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Different ballasts are suitable for certain types of lamps or environments. But every HID or fluorescent light source needs at least some type of ballast to function properly.

A ballast controls how energy is distributed throughout a light fixture, ensuring balanced light projection. Certain electronic ballasts can also adjust to different conditions.

For example, a ballast can cause a fluorescent or HID lamp to dim when appropriate, conserving energy and resulting in huge economic savings for a building, not to mention environmental benefits. Some ballasts provide additional advantages by eliminating buzzing or flickering, resulting in a quieter and smoother lighting experience.

Electronic ballasts are common in the majority of fluorescent and HID lamps because of this adaptability. It's often worthwhile to switch to electronic ballasts for long-term savings and for lighting optimization in your space.

Types of HID Ballasts

Probe start ballasts are older and may be worthwhile for older lamps that don’t take to modern components. They operate using a probe electrode, which is removed from the electrodes when the lamp is started. Such ballasts result in a longer start-up phase.

Pulse start ballasts use a high-voltage igniter, literally pulsing to start a lamp up. This has the added benefit of extending your lamp’s life, depleting lumens a little slower. This also results in more energy efficiency, which in turn results in better savings for your building or business!

Types of Fluorescent Ballasts

Rapid start ballasts are extremely quick and allow you to turn a lamp on right away, plus don’t flicker whenever you flick a switch. They do this since they “pre-light” the lamps they’re used with. The downside is that they aren’t very energy-efficient, and they don’t work very well in temperatures of less than 50°F.

Instant start ballasts use a huge burst of voltage to strike the lamp and ignite it. This results in an almost instantaneous ignition, plus consistent ignition at very low temperatures. They’re very suitable for cold environments, and they even use less energy than rapid start ballasts.

Programmed start ballasts are connected to motion sensors or occupancy sensors – this is where they get their name. This prevents you from wasting energy by turning your fluorescent lamp on and off multiple times over and over. These ballasts are also very reliable at low temperatures.

Emergency Ballasts

This last ballast category can power reduced light lamps for up to 90 minutes. Many of the best emergency light ballasts can even recharge themselves after being used. As their name suggests, these ballasts are backup components intended to power a lamp when the primary ballast no longer works or is spent.

Why Ballast Type Matters

If you want to save money on lighting for your business, home, or office, choosing the right type of ballasts you pair with your lamps or bulbs can make a big difference in your energy bill. More importantly, different ballasts can be better for the environment by reducing energy output.

This may be important if you want your business to stay in compliance with certain green-energy codes, particularly if you live in states like California.