Replacing Lamps and Ballasts in Fluorescent Lighting Fixtures

Although fluorescent lamps are generally energy efficient, there are new, even more efficient lamps that use better electrodes and coatings than do older fluorescent lamps. These lamps produce about the same lumen output with substantially lower wattage.

Common 40-watt and 75-watt lamps can be replaced with energy-saving lamps of 34 watts and 60 watts, respectively. Energy-saving lamps for less-common fluorescent fixtures are also available.

If you need to replace the ballasts in your fluorescent fixtures, consider using one of the improved varieties. These fluorescent ballasts, called improved electromagnetic ballasts and electronic ballasts, raise the efficiency of the fixture 12%–30%.

Newer electromagnetic ballasts reduce ballast losses, fixture temperature, and system wattage. Because they operate at cooler temperatures, they last longer than standard electromagnetic ballasts.

Electronic ballasts operate at a very high frequency that eliminates flickering and noise. They are even more efficient than improved electromagnetic ballasts. Some electronic ballasts even allow you to operate the fluorescent lamp on a dimmer switch, which usually is not recommended with most fluorescents.

Before replacing a lamp and/or ballast in a light fixture, it's a good idea to first understand basic lighting principles and terms, if you don't already. This understanding will help you make the most economical purchase.

Fluorescent Lamp Disposal

All fluorescent lights contain small amounts of mercury. Some compact fluorescent lamps with magnetic ballasts contain small amounts of short-lived radioactive material. Because of these hazardous materials, you should not toss burned-out lamps into the trash.

Find out if there is a recycling program for them in your community—they are becoming more common. You can also dispose of the lamps with other household hazardous wastes such as batteries, solvents, and paints at your community's designated drop-off point or during a designated day when you can put such materials with your curb-side trash pickup.

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