Of the many varieties of fluorescent light bulbs being manufactured and used today, there is at least one thing that is common to each and every one: they all need a ballast in order to produce any light at all. When it comes to producing light from a fluorescent bulb, the phosphors on the glass portion of the bulb get excited by energy passing through the tube and they begin to glow. Without that energy flow, the phosphors will not emit the light you need. Fluorescent ballasts regulate the flow of energy through the bulb.
Ballasts in general are composed of electronic parts, surrounded by sand in order to disperse the heat generated. They are heavy, as a result, and can be quite large. Some universal sign ballasts are more than 10 pounds and over 12" in length. The higher the wattage being used by the ballast, the larger it typically needs to be. Also inside of most ballasts is copper wire used to convert line voltage into usable energy for lighting up fluorescent bulbs. Even though technically a ballast is not the same as a transformer, they are quite similar, as part of the function of the fluorescent ballast is as a transformer.
Most fluorescent fixtures come with a ballast already wired into it. When the need arises to change the ballast, we can help by provided virtually any type of fluorescent ballast you may need. We primarily carry Universal / Magnatek ballasts and Sylvania ballasts, but we can special order Advance ballasts and Robertson ballasts as well. No matter the brand, each ballast comes with a diagram shown on the label that will display the way it should be set up, so if you have a basic knowledge of electrical systems, installing your new fluorescent ballast is fairly easy. Working with electrical systems comes with inherent risk and should be done very deliberately and carefully. Of course, if you wish to hire a professional electrician to install it, you can do that as well.
Fluorescent ballasts come in a wide variety of styles. Some are designed for the T5 Pentron bulbs, some for the T8 bulbs, some for T12 bulbs, and so on. Within each of those types, a given ballast may control one, two, three, or four bulbs each. The voltage of the ballast is also important. They generally come in 120 volt, 277 volt, or 347 volt, but are made for 12 volt and other special types of installations, too. In fact, the latest trend in ballast design has manufacturers making universal voltage ballasts, meaning you can use the same ballast model in any voltage. Even compact fluorescent bulbs have ballasts in them, although you cannot see them in some models because the ballast is actually built into the bulb itself. You can tell which CFL bulbs have a built-in ballast, as those will have a standard screw-in base. Pin based compact fluorescents have a small ballast mounted in the fixture itself. You should always read the label of your ballast before ordering a replacement, just to verify you are ordering the correct one. If you call our phone center representatives (800.948.1063) you can read what is on your label to them and they will be able to properly identify the ballast you need.