When moving from the older technology of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs to the newer market-dominant LED technology, you may be looking for standard specs so you can compare between the two.
The truth is that LED bulbs are apples, while other light technologies are oranges! Certain things are just not in common.
And a ballast is one of those components that are only relevant to the relatively outdated fluorescent and CFL tube lights.
While fluorescent light bulbs require ballasts to fire up a high voltage arc to turn it on, LED bulbs, on the other hand, don’t require a ballast since they operate differently. LED bulbs can also easily bypass sockets that have ballast already in them.
What Is The Ballast
Hidden inside the fixture and behind the tube lights, you will spot a long and slim black box, wiring in and out. This is the ballast.
Ballast is the regulator of a fluorescent or CFL tube light source. Its primary function is to maintain the supply of electricity throughout the tube. It ensures that enough voltage is provided to start the lamps when the switch is turned on.
Each ballast has a specific power rating and should match the bulb’s voltage.
The initial extreme high voltage ensures that an electrical arc is created between the two lamp electrodes. It then supplies a high current to turn on the lamp.
After it turns on, the ballast will then instantly regulate the voltage and reduce it. Then it also stabilizes the current provided and maintains its steady supply and light output.
If the ballast were absent, the fluorescent lamp would be provided a high influx of current, quickly overheating it and burning it out.
But not all lights and lamps require ballasts. The ones that require a ballast are fluorescent, compact fluorescent, and HID lamps. Other bulbs like halogen or incandescent lights don’t need this feature.
LED bulbs on the other hand, have a different story.
Do LED Bulbs Require Ballast?
Essentially, LED bulbs do not require ballasts in them to work. Unlike fluorescent lights, it is not a ballast that controls the LED’s current and voltage regulation.
Those are regulated with a component called a driver inside an LED that serves a similar function to a ballast. This driver is integrated into a LED bulb and is not something you need to purchase separately to the LED fixture.
This is similar to how some HID bulbs have integrated ballasts within the fixture itself.
Furthermore, the working of an LED is very different from a fluorescent light. The former uses direct current, and the latter uses alternating current.
There is no need for an electrical arc to fire up the electrodes as fluorescent lights need.
In fact, an LED works an LED function electronically as a computer, whereby it has a binary on and off state. The technology is more advanced and uses electronic chips installed at the base of the bulb.
Do I Need To Remove Or Bypass The Ballast To Use LED Light?
One of the cool features of an LED is that they can be designed to work with ballasts even though they don’t require them in the first place.
The ballast might be part of your existing fixture and socket, and it might be either costly or time-consuming for you to get it removed for it to be LED friendly.
Well lucky for you, LEDs are friendly and compatible with a host of legacy fixtures and sockets.
Commonly known as ‘plug and play’ LEDs, also known as Type A tube light, you can purchase LEDs with an existing specialized driver that allows the LED to function with your previous socket’s existing external ballast.
You do not need to remove, rewire, or undergo complicated electrical work to now replace your CFLs and fluorescent lights with energy-saving, mercury-free LED bulbs.
Essentially the type A tube LED bulbs (Amazon) allow you to bypass the ballast feature and it will not harm the LED.
In fact, installation is as easy as changing a light bulb and does not take more than a few minutes.
Not only have you not spent any money hiring an electrician, but you have also now started the journey to much lower electricity bills and annual savings.
Do LED Grow Lights Need Ballast?
A grow light is used for growing plants indoors.
Their LED counterparts prove to be very successful compared to traditional fluorescent tube lights and high-intensity bulbs that are more commonly used.
This is mainly because LED grow lights are highly customizable. They can be adjusted in color temperature, color spectrum, and brightness to cater to the different plants’ needs on the fly.
While traditional grow lights need ballasts to fire up the high-voltage electrical arc required to turn on the very bright lights, LED grow lights do not need ballasts.
The LED grow light fixtures have everything included. You don’t need to purchase external ballasts or other components. They simply plug directly into the electrical socket, and you are ready to go.
In any case, LEDs use direct current to start up and don’t require the high alternating current. This is in addition to the fact that no electrodes need an electrical arc to form between them.
The bottom line is, the way of working of an LED bulb is very different from a fluorescent light.
Read related: Do Plants Like LED Lighting?
So there you have it, a simple guide to understanding how ballasts work, and whether LED grow lights and standard LEDs require such a component or not.
Also, go ahead and research more on LED grow lights because they offer a host of possibilities that other lights do not.
Do your old fixtures have ballasts in them that need to be bypassed?
Would you consider using LED grow lights to make a personal herb garden indoors?
Share with me your thoughts and comments below.