How does the ballast work in a fluorescent light?

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How does the ballast work in a fluorescent light?
Fluorescent lights can't work without ballasts. (light image by Ergün Ã--zsoy from Fotolia.com)

Believe it or not, fluorescent lights are instrumental in the daily lives of millions. They are particularly useful in hospitals, schools and offices for better viewing. They also have long operating lives. Next time you come across fluorescent lighting, thank ballasts, which are necessary to make them work.

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Function

A ballast is a light transformer wired to an electric circuit within a light bulb. When currents flow through the circuit, a magnetic field is produced inside the ballast. This magnetic field stays in the ballast until a light switch connected to the light is turned on. When someone turns on the light switch, the magnetic field bursts out of the ballast, stimulates the current, and the magnetic field in the ballast converts to energy. This causes the light to glow.

Electronic Ballasts

Electronic ballasts are the most popular of all ballast forms. Not only do they provide a natural glow, they are the most cost-effective. They also reduce light flicker and irritating noise. Electronic ballasts are inserted in quad and triple tubes, circlines and long twin tubes within a bulb. Electronic ballasts also deliver high output for germicide UV-C lamps. Other forms of ballasts include dimming and magnetic ballasts.

Ballast Partners

Ballasts work directly with phosphor, a white, powdery substance on the inside of a fluorescent bulb, and a filament. The filament is a coiled wire that runs from one end of the bulb to the other. When the ballast is operating, the phosphor heats electrons. These electrons produce energy to make the ballast function. The ballast must work with the phosphor and filament for it to operate correctly. One without the other will cause the light to fail.

Cycles Per Second

The hertz or cycles per second are the changes that occur in a ballast. The magnetic field in the ballast rotates 120 times per second. This causes the constant rate of light emitted in a fluorescent light. This action also produces the heat in fluorescent lighting. When the cycles per second reduce, the fluorescent lighting will begin to flicker and will eventually fail to provide light. Reduced hertz is irreparable. A new bulb with a new ballast must be installed in the lighting fixture for it to work again.

Regulation

Ballasts produce the initial form of energy in a fluorescent light. Once it has begun the process of forming light, it regulates the amount of energy emitted from the bulb. Without this regulation, the bulb would burn out faster.

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