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In a fluorescent lighting system, the ballast regulates the current to the lamps and provides sufficient voltage to start the lamps. Without a ballast to limit its current, a fluorescent lamp connected directly to a high voltage power source would rapidly and uncontrollably increase its current draw. Within a second the lamp would overheat and burn out. During lamp starting, the ballast must briefly supply high voltage to establish an arc between the two lamp electrodes. Once the arc is established, the ballast quickly reduces the voltage and regulates the electric current to produce a steady light output.
Maintaining an optimum electrode temperature is the key to long lamp life. Thus, some ballasts have a separate circuit that provides a low voltage to heat the lamp electrodes during lamp starting and typically during lamp operation (Hammer, 1995).
To achieve full rated light output and rated lamp life from a fluorescent lighting system, a ballast’s output characteristics must precisely match the electrical requirements of the lamps it operates. Traditionally, ballasts are designed to operate a specific number (usually one to four) and type of lamp (such as a four-foot T8 lamp) at a specific voltage (in North America either 120, 277, or 347 volts). Thus, to find a ballast compatible with a particular luminaire (light fixture), lamp type, lamp quantity, and line voltage must all be known.
Lamp Type : Four-foot T8 lamp
Power Output : 36 - 40 W
Input Voltage : 220 - 240 V/AC
Frequency : 50 Hz