Lighting Systems – Useful Info

Since the invention of light   by the famous scientist, Edison, several  improvements have been made  in the area of lighting.  Several lighting sources and systems have been invented.  Edison gave the world the very first incandescent bulb after he  made several attempts.  His invention   saw  the world depart from the use of candles and kerosene lamps.  His invention also  awakened the giants in the minds of many other scientists.  Several variations of  incandescent light bulbs  were invented after that of Edison.  Lots of improvements have actually been made in the area of light.

Many years after  the invention of incandescent light bulbs,  fluorescent  tubes   were also invented.  In the early 1950s,  they become very popular.  Over the years, such  lighting sources have continued to be modified. Today, we have several variations of fluorescent tubes in diverse shapes.  Apart from this  many other lighting sources like Halogen bulbs and HIDs have also been invented.  Again, LEDs   have also been introduced.  They actually  came to the fore in the early 2000s.  They are said to be  very efficient since they consume less energy.

In any case,  we’ve heard a lot about  various lighting sources  like bulbs  or fluorescent tubes  as  discussed  above.  However, such bulbs  or tubes  are not used by themselves.   They   require   specific infrastructure  to  operate.  They require ballasts and electricity to function.  This brings  us to the discussion on lighting systems.

In the first place,  we’re going to be examining  ballasts  which form  a greater percentage of  lighting systems.  By way of definition,  ballasts refer to  circuits that limit the current flow in  most   fluorescent  bulbs or tubes.  Several ballasts actually correspond  to different  types of bulbs.   Many of them are run in different ways.  There are ballasts  meant for fluorescent  bulbs  only. There are also  the types meant  for LEDs.  We’re going to be  discussing them one after the other.

Ballasts for Fluorescent tubes
The ballasts meant for  fluorescent tubes are quite different from  other types meant for LEDs and other light sources.  Actually fluorescent  tubes do have  unique voltage and current   requirements.  They are not just powered directly through  AC line.  Rather, the AC line powers    ballasts which are simply electronic circuits meant  to  serve the fluorescent tubes. Once the ballast of   a typical  fluorescent is  powered  by the AC line,  it  goes ahead to power the fluorescent tube.

There are  two variations  of fluorescent ballasts. They include “instant start” and “rapid start” . Both    of them  run in specific modes.  The major difference between  them is  seen in the  way their  filaments are treated.  Actually,  a filament is used  in providing electrons to the plasma arc.  The filaments in rapid start ballast  are preheated. Power  is applied to the filaments as they warm up to 1100K before they can actually begin to emit electrons.   This usually makes them to be more durable. The only problem here is that they do consume more power in the process.  On the other hand,  the instant start ballast  doesn’t  have preheated filaments.  More power is  saved as a result of this but the downside is that, the  filaments’ lifetime together with that  of the  tube  is much shorter.

Meanwhile,  most  ballast meant for  fluorescents don’t work with dimmers.  If you want to  dim any fluorescent, you have to  buy a special type of ballasts that work with dimmers.  Once  the tube is dimmed, the plasma arc that heats the filament makes the heating process lesser.   In most cases, the temperature   of the filament can be maintained when a dimming ballasts is used.

Again, another  difference found in  fluorescent ballasts  is that some  of them are  electronic while others are magnetic.  The  magnetic type  showcases as a large piece of iron  in the form of a transformer. It comes with a large capacitor which helps in limiting  the current that goes into the fluorescent tube.  Such ballast runs on a line  frequency which makes it  to be very heavy and large. On the other hand,  electronic ballasts   comes with a switch mode power supplies.  They are usually lighter but they still have  the same mechanical size like the magnetic ballasts.  They usually run  above 20 KHz due to their sizes. They also  don’t make noise.

Ballasts for LEDs
Most LEDs just like fluorescent tubes are  not compatible with AC line. However, the  future is yet to tell  as some of them may also become compatible with AC line.  As of now,  many of the LEDs  require  ballasts to  work. The ballasts convert the AC power  which in turn power the LEDs.   Such ballasts meant for  LEDs  are designed in a variety of ways.  They also have  unique variations depending  on the  type of LEDs in use.

Lighting Systems and Temperature issues
The discussion on lighting systems will not be complete without making mention of temperature issues that relate to them.  Most incandescent bulbs  operate  at  thousands of degrees.  In most cases, they are  not sensitive to  environmental temperature.  However,  LEDs and fluorescent tubes are quite different. 

Most  fluorescent tubes take extra time to start  especially when there’s cold.  For instance, in winter season, you’re likely to  see a fluorescent  tube in your garage struggling to start as a result of the cold weather.  It has to take extra time before coming up.  However, some  fluorescent tubes have  special ballasts that is designed for winter season. The ballasts helps in  powering them up in cold situations without wasting too much time.

Again,  most Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) have problems  with  high temperature.  If  a CFL is attached to a ceiling fan, its temperature can easily arise thereby causing it to fail in most cases.  This is why CFLs are not generally recommended for personal use.

LEDs on their side also have similar temperature problems. Their ballasts are usually sensitive to cold weather.  If they happen to get hot, their light  output will be decreased.  This may also affect their  lifetime.  They  may even suffer untold  mechanical problems  as they are used in the process.

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