All You Need to Know About Ballasts

If you are an electrician, or a do it yourself homeowner, chances are you’ve heard of electrical supplies called ballasts.

Ballasts are necessary for a fluorescent or HID light source. They ensure the lamp stays lit by managing the distribution of energy throughout the fixture. There are different types available. Read on to find out more and which kinds might be best suited for your home improvement venture.


Ballasts adjust according to the conditions imposed on it to suit your lighting needs. It can vary the amount of energy coming through the light for a dimming effect. There are also modern ones which incorporate energy and money saving features.

The two types available are the magnetic and the electronic ballasts. Magnetics are of an older technology. If you hear buzzing or see flickering coming from a light, a magnetic ballast is typically the culprit because they regulate energy incrementally. Magnetic ballasts are used in T12 linear fluorescents and two pin CFLs.

Electronic ballasts do not buzz because they put out multiple frequencies without needing input voltage altered. These are a sign of the times, and, because they work more efficiently, you may want to replace your magnetic with electronic ones.

BallastsDifferent Types of Ballasts

Types of ballasts can be further broken down into subcategories. These include:

Rapid Start: Due to a sort of preheating method, these start up right away without flickering but they are not very energy efficient. They also are not very reliable in colder climates.

Instant Start: These also start right away but do not rely on a preheating method. They are more energy efficient and more reliable than rapid start.

Programmed Start: These work by motion or occupancy sensor making them a more energy efficient choice.

Probe Start: An older type of ballast, these typically take a bit longer to warm up and reach their full brightness. They work when electrons jump across the arc tube between two operating electrodes. This operating system can be rough on an HID lamp.

Pulse Start: A more modern version of the probe start, these don’t use a starting probe electrode. They use a high voltage igniter that works right inside the ballast. The lamp light is extended and they are more energy efficient than the probe starts.

Emergency: These are used to power lamps at reduced light outputs for up to 90 minutes. They recharge themselves to full life capacity after each use.

Ballasts can be purchased at electrical supply stores. They are also available at electrical supply online outlets. Electricians may choose to purchase them at electrical wholesale outlets.

Ballasts are an electrical supply necessary for the operating of fluorescent and HID light sources. If there is something wrong with your light, it may be the reason. Hopefully this article gave you all the resources you will need to find the best ballast for your home improvement situation.