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New Ballast Energy Standards to Take Effect November 2014

New DOE fluorescent lamp ballast rules create a new metric for measuring ballast efficiency and establish a higher standard of efficiency that will impact many of today’s fluorescent T8, T5 and T12 ballasts, going beyond previous regulation that focused on T12 magnetic ballasts. Image courtesy of GE Lighting.

In November 2011, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued new rules regulating the efficiency of fluorescent lamp ballasts, which take effect November 14, 2014.

The rulemaking creates a new metric for measuring ballast efficiency and establishes a higher standard of efficiency that will impact many of today’s fluorescent T8, T5 and T12 ballasts. Ballasts that do not comply will be prohibited from manufacture and import, but existing inventories can be sold until they are exhausted.

Coverage
The new rules follow a decade of rulemaking that culminated in the elimination of a majority of fluorescent magnetic ballasts and linear T12 4- and 8-ft. lamps.

The new rules go beyond T12 to also regulate T8 and T5 electronic ballast efficiency, specifically covering seven ballast types operating on 120-277V and 60 Hz, including these four basic types:

• instant- and rapid-start nonresidential ballasts designed to operate 4-ft. medium bi-pin, 2-ft. U-shaped and 8-ft. single-pin (“Slimline”) lamps;
• programmed-start nonresidential ballasts designed to operate 4-ft. medium bi-pin, miniature bi-pin (standard and high output), and 2-ft. U-shaped lamps;
• instant- and rapid-start non-sign ballasts designed to operate 8-ft. high-output lamps; and
• programmed-start non-sign ballasts designed to operate 8-ft. high-output lamps.

Previous rulemaking recognized sign ballasts and residential-only ballasts as exemptions. The new rulemaking eliminates these exemptions, covering:

• sign ballasts designed to operate 8-ft. high-output lamps;
• instant- and rapid-start residential ballasts designed to operate 4-ft. medium bi-pin, 2-ft. U-shaped and 8-ft. single-pin (“Slimline”) lamps; and
• programmed-start residential ballasts designed to operate 4-ft. medium bi-pin and 2-ft. U-shaped lamps.

Requirements
So what does the new rulemaking specifically require? The new rules:

• establish energy efficiency standards for each ballast type;
• require the ballast have a power factor of >0.90 if designed for nonresidential use or >0.50 if designed for residential use;
• require outdoor sign ballasts acquire UL Type 2 rating and be designed, labeled and marketed for use in this application; and
• require residential-only ballasts satisfy FCC 47 CFR part 18 and be designed, labeled and marketed only for use in this application.

Exceptions include:

• dimming ballasts that dim to 50% or less of full light output (except for T12 dimming ballasts);
• programmed-start ballasts operating 4-ft. medium bi-pin lamps that deliver a current of less than 140 mA to each lamp (0.71 ballast factor); and
• T8 magnetic ballasts labeled and marketed for use in electromagnetic interference-sensitive applications and sold in packages of 10 or fewer units.

Many products already comply, while some do not; manufacturers are currently evaluating their products to determine on a case by case basis what models comply or not, and for those that do not, whether they will be reengineered or discontinued. The following ballast types are at greatest risk:

• majority of T12 electronic ballasts;
• majority of outdoor-sign and residential-only ballasts; and
• T8 and T5 programmed-start ballasts lacking a cathode cutout design.

A new efficiency metric
Previous rulemaking used a metric called Ballast Efficacy Factor (BEF). The 2011 rulemaking creates a new metric called Ballast Luminous Efficiency (BLE). BLE removes the lamp as a variable, eliminating variation in results caused by the lamp load, which represents the large majority of the total load. Light output is measured independently of the new metric. Lighting professionals evaluating products based on BLE in the future may find it beneficial to request input watts and ballast factor as derived from BLE to ensure a level playing field in product comparisons.

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