What is an Electronic Ballast? – The Ultimate Guide


Written by

Thomas Carter



Marcos E. Williamson

what is an electronic ballast

If you are looking to upgrade your lighting system, electronic ballasts are a great place to start. But what is an electronic ballast exactly?

In this detailed guide, we will look at how an electronic ballast regulates the starting voltage and running currents of lighting gadgets, as well as its advantages over traditional ballasts. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about them!

What is an Electronic Ballast?

To start, let’s define ballast and the purpose of a ballast:

So, what does ballast do? A ballast is a device that regulates the amount of current that flows through a light bulb. It does this by providing the initial surge of power needed to start the bulb and limiting the current to a safe and steady level.

1. Definition of an Electronic Ballast


The electrical ballast definition defines it as a device used to regulate the amount of current that is delivered to a light bulb or lamp. It is often placed in a series.

The ballast works by converting AC voltage into DC and electronically controlling the current flow through the lamp.

2. History of Electronic Ballasts

Electronic ballasts were first developed in the 1980s as a more efficient alternative to traditional magnetic ballasts. But, in addition to their energy efficiency, ballast electrical units were also liked for better light quality and reduced flicker and humming.

Nowadays, electronic ballasts are used in various applications, from residential lighting fixtures to industrial and commercial settings.

3. Purpose of an Electronic Ballast


The electronic ballast plays a crucial role in a lighting system as it controls the flow of electricity to the lamp.

Without an electronic ballast, fluorescent and HID lamps would operate inefficiently and with a significant amount of flickering. The electronic ballast provides a consistent and reliable source of power to a lamp, reducing power consumption and extending the lifespan of the lamp.

4. Electronic Ballast Circuit Diagram, Ballast Schematics & Working Principle

Refer to the electronic ballast circuit diagram pdf below to see its working mechanism.


Electronic ballasts are made up of a few key components, including a rectifier, a capacitor, a half-bridge resonant output, and a control circuit. Its supply is roughly 50 Hz to 60 Hz.

Its main pricicle in regulating the voltage and current is referred to as electrical gas discharge.

  • The rectifier converts AC voltage into DC voltage, which is then used to charge the capacitor.
  • The inverter circuit then converts the DC voltage into high-frequency square wave voltage that powers the lamp.
  • Finally, the control circuit modulates the current and controls other functions, such as dimming.

An electronic ballast for fluorescent lamps works with the same principle. To trigger the gas discharge mechanism of an electronic ballast, a voltage of around 400 volts is necessary.

5. Fluorescent ballast types

Ballast types can be identified by their starting methods:

 01  Programmed Start Ballasts (PS)


Programmed start ballasts are designed to gently start lamps and extend their lifespan. They use special sensors to lower the stress exerted on the lamp and provide a more consistent and stable light source.

 02  Rapid Start Ballasts (RS)


These are made to start lamps quickly and efficiently. They use a pre-heating process that allows them to start lamps almost instantly. However, they put more stress on the lamp and reduce its lifespan over time.

 03  Instant Start Ballasts (IS)


These also start lamps quickly. However, different from rapid start ballasts, instant start ballasts do not need to warm up before turning on. Instead, they count on high voltage to light up.

Furthermore, there are two common types of fluorescent ballasts:

  Magnetic ballast Electronic ballast
Frequency  low frequency high frequency
Number of fluorescent lights 1- 4 1 – 4
Starting method PH, IS, RS IS, RS, PS
Fluorescent light operating frequency 60 Hz 20 000 Hz – 60 000 Hz
Flicker index 0.04 – 0.07 <0.01
Rated lifespan 10 – 15 years 10 – 20 years
Dimmable Yes Yes

Disadvantages of Electronic Ballasts Over Traditional Ballasts

While it is true that electronic ballasts offer more energy-efficient than traditional ballasts, they also have their share of downsides.

For starters, electronic ballasts have non-linear power consumption, which increases the risk of electrical interference and threatens their performance during sudden voltage fluctuations. They also have a higher initial cost compared to traditional ballasts. This is a problem especially when they are designed as a disposable product that is non-serviceable.

Installation, Maintenance & Troubleshooting of Electronic Ballasts

Proper installation and maintenance of electronic ballasts are important to ensure their optimal performance and longevity.

1. Installation Guidelines

When installing an electronic ballast, following the manufacturer’s guidelines and wiring diagrams is essential. Ensure the ballast is compatible with the lamp and the wiring is correctly connected to the power source. Mounting the ballast in a cool, dry environment is also necessary to prevent overheating.

2. Maintenance Tips

Regular maintenance is necessary to ensure ballast function and lifespan. Make an effort to clean the ballast and its surrounding area periodically to prevent the accumulation of debris and dust contributing to overheating. Inspect the wiring and connections for any signs of wear or damage, and replace any damaged parts as needed.

3. Troubleshooting Tips

As with other electrical devices, ballasts do not last forever. An electronic ballast 36w from Philips, for example, can serve 20,000 hours. Near the end of their life, ballasts might encounter issues.

If you experience any issues with your ballast, check the wiring and connections for any damage or loose connections. Test the lamp and replace it if it is damaged.

If the issue persists, try replacing the ballast with a new one compatible with the lamp. If none of these steps resolve the issue, it may be necessary to seek professional assistance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


How do I know if I have an electronic ballast?

The easiest way is to check your fluorescent light ballast’s label. If there is no label, you can try these steps:

  1. Point a smartphone camera at your light while you are under it or close to it.
  2. See if there are dark strips flickering in your camera. If there are, you have a magnetic ballast, not an electronic one.

What is the difference between magnetic and electronic ballasts?

Magnetic ballasts are old, larger, and heavier. They are not as efficient and often run into issues, such as flickering, though they are cheaper than electronic ballasts.

Between magnetic ballast vs. electronic ballast, the latter has the abilities to power multiple lights at once and dim them, while magnetic ballasts do not.

Can electronic ballasts be used with different types of lamps?

Electronic ballasts are made to work with specific ballast lamps like fluorescent, high-intensity discharge (HID), or light-emitting diode (LED) lamps. Though LED lamps do not need ballasts.

It is important to choose the right electronic ballast for the lamp you are using to ensure optimal performance and safety.

What are the safety precautions when installing an electronic ballast?

When installing an electronic ballast, it is important to turn off the power supply and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Make sure the wiring is properly grounded and insulated to avoid electric shock or fire hazards. It is also recommended to use protective gear like gloves and safety glasses.

How long will an electronic ballast last?

You can expect to get 10 – 15 years out of the use of an electronic ballast. Many manufacturers providing quality products can ensure up to 20 years of service.


What is an electronic ballast? As you have read, electronic ballasts are a crucial component of lighting systems for both residential and commercial settings. They play a role in regulating the flow of current to fluorescent and other types of lamps.

Compared to traditional magnetic ballasts, electronic ballasts offer advantages such as increased energy efficiency, better light quality, and reduced flicker and noise.

Now, you should know the definition of an electric ballast for light fixtures, the electronic ballast uses, and other essentials for making the most out of them.

For other information on ballasts, such as the ballast factor definition, check out our other blog posts.

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