Can You Replace a Magnetic Ballast with an Electronic Ballast? Can You Replace a Magnetic Ballast with an Electronic Ballast?

It is possible to replace a magnetic ballast with an electronic ballast and there are many reasons why you might want to do so.

Why Would You Want To Replace Your Magnetic Ballast?

    Magnetic ballasts are considered hazardous waste. For a long time, they contained PBCs. Many jurisdictions try to put a limit on how many you can throw into the trash at one time. On a national scale, the upgrade to electronic ballasts reduces electricity demand by 25 billion kilowatt hours. This prevents the emission of 17.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the environment. This also saves $2 billion on energy bills every year.  Electronic ballasts work much better at lower temperatures. Electronic ballasts are increasingly becoming the standard, and in some jurisdictions, they are required. In April of 2005, the Department of Energy officially outlawed the manufacture of magnetic ballasts for a variety of standard light fixtures. Electronic ballasts do not hum. This is a function of their electronic circuitry. For the same reason, they have a steadier output. The flickering light associated with magnetic ballasts are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Electric ballasts emit more light than their magnetic counterparts.

    Furthermore, electric ballasts are more energy efficient. T12 electronic ballasts are 20 percent more energy efficient than the magnetic technology that it replaces. They can reduce energy consumption by 10 watts per ballast, on average. This can be thought of in dollar amounts. A typical application operates lights for 4,000 hours per year. This application has an average cost of 8 cents per kWh. Upgrading to an electronic ballast reduces energy costs by $3.20 per ballast per year. This comes out to $40 per ballast over the device’s lifespan. This means a lot of money savings in the long run, especially in very large commercial outfits. The only real disadvantage of electronic ballasts is that they might interfere with AM radio.


    Electronic ballasts are often designed around their magnetic ballast predecessors. However, replacing magnetic ballasts with electronic ballasts is not without its complications. The wiring may be different. Look at the wiring diagram on the ballast label to make sure. Check the ballast label against the labels on the lamps to make sure that they are compatible. Compatibility is a thorny and complex issue. Fluorescent lamps are expected to run at some current to produce its specified light output and life. Because fluorescent lamps are gas discharge devices, their voltage actually goes down with an increase in current. The ballast regulates this voltage. Ballasts will list lamp types and wattages that are compatible. Wattage, starting type, and lamp diameter are all important considerations.

    Many electronic ballast designs are available. Here are two of the most common:

    • Standard T10/T12 Electronic Ballasts. These ballasts are typically used with conventional series-wired rapid start systems. These can directly replace old magnetic T10 ballasts, as they were designed around them.
    • T8 Electronic Ballasts. These are the most high-efficiency of any lighting system. These might be harder to be made compatible, but it is still possible.

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