Lighting FAQs: How Do You Know If Your Ballast Needs Replacement?

Have you noticed your fluorescent bulbs are on the fritz? The issue may not be with the bulbs themselves, but rather what's running them — the electrical ballast. An electrical ballast is a crucial part of a light fixture as it regulates the current to the bulbs and keeps them running smoothly.

Lighting FAQs: How Do You Know If Your Ballast Needs Replacement?

Have you noticed your fluorescent bulbs are on the fritz? The issue may not be with the bulbs themselves, but rather what’s running them — the electrical ballast. An electrical ballast is a crucial part of a light fixture as it regulates the current to the bulbs and keeps them running smoothly. If you find yourself in need of ballast repair, Legacy Electric can help! Here’s how to tell it might be time to schedule an electrical ballast replacement.

Lighting FAQs: How Do You Know You Need an Electrical Ballast Replacement?

Confirm That Your Lighting System Has a Ballast

Ballasts are usually rectangular in shape and have metal or plastic housings. They are available in two models (electronic and magnetic) and are required for fluorescent or HID (High-Intensity Discharge) lamps. Lamps such as incandescent and halogen lamps don’t require a ballast. Inside the housing of a ballast are often several components, including a core-and-coil transformer, capacitor, ignitor, and fuse. There are two primary roles that a lighting ballast plays in an electrical system: providing sufficient starting voltage and regulating the current flow. When power is applied to the ballast, it creates a high-voltage pulse, which helps ignite the lamp filament within the fixture. Once ignited, the ballast reduces its output voltage and current to levels where it can be safely sustained without damaging either itself or other components in the system — including lamps.

Know How Long Your Ballast Can Last

Knowing when ballast replacement is necessary for one’s particular lighting situation largely depends upon understanding how long these devices typically last before needing service or repairs performed on them. Although most ballasts should last between 20 and 30 years when properly maintained and operated under ideal conditions, they can fail prematurely due to external factors, such as exposure to excessive heat or moisture. To help avoid problems down the line with regard to faulty ballasts, it is critical that one regularly call a professional to inspect their lights for any signs of damage so that repairs can be scheduled before things become more serious later on down the road.

There’s a Buzzing Noise

When a buzzing sound is present, it could be coming from all of the bulbs or just one or two in particular. If you notice this sound coming from only one bulb, then chances are the ballast for that particular bulb has gone bad. On the other hand, if several bulbs are making a buzzing noise simultaneously, then it’s most likely indicative of a larger problem with the ballast or other components within the lighting system itself. The main reason why a ballast might be creating such a noise is that it can no longer handle or provide enough power to run all of the lights properly. This can cause some light bulbs to flicker on and off rapidly while others fail completely. Additionally, when the electrical current provided by a ballast isn’t regulated correctly, it can cause arcing and sparks.

The Lamps Are Dimming Periodically

If the lamps are dimming periodically, it may be time for ballast replacement. When a ballast becomes faulty, the current can fluctuate and cause the lamp to dim periodically. This might start as a slight flickering at first but can worsen over time to intermittent dimming that lasts a few seconds or even minutes. Water damage is another common cause of dimming lamps. If the ballast gets wet, either from an internal leak in your home or from exposure to rainwater from outside, then it can start to malfunction and will no longer be able to regulate the current coming through the lamp properly.

The Lamps Are Changing Colors

Ballasts regulate the electric current to ensure uniform brightness and consistent color temperature. Without it, voltage levels can surge sporadically, causing the lamps to emit varying colors.

Factors That Can Affect Brightness From Each Lamp

Different types of lamps require different types of ballast. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), for example, must have a ballast designed specifically for CFLs to provide proper power to the lamp and ensure uniform brightness from each lamp. If a ballast is incompatible with the type of lamp being used, it can cause instability in the power level, resulting in flickering or inconsistent brightness across all the lamps using that ballast. In addition, ballasts can also wear out over time due to general use and age; this is especially true if there are frequent fluctuations in power or if the lights are left on for long periods of time without rest. When this happens, the ballast needs to be replaced with one that is more compatible with your lighting system to restore uniform brightness and consistent color temperature across all lamps.

There’s No Lights at All

Faulty ballasts can cause all the lamps in your home or business to burn out at once. In some cases, the ballast may be damaged due to a power surge, but other times it can be due to simply getting old and wearing out. Replacing a ballast requires an experienced electrician who knows what they are doing and can properly test the connections for continuity before replacing them. It’s crucial to call a company that offers 24/7 emergency service. This ensures that the problem will be addressed immediately and without any delays. Furthermore, these professionals often have access to better quality components, which will offer higher performance for longer periods of time than off-the-shelf replacements.

Signs of a Faulty Ballast

Swollen Casing

Swollen casings can occur when the heat generated by the internal components of the ballast exceeds what the casing can tolerate. If an electrician notices that a ballast has a swollen casing during their visual inspection, there’s a good chance that replacement is needed right away. If you try and operate faulty equipment with a casing that’s already swollen, it may cause more serious problems, such as tripped breakers or fire hazards.

Burn Marks

The electrician will need to open the casing and examine the current-carrying wires and components within. If they detect any kind of burning or discoloring on these parts, then this can be a sign of too much current and that the existing ballast cannot handle it. Furthermore, if any of the components appear melted, then this could indicate a catastrophic failure within the current system. The presence of these burn marks means that it’s time for a new ballast.

Leaking Oil

As discussed earlier, most ballasts can last up to 30 years. This means that if your building was constructed a few decades ago, it’s likely that the old magnetic ballasts with their internally-used oil are still in use. The oil helps to cool the ballast components and preserve its efficiency. The fact that it is leaking means that the components of the ballast are beginning to age and may start to fail in time. Knowing when to replace an electrical ballast can be tricky. However, watching for signs like flickering lights, buzzing, burning marks, dimming lamps, or sparks can indicate a possible issue. If you are uncertain of what needs to be done with your lighting system, contact Legacy Electric today. We are a nationwide electrical service company and can help get your system up and running again fast.

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