Throughout the decades, scientists and lighting manufacturers have been motivated to invent lights that are more operationally efficient and cost effective than earlier models. As lights have improved, they have also become more complex structurally. The fluorescent and the high-intensity discharge bulbs of today contain ballasts, unlike the incandescent lamp. The lamp ballast improves the operational efficiency of a light bulb and makes it more energy efficient. The way we measure the efficiency of a ballast is the ballast factor.

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What is a Lamp Ballast?

A 4 lamp electronic ballast from Howard Lighting has the ballast factor printed on it A 4 lamp electronic ballast from Howard Lighting.

Fluorescent and high-intensity lamps essentially contain gas-filled chambers. When electric current is passed through this chamber, the heated gas particles release photons that go on to emit light. However, these lights have negative resistance. This means that they cannot regulate the voltage of electric current passing through their gas chambers. A high voltage electric current or an electrical surge can damage a lighting device.

In a nutshell, a light ballast regulates the amount of electric current passing through the lamp by distributing the current equally among the various components of the lighting device. Specifically, the ballast regulates the starting and operating voltages of lights. Ballasts thus prevent electrical surges through lamps and increase their operational efficacy and longevity.

How To Use The Ballast Factor

Quite simply, the ballast factor is the fraction of the light that will be emitted from a lamp when using that particular ballast. A ballast's ballast factor can range from 0.70 to 1.20. If you are powering a lamp that emits 1000 lumens with a ballast that has a ballast factor of 0.95, that light fixture will emit 950 lumens.

Here is how we calculate that. Let's say we have a light fixture that has two lamps, and they each emit 2750 lumens. That light fixture will use a ballast with a ballast factor of 1.10:

2 Lamps x 2750 Lumens x 1.1 Ballast Factor = 6050 emitted lumens

 

A Different Ballast Factor For Different Lamp Ballasts

There are different ballasts for specific lamps. Ballasts vary structurally and functionally. For instance, small lamps use simply-designed ballasts known as series resistors. The series resistors are passive structural components that do not need to receive power separately to function. However, these components only have limited capabilities and consume a lot of energy to perform their functions. So they are insufficient for use in high-power lighting devices like high-intensity discharge lamps and fluorescent and neon lights.

Electromagnetic ballasts contain a coil of wire and generate an electromagnetic field. These ballasts work on the principle of electromagnetic induction to regulate the starting and operating current voltages across the terminals of gas discharge lamps. However, these ballasts are unsuitable for use in fluorescent and neon lights because they cause flickers and make the bulbs ineffective.

Electronic ballasts are more widely used on fluorescent and neon lights to counter the shortcomings of the electromagnetic ones. A prudent business owner should take care while buying ballasts for the lights at his commercial premises to optimize operational expenditures and increase the returns on his infrastructural investment. Knowing how ballasts work to make light bulbs more efficient will help you make the right choice.

 

Ballasts for Fluorescent Lights

A lamp ballast is receives power from the electrical system of a commercial space. It usually uses 110 volts of alternating current (AC). A typical ballast for a fluorescent lamp consists of a capacitor. The ballast provides power to the ignitor in the bulb and stores the high-voltage current within the capacitor. This regulates the flow of electricity and enables the ignitor to trigger a reaction within the gas-filled chamber of the bulb. This reaction ultimately produces light.

Electrical ballasts can control the frequency of power derived from the electrical current. For instance, a sophisticated model of ballast can increase the frequency from 60 Hz to 20 kHz. This reduces instances of flicker in fluorescent bulbs and increases their efficiency.

 

Ballasts for LED Lights

Many commercial space owners are increasingly using LED lights to light up their business premises more effectively which also invoke increased cost savings simultaneously. Many neon and LED lights use fixed resistors as ballasts. These components have far greater resistance than the volume of electric current or the voltage circulating through the lighting device. This prevents an electrical surge running through and damaging the lighting device.

When there is an electrical surge in a neon or an LED light fitted with a fixed resistor, the temperature of the latter rises to absorb the additional voltage. In case the voltage of the current rises beyond the resistance level of the resistor, the latter triggers a break in the electrical circuit of the bulb and cuts off the electric supply to the various components of the light. The light goes off and the device incurs no damage.

 

Ballasts for Digital High-Intensity Lights

Digital high-intensity lights are high-powered lighting applications that demand powerful ballasts to keep working efficiently and provide the maximum return on investment to business owners. The ballasts for these lights consist of a micro-processing unit that determines (smartly) the exact amount of starting voltage needed to power a bulb and also the amount of power that will make the bulb emit a consistent volume of light without flickers. These ballasts are especially effective for use throughout the lifespan of a bulb and especially when a particular lighting device has been use for years.

We can also use these ballasts with lights that have motion sensors to lower the amount of light that emits in a vacant space. This feature, in turn, reduces the energy bills of a commercial pace owner.

Knowing about light ballasts and how they work will help you buy the one that is compatible with the particular kind of lighting device you have installed on your operation’s floor, business property, office setting, and so on. This will toss out an invitation to improved operational efficiency and a reduction in energy costs.

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