Fluorescent Ballasts

Written by Ingrid Chen
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Light bulbs that use fluorescent gas discharge to produce light requires fluorescent ballasts to operate those bulbs safely and consistently. Ballasts, which are used in conjunction with neon, fluorescent and other gas discharge lamps, produce an initial high charge to set off the chemical reaction, and then subsequently control the electric current to maintain a safe and steady level of light discharge. Fluorescent ballasts control the voltage, amperage, and waveform of fluorescent lights.

How Fluorescent Ballasts Work

Fluorescent ballasts in particular are manufactured for three main fluorescent bulb types: Preheat, rapid start and instant start. Preheat operation lamp electrodes, as the name suggests, are heated before starting the initial discharge. A switch closes, which permits current to flow between each electrode in the lamp, and then opens to send the supply voltage down the length of the tub, thereby setting of the discharge.

Instant start lamp electrodes do not heat before being switched on, and therefore require a high discharge of starting voltage in order to extend between the cold electrodes, and produce an arc of steady light. Rapid start operation lamp electrodes are heated both before and while in operation.

Check to see what fluorescent ballasts you need to properly fit your lighting system, because each ballast is very specific to its corresponding bulb. It is easiest to purchase from a retailer that specializes in lighting, who most likely carries a wide array of ballasts, or can cater to your needs.

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