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#30741 - 10/26/03 08:00 PM Electronic ballast retrofit  
drillman  Offline
Joined: Mar 2003
Posts: 97
Somewhere in Texas
I am the electrician for a large county jail in Texas. We have 28 buildings of which 19 are 10 to 15 years old and 1 is 20 years old.

They all still have magnetic ballasts with T12 lamps. There are over 10,000 2 lamp fixtures. They are almost all 2 lampers, a very small amount of 3 and 4 lampers.

The state of texas passed a buncha laws about local goverments saving electricity. So my engineer boss told me to look into getting electronic ballasts and retrofiting the fixtures.

Spoke to some salesmen and got conflicting views. We have a contract with a vendor that sells Advance so I have concentrated on that brand. I have also looked at some GE ballasts that sure look good on paper, they cost more than advance.

Best I can figure out. there are three choices

rapid start series operation, cheap and use moderate juice

instant start parallel operation, cheap and use the least juice

programmed start not sure if series or parallel, expensive and use the most juice.

One salesman said to get instant start because they would save the most electricity and it would not affect lamp life.

Another salesman said to get rapid start because the instant start will shorten lamp life.

Yet another said to get programmed start because its the best with the newest technology and longest lamp life.

Anyone got advice or real world stories on how to do this? Any brands to avoid will be good to. Any info of any sort will help.

I am thinking of getting multi voltage ones that can run on 120 or 277. They have interal electronics that moniter the voltage. Sure seem goof proof as we have both voltages in some buildings. Can use some real world advice on these to.

My other concern is power surges, we lose power often and in the newer buildings with motorola electronics, we need to replace a few every time theres an outage.

Many thanks

Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades

#30742 - 10/26/03 08:31 PM Re: Electronic ballast retrofit  
Tom  Offline
Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 1,044
Shinnston, WV USA
I've done a some retrofitting, here is what little I know.

Programmed start- great if the lamps are turned on & off frequently, such as a hallway with a motion sensor controlling the lighting. Otherwise, a waste of money.

Parallel operation is my choice. One lamp goes out, the other remains lit. The energy savings will probably (S.W.A.G.) more than pay for any shortened lamp life. If the fixtures are installed in an area where they are frequently turned on & off, you should be using programmed start anyway.

Can't comment on brands, I only have access to Adcance.

As far as ballast failure is concerned, I believe the Advance ballasts come with a 5 year warranty.

I'd go with the 120/277 ballasts, cuts down on inventory & errors.

Looks like you will be saving a lot of money once all the ballasts are replaced.

Try this site for more info on ballasts

[This message has been edited by Tom (edited 10-26-2003).]

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.

#30743 - 10/26/03 08:46 PM Re: Electronic ballast retrofit  
drillman  Offline
Joined: Mar 2003
Posts: 97
Somewhere in Texas
I forgot to mention in my first post.

The vast majority of the lights here either burn 24/7 or are turned on/off 3 times a day.

No motion sensors or anything like that.

#30744 - 10/27/03 07:07 PM Re: Electronic ballast retrofit  
Sandro  Offline
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 444
Stoney Creek, ON, Canada
Just speaking from my experience. NEVER trust anything a salesman tells you. We've done several retrofits on old schools in our area. The school board hired a lighting and energy management firm and we simply worked and ordered materials based on their professional recommendations.

#30745 - 10/27/03 07:17 PM Re: Electronic ballast retrofit  
Scott35  Offline

Broom Pusher and
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 2,707
Anaheim, CA. USA
The most commonly used Electronic Ballasts I have been handling (since the mid 1990's) are the Instant Start Parallel Lamp Operation types.

Come in 1, 2, 3 and 4 lamp flavors.

Most are from Advance (>70%).

The Instant Start Parallel Operation seems to work well on the "Common Market" Luminairs, which F32T8 Lamps are used in.
Also, similar Ballasts are used for CFL Lamp Operation - ranging from the "TwinTubes" and "triTubes" of smaller CFLs, to the 24" "PL-L" types-used in 2'x2' Troffers.

Hi Hz Electronic Ballasting is also used in Battery Back-up Ballasts.
I have used mostly Bodine brand, but seen a few others.

For your Retrofits, I would suggest using the Instant Start Parallel Operation type 2 Lamp Electronic Ballasts, driving F32T8 Lamps.
BTW: Color Temperature might be something to ask / suggest when doing this.
3500K is what used to be known as "Warm White", and 4100K was "Cool White" (or close to it!).
My preference is 4100K at my work station (computer work + Engineering), and 3500K for "Other Areas" - like TV area, Drums/Jamming area, outdoors, and so on.

P.S. While performing the Retrofits, be sure to replace any loose or broken Lamp holders (and figure this in on your proposal).


Scott " 35 " Thompson
Just Say NO To Green Eggs And Ham!

#30746 - 10/27/03 09:30 PM Re: Electronic ballast retrofit  
straightedge  Offline
Joined: Mar 2002
Posts: 86
Mesa, AZ

Hey, because there are some 4 lamp light fixtures I would buy a ballast that is capable of operating 4-lamps, 3-lamps or 2-lamps. (if you only need two lamps then you just cap off two of the wires)

That way you only have one type of inventory.

Also, you do not need to replace the tombstones. (the plastic piece that makes the connection to the end of your lamp). The T-8 lamps will fit in the T-12 tombstones.


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