\". Brands always take them into account during production, and unknown manufacturers, in order to make them cheaper, replace many elements with simpler ones. This greatly reduces the efficiency and lifetime of the module

Devices of this class are usually equipped with an advanced electronic ballast, which is built directly into the internal construction and is usually located on the board of the lamp product.

What to look for

When choosing a ballast for a fluorescent lamp, the first thing to look for is the power of the module.

It must fully match the power of the luminaire otherwise the lamp simply will not function properly and produce the desired light output.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

It is absolutely forbidden to plug the ballast into the mains without a load. The device may burn out immediately and must be repaired or a new one bought

Furthermore, determine what kind of ballast must be purchased. Electromagnetic ballasts are more cost effective. Their cost is low and there are usually no difficulties with installation.

But these devices are considered obsolete, have bulky dimensions and consume additional energy resources. This noticeably reduces their attractiveness, even in spite of their affordable initial price.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

To check if the electronic ballast is working properly, a special measuring device, a pocket oscilloscope, comes in handy

Electronic devices are much more expensive. Especially this point applies to products made by cool brand manufacturers. But their price is more than compensated by their energy efficiency, practicality, flawless assembly and high level of overall quality of the devices.

Selecting a ballast by manufacturer

Manufacturer is another important criterion when buying. You should not be guided solely by price and buy the cheapest model available.

Peculiarities of branded ballasts

An unnamed Chinese-made product can fail very quickly and cause subsequent problems with the operation of the bulb itself and even the lamp.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

Brand manufacturers equip ballasts with quality, wear-resistant parts that ensure proper operation of the module for the entire operating period

Better to give preference to brands with a reliable reputation that have proven themselves in the lighting and associated elements market for many years.

These devices will reliably serve their full service life, ensuring the proper functioning of the luminescence in any lighting fixture.

Ballast products manufactured by popular brands specialising in the manufacture of electrical equipment and associated elements have a strong and durable outer case of a heat resistant, non-deformable plastic composition.

The degree of protection  IP2 marking on the products signals a good general level of protection and prevents foreign objects larger than 12,5 mm from getting inside the box.

Operation is comfortable and absolutely safe. The construction totally excludes the possibility of the user's contact with live parts.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

Ballast units marked IP2 are reliable, practical and easy to use in the household, however, they are vulnerable to dust ingress. Because of this small minus, they are not suitable for lamps illuminating dusty working areas

The normal temperature range for efficient and long-lasting operation is quite wide.

Brand name ballasts perform well in cold days down to -20°C and are excellent in hot days when the air heats up to +40°C.

The best electromagnetic manufacturers

The electromagnetic ballast devices made by E.Next are very popular with customers.

This is because the company offers truly high quality, reliable and advanced modules produced at the highest level and in strict compliance with the requirements for this class of equipment.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

Besides guarantee and service, E.Next offers its customers custom technical support through call centers. Calling there, the customer can ask an operator a question of any complexity and in a few minutes receive a professional and understandable answer

All products are covered by a guarantee and the company offers its customers a high-quality service at all stages of cooperation.

The electromagnetic ballasts created by a well-known and respected European manufacturer of electrical equipment and related elements - Philips.

The products of this brand are considered among the highest quality, reliable and efficient.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

The electromagnetic modules from Philips are available in the widest range in the market. The right one for any lamp configuration is easy to find

Philips ballasts help to save energy and neutralize the load created by fluorescent lamps.

Actual electronic modules

Electronic type products are a modern type of equipment and have additional functions besides the traditional ones. In this segment, products from the German company Osram lead the way.

Their cost is slightly higher than the Chinese or domestic equivalents, but significantly lower compared to competitors such as Philips and Vossloh-Schwabe.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

The Osram electronic ballasts have a number of advantages. They are neatly shaped and modestly sized, can operate in temperatures of -15...+50 °C and last for 100,000 hours

Best branded modules that stand out from the competition are the Horos electronic ballasts.

Despite the loyal cost, these items exhibit high operating efficiency and a good level of efficiency, eliminating ignition delay, minimizing power consumption and increasing the light output of the lamp itself.

With these products, the annoying flicker in fluorescent lamps can be eliminated and lighting fixtures can be made as comfortable and operationally comfortable as possible.

The young, promising company Feronis not far behind the venerable old-timers of the market either. It offers users European level products at a very small, reasonable price.

How to choose a ballast for fluorescent lamps: device, how it works, types

Feron ballasts are neatly made. All parts have certificates of conformity. The outer casing, made of plastic, is an elongated flat rectangle. The product is lightweight and easy to install in fluorescent light sources of any configuration

Feron ballast-type devices protect lamps from unexpected electromechanical disturbances and voltage fluctuations, eliminate the eye irritating flicker and help save over 30% of electrical energy.

The Feron ballast-controlled fluorescent light turns on/off instantaneously. There is no background sound effect during operation. The lighting is soft, uniform and creates a pleasant, quiet atmosphere around.

Conclusions and useful video on the subject

How the electronic device in a fluorescent lamp works. A detailed description of the device and how the product works:

What is the difference between electromagnetic and electronic ballasts. Features of each of the modules and specific nuances of their use in household lighting devices:

Peculiarities of the operation of luminaires equipped with ballasts of different types. Which elements are more effective and why. Practical recommendations and useful tips from personal experience of the master:

To choose the right ballast for household fluorescent lamps, you need to know how this element is constructed and what function it performs. With this information and by knowing the varieties of the device, it is possible to buy the right modification without any difficulty.

The cost of the module depends on the manufacturing plant, but even branded products have a quite loyal price and do not harm the budget of the average consumer.

You have experience choosing and replacing the ballast in a fluorescent lamp? Please tell your readers which module you have chosen and if you are happy with your purchase. Comment on the publication and participate in the discussions. The feedback box is below.

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