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Magnetic Ballasts

Ballasts are used with gas discharge lamps to reduce the discharge power that leads to destruction of the illuminant used or trips the fuse, when there is an unrestrained surge. A ballast can be already integrated into the lamp itself, as with energy-saving lamps, or added as an additional lighting element. The lamp can only be directly connected to the power source if it has an integrated ballast.

There are generally two distinguishable types of ballasts: electronic ballasts and magnetic ballasts. In contrast to the electronic versions, magnetic ballasts need a so-called starter. According to the amount of loss caused by the starter, magnetic ballasts are categorized as either conventional ballasts, low-loss ballasts or ultra-low-loss ballasts.

Magnetic ballasts are built as conventional ballasts and consist of a choke that usually contains an iron core wrapped with copper wire. Due to the ohmic resistance of copper, as well as the resetting and eddy-current losses in the core, heat generation and power loss lies at around ten to twenty percent of the power of the lamp. Conventional ballasts that are used with fluorescent lamps also require a starter. This preheats the hot cathodes at the start directly in the circuit. Conventional ballasts are very reliable. They usually work for decades without interference and without having to be replaced.