Ballasts – Types

Electrical gas charged lights need a piece of equipment that will control the starting and operating voltage of the light. That piece of equipment is called a lighting ballast. This can be any part of the circuit that controls the movement of electricity that is going to the light. It goes from a single resistor to a more complex device. A resistor maintains a safe current. There are different types of lights that are gas charged:

* Fluorescent lights

* Neon lights

* High intensity discharge (HID) lights

A light has negative resistance and cannot regulate the current that flows through it. The lighting ballast prevents the light from failing. A passive component can be used on small lights to control the electrical current, like a series of resistors across a terminal. This won’t work on larger, high-powered lights and a more intricate lighting ballast is required due to the amount of electricity that would be consumed. This is more economical and reduces operating costs. There are different types of electrical ballasts that can be used for lighting.


This type of ballast uses electromagnetic induction to control the starting and operating current of a gas discharge light. The coil of wire and an electromagnetic field inside performs the function of transforming voltage. Some also include an igniter for high-power applications.

An electromagnetic ballast won’t change the frequency of the power input when it limits the current flow. Illumination occurs on each half-cycle of the power source. Flickering is noticeable on many fluorescent and neon lights.

Lead-Lag Lighting Ballast

This type of ballast can minimize flicker by alternating the flow of current to two lamps. It works by one of the lamps leading the frequency of the input power and the other lamp will lag behind it.

Electronic Lighting Ballast

This is the more modern lighting ballast and it uses solid state circuitry to transform voltage. This ballast differs from the electromagnetic ballasts because it has the capabilities to alter power frequency. The electronic lighting ballast is preferred because it can greatly reduce, and even eliminate any flicker in the lamps. It’s also more efficient, which makes it operate cooler.