Problems with electronic ballasts

Written by michael e carpenter
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Problems with electronic ballasts
Lowering the light bill is one of the main advantages to electronic ballasts in industrial settings. (Felipe Dupouy/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Electronic ballasts are used with fluorescent lighting systems and are more energy efficient and run more quietly than traditional magnetic ballasts. Electronic ballasts have been around since the early 1980s, however, many issues kept the ballasts from gaining in popularity. Today, the electronic ballast is growing in market share as companies can get reliable ballasts and help lower their lighting bills. Even with advancements in technologies, problems may still exist in using electronic ballasts for fluorescent lighting needs.


Even as the electronic ballast technology has improved, making the ballasts more reliable, some ballasts still burn out. Once a ballast has burnt out, there is no way to fix it and it must be replaced. A new electronic ballast costs almost as much as the light fixture itself. According to AEL Group, most electronic ballasts fail within the first six months. If the ballast makes it past this initial phase it can be expected to run for 10-12 years before needing to be replaced. The majority of failures are caused by either a faulty product or incorrect installation of the ballast. Companies must research electronic ballast manufacturers to find companiesthat produce reliable ballasts.

Transient Protection

Voltage surges can cause a electronic ballast to overload and fail. While most electronic ballasts are protected from overheating within the unit, the ballasts are not well equipped to handle electrical surges which "fry" them.


Electronic ballasts work with very high frequencies which can create both radio frequency and electromagnetic interferences. The FCC has regulations on electronic ballasts and filters to reduce these interferences, however, the interference produced at the high range of these regulations may still create issues with equipment. Equipment sensitive to this type of interference should be considered prior to pursuing electronic ballast fluorescent lighting. Many manufacturers warn against using their electronic ballast products in conjunction with power line carrier lighting systems because of the interference that is produced.

Harmonic Distortion

Harmonic distortions create changes at higher frequencies which can lead to overheating and electrical surges. While most equipment, including computers, create harmonic distortion, it can be an issue if the load placed on the lighting system is a significant portion of the entire load placed on the building. High harmonic distortion can lead to blown transformers, voltage surges, interferences with communication systems and distortion of electrical service for the building. In most cases, an electronic ballast will not create issues due to harmonic distortions.

Ground Trickle

Most electronic ballasts should not be used in systems that have GFI systems. GFI, or ground fault interrupting systems, are used when current carried by ground conductors would create a safety issue, like around water. Electronic ballasts do leak current into the ground wire and therefore should not be used with GFI systems. If they are, the electronic ballast ground trickle will consistently trigger the GFI system and will shut down the circuits.

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