Fluorescent Magnetic T12 Ballast: RIP

Lighting Controls Association

This month, Federal efficiency standards regulating fluorescent magnetic T12 ballasts entered their final phase, effectively eliminating these ballasts from the market, with few exceptions.

Between 2005 and 2010, efficiency standards created by Department of Energy regulations became phased into effect, covering magnetic ballasts designed to operate full-wattage F40T12, F96T12 and F96T12HO lamps.
By 2006, ballast manufacturers were no longer allowed to sell them to fixture manufacturers and fixture manufacturers were no longer allowed to sell them to the public.

As of July 1, 2010, ballast manufacturers were prohibited from manufacturing even replacement ballasts that did not meet the new standards.

Between July 2009 and July 2010, additional rules created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 went into effect that expanded the energy standards to cover energy-saving versions of these T12 lamps (e.g., 34W F40T12 lamps).

As no ballasts meet these standards, the industry's least-efficient fluorescent ballasts have been eliminated from the market, which will result in a shift to higher-efficiency ballasts (i.e., electronic) in existing installations. The market has already largely shifted to electronic ballasts in new fixtures but a significant number of magnetic ballasts are sold each year for replacement purposes in existing buildings. For example, according to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), about 7% of the ballast market was magnetic ballasts.

Even as owners begin to upgrade existing buildings, magnetic ballasts will continue to be sold, however. These include recognized exceptions, including ballasts designed:

•  for dimming to 50 percent or less of their maximum light output;
•  for use with two F96T12HO lamps at ambient temperatures of -20ºF and for use in outdoor signs; or
•  labeled for use only in residential applications and have a power factor of less than 0.90.

On July 14, 2012, recently enacted DOE regulations will take effect that will also eliminate the T12 lamps that the ballasts operate.

The new DOE rules expand on efficiency rules established by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 by strengthening standards for covered lamps types while also covering 8-ft. T8 lamps, 4-ft. T5 lamps and more wattages of 4-ft. T8 and T12 lamps. The net result, with few exceptions, is a majority of 4-ft. linear and 2-ft. U-shaped T12 lamps, many 8-ft. T12 and T12HO, and some low-color-rendering 4-ft. T8 lamps will be eliminated. While no longer popular in new construction, an estimated 30 percent of fluorescent 4-ft. lamps sold every year are T12, according to NEMA market data.

For more information about the law and current product availability, consult the ballast manufacturers.

by: Craig DiLouie

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