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June 6, 2016

Ballast or no ballast, that is the question.

Ballast diagram

Should your lighting always have a ballast?

The ballast is a device that is used to prevent electrical current becoming to great, while passing through a electrical circuit. It is called “ballast”, because just like it’s nautical counter-part, it keeps the circuit stable and prevents reaching destructive levels. Ballasts often come in two forms, magnetic and electric. The latter one being the more modern of the two. you can often find ballasts in tube light circuitry. This is due to the fact that many fluorescent tube lights generate negative differential resistance. If fluorescent lamps did not have one, they almost certainly would become a dangerous hazard.

This negative different resistance generates from a bi-input power supply, that the ballast counter acts. However LED lamps often now do not need bi-inputs; often single input power supply will be satisfactory. Yet this is not compatible with circuits that have a ballast or starter included. To make the single power supply lamps work the starter and the ballast must be removed while rewiring the circuit. This seems a hassle to many businesses that want to solve their lighting issues quickly and smoothly. Accordingly many manufacturers of LED tube-lights still supply ballast compatible, bi-input tube lights.

The different types of tubes

Single input Power supply

So how do these tube-lights differ and what are their strengths and weaknesses? Is removing the ballast and rewiring worth it? To start with the single input power supply has a major advantage. It has a lower per unit cost compared to bi-input power supply lamps. Also while removing the ballast and rewiring seems inconvenient, it saves time and money in the long run. In the future they also will need replacing at some point. Ballasts have a average lifespan of two years, so often, especially with LED lights, it is the ballast that needs replacing more often than the actual lamp. This wastes time and money in the long term. Furthermore single power supply lamps are the safest option. After the removing ballast and rewiring the circuit, they are simply a lot more stable. Saving many businesses from unneeded electrical and fire damage in the future.

The noticeable downside for single power supply lamps is that it seems like an unneeded cost removing all the ballasts. In some countries it legally requires a electrician to do this kind of job. This may seem unattractive to business which is reliant on good cash-flow. Finally some countries may also have laws requiring a ballast. Obviously this block the entire use of single end power supply.

Bi-input power supply

Bi-input power supply on the other hand, is good if the desire is to plug and play after replacing the fluorescent lighting. Rather than, replacing ballasts and the lighting all in an instant which would take more time and money in the short-term. Though there are three key disadvantages that all bi-input power supply lamps posses. Firstly they have higher per unit cost when compared to the single power supply. Secondly they have lower power efficiency as the ballast uses power as well; unnecessarily sacrificing energy costs. Thirdly they are not completely compatible with every single type of ballast, especially magnetic.

You must ensure you have compatible ballast lights, before purchasing and installing, otherwise time will be wasted. Some variants of bi-input power supply LED lamps can still operate after removing the ballast. This may seem very tempting to companies that want a quick easy fix and no future costs. They simply would not need to purchase further lighting. Yet future costs is likely what they would come across. This is extremely dangerous action to take and could easily cause fire.

It now seems very clear from the facts presented here, why some of the top LED distributors, such as SeniorLED, have begun recommending their clients to remove the ballast and rewire the circuit to support a single end power supply. This is the smart choice for the long term in terms of time, budget and safety. Distributors and lighting contractors will be making a wise step to switching to only single power supply LED lighting as long as the countries law does not prevent them from doing that.

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