converting fluorescent to electronic ballast

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Old 01-18-06, 07:15 AM
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converting fluorescent to electronic ballast

Is it reasonable/practical to convert existing fluorescent lights to electronic ballast? My basement is full of ancient 4' fluorescent fixtures with huge reflectors hardwired in. A few seem to have bad ballasts or starters, but I really don't want to fix them as is. It looks like the tubes for electronic ballast lights will fit the fixtures and all I'd need to do would be to replace the ballast. Is it really that easy? Then comes the practical part: my home center sells electronic ballasts "commercial use only. Not for residential use." for $21. Is there any reason these would be "not for residential use" other than they don't want the liability of homeowners installing them wrong? Is that really a good price for these ballasts? The same home center sells their "better" shop lights with electronic ballast for only $20. I'd lose the large heavy duty reflectors and have to do a lot of re-wiring but the lights themselves would be cheaper.
 
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Old 01-18-06, 03:22 PM
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It is as simple as changing the ballast to electronic.
i don't know what the 'commercial ballast' is. Check the voltage on them. They might 277 or 347 volt for three phase power in commercial buildings. If they are 120 volts I don't see why you couldn't use them. It sounds like you have commercial fixtures anyway.
 
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Old 01-18-06, 05:47 PM
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I think the tombstones are different. ( The pieces that hold the lamps in place). T-8 lamps are much smaller in diameter, then the standared old t-12
's that were in there.

Go ahead and just replace the whole fixture. You will do less re-wiring. The ballest usually have 4-6 wires to change plus your switch leg, BTW the standard lamps are supposedly not in production anymore, and all that will be available after the current supply is gone will be t-8 lamps.
 
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Old 01-19-06, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by tnecontractor
I think the tombstones are different. ( The pieces that hold the lamps in place). T-8 lamps are much smaller in diameter, then the standared old t-12
's that were in there.

Go ahead and just replace the whole fixture. You will do less re-wiring. The ballest usually have 4-6 wires to change plus your switch leg, BTW the standard lamps are supposedly not in production anymore, and all that will be available after the current supply is gone will be t-8 lamps.
Not only would it save you some hastle to replace the whole fixture, but it might save you some money, most of the time new ballasts costs more than the whole fixture.
 
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Old 01-19-06, 05:57 PM
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The pin spacing on T8's is the same as T12 lamps.
 
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Old 01-19-06, 05:58 PM
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Tombstones are the same on the lamps we use.
 
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Old 01-22-06, 09:17 AM
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HD has more variety of T12 still

Originally Posted by tnecontractor
... BTW the standard lamps are supposedly not in production anymore, and all that will be available after the current supply is gone will be t-8 lamps.
That would be nice: it's about time we got away from them. However my local HD still has more variety and quantity of T12 fixtures and bulbs, and at a much lower price. Either they're still being made or that chain is trying to dump a huge inventory.
 
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Old 01-22-06, 09:24 PM
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Replace the ballasts

I would replace the ballasts and re-lamp. You will save yourself a lot of hassle. I have retrofitted thousands of fluorescent fixtures over the last decade, and the older fixtures are usually much higher quality. They will accept the t-8 lamps with no difficulities. A hint to save some money: look on eBay. I buy cases of ballasts there all the time and usually pay somewhere around $5 for a two-lamp ballast in quantity.
 
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Old 01-24-06, 10:18 AM
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what should I look for?

Originally Posted by swpidgeon
I would replace the ballasts and re-lamp. You will save yourself a lot of hassle. I have retrofitted thousands of fluorescent fixtures over the last decade, and the older fixtures are usually much higher quality. They will accept the t-8 lamps with no difficulities. A hint to save some money: look on eBay. I buy cases of ballasts there all the time and usually pay somewhere around $5 for a two-lamp ballast in quantity.
Interesting idea and I certainly see several auctions for lots of several to 10 for a much more reasonable price, but where can I find out how to decipher the specs?

For example:
-----
This auction is for 10 new electronic ballast Sasi 2x32 PLUS (Model No. 2F032T8RSFO). The ballasts are 120V, 60Hz for use with 2 F32T8 Lamps. Minimum starting temperature: 50 F, THD <5%, Class P, Sound Rating A. Short length wires (High Output Ballast specially manufactured for replacing 2x40 W magnetic ballast), Constant Light Output, UL Listed
-----

Ok, this appears to be what I want but is it suitable for a semi-finished basement? What do "THD <5%, Class P, Sound Rating A" mean and do I care about the length of the wires? A similar lot said something like "Outside Sound rating A", so does that mean that A is noisy? Noise is the second biggest reason I want to replace the magnetic ballasts with electronic.
 
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Old 01-24-06, 06:04 PM
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Look for a reputable brand...

I would stay away from the no-name brands (I've never heard of Sasi). Look for ones manufactured by Advance, Magnetek, GE, or even Universal. Those ones are always good. In fact, many electronic ballasts these days are universal voltage so you do not have to worry about having them arrive only to find out they are designed for a 277 volt system.

Sound rated A is the best I believe, but don't quote me on that. Rarely have I seen an electronic ballast that caused a noise issue, but they are out there.

Another tip: you can sometimes score a deal on eBay for three-lamp ballasts. Unlike, their magnetic predecessors, electronic ballasts will usually work with any combination of lamps, up to the rated number. Just insulate the unused blue lead(s). In fact, I think I still have about 50 sitting in the shop.

Good luck in your hunt!
 
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Old 01-24-06, 08:30 PM
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If your fluorescent fixtures have starters, they're ancient and are wired with cloth-covered wire that is probably all crispy by now.

If they're nice heavy fixtures I would still keep them, but I'd replace all of the wire and the tombstones, too. The wiring will be different from the wiring used for electronic ballasts anyway. The wire you'll need is a special sort - get it from a lighting supply house.

Add me to the group that avoids strange` electronic ballasts from Ebay and anywhere else. Stick with the big name brands.
 
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