Let’s talk a bit about ballasts.

Most of you are familiar with ballasts, you have to have one to power a fluorescent lamp. Fluorescent lamps aren’t self-regulating like a screw-in incandescent light bulb, they need something to push and regulate the power to them, thus, we have the ballast. ¬†Without a ballast, the amount of current the fluorescent lamp was drawing would quickly increase until the lamp explodes. ¬†I haven’t actually seen that, but I’m confident enough of the science to just take the engineer’s word for it.

If you haven’t paid attention, ballasts have radically changed in the last decade or two. It used to be a matter of finding a ballast that is rated for the ultraviolet lamp you are trying to power, then buy and install it. This is most obvious with choke style ballasts (ie: ballasts that use an off board lamp starter) but is also the same for magnetic or the first generation electronic ballasts. If they were rated for 40 watts, then they pushed 40 watts, no matter what you had connected to them. This isn’t the case any more.

I’ve worked with a number of different ballasts over the years with tanning beds as well as custom curing rigs. Literally every type you can name. What we’ve found is the new style is superior, although a bit quirky. If you put a hertz meter on the lamp end, you find that magnetics and older style electronic ballasts operate in the 10,000-25,000hz range (choke ballasts work at the same hertz as the feed cycles, 60hz here in the US). The newer electronics work at 100,000 or higher, which we presume is more efficient at exciting the mercury atoms; the heart of how a fluorescent lamp works.

The quirky part is that they are self adjusting, to a degree. If you put a shorter lamp on them, they will draw less power. If you put a longer lamp on them, they will draw more power, up to their power limit. This lets us use the same ballast in a number of different power configurations. The best example is the Workhorse 8, which has six red leads. You can power six F32 lamps, or four in HO mode. You can also power three F71 lamps in HO mode, or even four, five or six in lower power modes. If you use two of the red wires per lamp, you can power two F71 lamps in quazi VHO mode. If you wire three F71 lamps with one red wire per lamp, you get a different output than if you wire them with two red wires per lamp. Of course, you can power four F59 lamps, and I’ve even used them to power F14T12 lamps. More confusing, the less F32 lamps you run on the ballast, the higher it powers each. It is likely one of the most flexible ballasts for pushing UV lamps, if you understand them and you are willing to use an ameter to measure the output. Keep in mind, some of these configurations aren’t “certified”, although commonly used.

On the regular website, we list a number of different configurations for each ballast, which might seem confusing at first but it is actually easy once you have the basics down, and erase the idea that the ballast delivers a fixed current out of its leads.

Dennis Brown