Ballast Update

Aug. 27, 2002
The Benefits of High-efficiency Lighting

In the face of rising energy costs, facilities professionals must strive to streamline inefficient lighting equipment into today’s new technology in the hope that efficiency improvements are achieved. The fluorescent lighting industry recognizes the need to continually enhance existing products and introduce new products while delivering the most energy-efficient lamp/ballast systems.

Typically, lighting equipment is the last component to be installed in a newly constructed facility. Sometimes, if the project is over budget, the lighting will be downgraded to save costs. Lighting substitutions often do not provide the desired lighting environment for which they were originally designed, and can lead to higher operating and maintenance costs. Therefore, it is important to determine the lighting solution that provides the best optics while minimizing overall cost.

A high-efficiency electronic ballast may be the answer. Universal Lighting, for example, has a high-efficiency electronic ballast that yields an additional three- to six-percent savings compared to a standard T8 electronic ballast. When combined with the new energy-saving T8 lamps (F32T8/ES), the high-efficiency ballast/lamp system yields up to 11-percent savings vs. standard electronic T8 systems, and delivers 40-percent energy savings compared to conventional magnetic T12 systems. These premium high-efficiency products are designed to provide the lowest energy consumption and quickest payback for the end-user when renovating a lighting system.

Electronic ballasts can be classified by starting method (instant or programmed rapid start) or light output, which is measured and reported as ballast factor. The high-efficiency electronic ballasts offer two ballast factors options: 0.78 and 0.88. Installing the lower light output electronic ballast (0.78 ballast factor) is the most common upgrade when converting a 34-watt T12 lamp/electromagnetic ballast system to electronic ballasts with T8 fluorescent lamps. For new construction, the 0.88 ballast factor electronic ballasts maximize the lighting layout while reducing energy consumption.

High-efficiency electronic ballasts can also be used with standard T8 lamps. These ballasts offer full parallel lamp operation – when one lamp fails, the remaining lamps stay lit. This saves time and money on troubleshooting and maintenance costs by easily identifying the lamp in need of replacement.

Using controls to reduce energy consumption is another area where lighting applications have seen tremendous growth. The use of occupancy sensors to either reduce the light level or turn the lighting off is another way to reduce energy usage. If the cycles of operation are less than three hours, programmed rapid start electronic ballasts can provide up to 50-percent longer lamp life due to the “softer” starting of the lamp filaments. The programmed rapid start electronic ballast is “programmed” to first heat the fluorescent lamp filaments to a proper temperature, and then supply a high voltage to ignite the lamp. As a result, programmed rapid start technology extends lamp life over instant start systems in applications where the lamp is turned on and off frequently, and is an ideal solution for energy conservation within a facility.

For a comparison of lamp and ballast combinations, older T12 vs. newer T8 systems, check out the informative Universal Lighting Technologies’ chart here.

Mark Timbario is product manager-Electronic Ballasts at Universal Lighting Technologies Inc. (, headquartered in Nashville.

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