As an experienced lighting technician, I’ve always received questions “How Long Does a Ballast Last”. Indeed, those are fundamental questions since there are many things to consider when buying the right ballast. Knowing how long your ballast will last can give you peace of mind. It also lets you have an estimate of how much time you have to prepare for its replacement.
Table of Contents
Average Ballast Life Span
There are many things to consider before you figure out the lifespan of a specific ballast. Different factors affect each ballast, so I will consider each one based on my experience.
Type of Ballast
The most significant factor that affects lifespan is the type of ballast. Primarily, there are two kinds: magnetic and electronic. The former are analog devices, while the latter is newer and usually have a digital controller.
The magnetic ballast uses an inductive coil to regulate voltage. Its appearance resembles a transformer, which consists of a wire and a core component. On the other hand, an electronic ballast controls your HID bulb’s starting voltage and operating currents using a tiny microchip. These devices usually run on a 220V AC electric supply at 50-60 Hz Frequency.
According to the Certified Ballast Manufacturers Association, the average Magnetic ballast lasts about 75,000 hours or 12 to 15 years with regular use. In contrast, the Electronic ballast can last up to 20 years.
If you need a special ballast to controls your HID bulbs, please check my guide on the top-rated HID ballasts that will help you make the right decision.
The second thing to be considered is the brand. Some brands are generally reliable. This is due to their experience in the market, having invested in the research and development of their own ballasts over the years. They also tend to have excellent quality control, ensuring that their products would last as advertised.
These are some reliable ballast brands that I have used before: InterGlobal, the maker of IG13-20EL Magnetic Fluorescent Ballast, which is one of the most affordable options in the market, and VivoSun, the maker of Horticulture 600 watts with its advanced protection system.
Effects of Usage
The environment the ballast is exposed to, plus the way you use it definitely affects its longevity. The 75,000-hour average lifespan can be affected by quick and constant power cycling. Voltage fluctuations can also shorten the ballast’s useful life, so it’s best to have a voltage regulator connected between the ballast and the power source.
Although some products can be installed indoors and outdoors, you must consider the environment and temperature. Most ballasts cannot withstand extreme temperatures. And because most ballasts have fans to cool them, dirty and dusty atmospheres can also damage their internals.
And last but not least is the ballast factor. There are three factors in some electronic ballasts: low, normal, and high. These factors have an indirect impact on energy consumption — the lower the rating, the less wattage your system will draw.
You can use a low factor ballast if you want an energy-efficient system but do not need extremely bright lighting. Normal factor ballasts can be used if you need a standard light and if your application is subject to low temperatures. On the other hand, a high factor ballast can be used to get the most number of lumens possible from your system.
Pro tip: When purchasing a new ballast, make sure that it is matched with your old one. If you can’t find one designed for your system, you can look for the closest features compared with your old ballast.
If you need a low factor ballast, you may consider this IG13-20EL Magnetic Fluorescent Ballast, which is best for replacing your broken ballast in your aquarium lights. But if you need a ballast for higher wattage lighting systems, you should look at my review on 1000 watt ballast.
Most electricians believe that the durability of the ballast depends on its proper use. It is good practice to use your lights as needed. If you have the budget, you can utilize safety systems like voltage regulators. It may cost a bit more but will help you save in the long run by keeping your ballasts safe.