Shop around for lights long enough, or be responsible for lighting infrastructure, and sooner or later you will want to know what some of the terms you’re coming across mean. Looking through a collection of random light bulbs, you’ll see words like “metal halide,” “tombstones,” “shunted sockets,” “drivers” and many others. Among them is the term “light ballast.” So, to make short of a long matter, what is a ballast and why does it matter?
Very broadly speaking, a light ballast is a type of electronic ballast that serves as a light bulb and regulates the current to the device. A ballast can be very simple. For example, some LED lights require resistors as a part of their circuitry so that sensors made for incandescent lights know whether they are on or off.
However, many ballasts used with lights, such as fluorescent lamps and HID lamps such as high-pressure sodium lamps, are much more complex than simple resistors. These devices, of which fluorescent ballasts and HID ballasts are types, have very specific purposes regarding the operation of the lamp. They regulate the current, it is true, but they also start the lamp, ensure the lamp reaches and maintains its full brightness and light output, and prevent it from burning out.
That’s a short introduction to just what a ballast does. As far as why it matters, well, without a ballast, many types of lamps would not be supplied sufficient voltage to start up, and even if they did, they would quickly overheat and burn out. Basically, a ballast, where necessary, is crucial to the basic operation and function of many lights. They also protect and extend lamp life in fluorescent lighting and HID lamps.
There are several different types of ballasts, but some of the different types you will come across are detailed below.
– Magnetic ballasts are older and not many fluorescent lights today contain them. They contain a coil of wire that only allows a certain amount of current to flow to the light. Because they are not as precise as electronic ballasts, magnetic ballasts sometimes cause slow startups, buzzing, and flickering.
Electronic ballasts are much more common today (with fluorescent lights) and are able to allow multiple different currents to the light regardless of the voltage and current input. Among the many types of electronic ballasts are instant start ballasts, rapid start ballasts, and programmed ballasts. Rapid start ballasts are designed to power the light on immediately but are not efficient. Conversely, instant start ballasts are designed to operate by providing a high voltage power source to turn the light, but unlike rapid start ballasts, they are much more energy-efficient.
HID ballasts are a little bit different. The two main types of HID ballasts are probe start ballasts and pulse start ballasts. Probe start ballasts, unfortunately, are relatively inefficient and have a long start delay. By contrast, pulse start ballasts, which use a high-voltage pulse to start the lamp, are very efficient and help extend the lamp life.
To learn more about light ballasts, the different types of them, and why you need them, get in touch with the professionals at Atlanta Light Bulbs. You can reach them on their website, atlantalightbulbs.com, or by phone at 1-888-988-2852. Their team is helpful, friendly, approachable, and knowledgeable, and they’ll help answer any questions you have, whether you’re replacing the magnetic ballast in a shop light or outfitting an entire warehouse with new lighting.
That’s another thing – they’re not just a font of information. You can get the lighting equipment you need on their website, and at great prices, too. Don’t wait; if you have questions, the answers are closer than you think.