Jenny Tan has over 8 years of experience in marketing LED emergency power supply products to the global market with in-depth technical expertise on emergency conversion kits, drivers, rechargeable batteries and lightings of various makes. She is easygoing, responsible for her undertakings and always enthusiastic about providing accurate information to help customers choose the best solution for their emergency lighting projects. Read More
This guide aims to explain what are ballasts and drivers and then compare emergency ballasts with emergency drivers for LED and fluorescent tubes ending with tips to select what is appropriate for you.
Well, when it comes to ballast and drivers, there is a lot of confusion. And when we hear emergency ballast and emergency drivers, the complexity gets even dipper.
In this guide, we are going to walk you through all of them in laymen’s terms and then provide some professional recommendations for selecting a driver/ballast that fits into your lighting needs.
We know there are many jargon-stuffed guides out there, which leave you your head-scratching. But not here. At the end of this guide, you will illuminate like a LED bulb!
What is an electric ballast?
An electric ballast is a device used to regulate current, voltage, and waveform to a lighting source. This device provides the necessary power to start a lamp.
It then controls the supply of current, voltage, and waveform to ensure that the light continues to illuminate without damaging itself due to excess flow of current, voltages, and waves.
To give you an analogy, it’s like the human heart, which regulates the flow of blood to our organs based on their need. There are many types of ballast.For instance, the following are two ballasts used in fluorescent tube lights (I hope you remember them).
We grew up seeing the choke (below-left) and starter (below-right), and if you remember, the fluorescent tube lights flickered before lighting up. Well, these both are ballasts.
The starter ballast provided the required heat for the fluorescent tube to light up, and the choke starter ballast controls the flow of the current and voltage to the tube and kept illuminating it.
What are lighting drivers?
Every movement and technology have their own time, heyday, and expiry. Ultimately, everything goes out of fashion. So did the fluorescent tube lights. And the technology that handed over death sentences to fluorescent lights was LED lights.
Unlike its predecessors, LED lights were free of harmful chemicals and did not emit UV rays. LED lights are also 100% recyclable and significantly reduced carbon footprint.
With one LED light able to do the work of roughly 25 incandescent light bulbs over its lifetime, LED lights also saved on materials and production. Because of these characteristics, LED lights took the market by storm.
But to light them, just like fluorescent tube lights that were hit before they came on the scene, they also needed a driver that regulated the supply of the power to them.
They required very little power, and the power was to be delivered in direct current (DC). To fulfill these conditions, just like fluorescent lights, a ballast, also known as a driver, was introduced.
These were called LED drivers. But some people continued to term these drivers as LED ballasts, picking up from its fluorescent tubes’ ballast.
What is an LED emergency ballast?
The LED emergency ballast or LED emergency drivers are LED drivers that come equipped with a rechargeable battery and can illuminate the lighting fixture for a specific duration based on its battery output power and the fixture’s power requirement.
An LED emergency ballast is essentially an LED emergency driver that comes equipped with an internal battery and a driver that switches to battery power if the main lights go off and keep the battery charged while the mains are off.
It is essentially an LED emergency driver, but since it can supply higher power and is used in LED tube lights, it is being named as an LED emergency ballast.
Not because it is a ballast, but because ballasts were used in fluorescent tubes. To these days, LED emergency ballasts are used in LED tubes and retrofits.
What are fluorescent emergency ballasts?
In addition to normal fluorescent ballasts, fluorescent emergency ballasts come integrated with an internal battery that powers the lighting fixture (fluorescent tube) for a certain period in case the mains go off.
So, while normal ballast only regulates main (AC) power to the lighting source, emergency ballasts for fluorescent regulate and supply direct current (DC) to lightning fixture even the mains go off.
Which lights need a ballast (or drivers)?
Every light, no matter it is incandescent tungsten lights or halogen bulbs, need drivers. However, other forms of modern lamps or lighting fixtures like the fluorescent bulbs, compact fluorescent (CFL), HID bulbs, or the LEDs require a ballast or drivers to illuminate.
These bulb families who require ballast uses two different types of ballasts – magnetic and electronic. Magnetic ballasts are older technology used within certain lights.
However, electronic ballasts are found to be energy efficient.
Now the question would be, LED lights also need a ballast. The answer is yes. LEDs use technology that is similar to ballast but is named driver.
So, these drivers, aka ballast, regulate the flow of power (voltage and current) to the lighting source and fulfill the function of a ballast among LED light bulbs.
What is the difference between an emergency ballast and emergency LED driver?
Despite their different nomenclature, both ballasts and drivers regulate the supply of power to the corresponding light fixture and provide power from the battery in the case of a power outage.
Both are the same in terms of functions but different in terms of their association. Drivers are associated with LEDs, and ballasts are associated with fluorescent tubes.
Fluorescent emergency ballasts provide high voltage from its initial spike and generates an arch of power that travels from cathode to anode through the discharge tube. So, once the light is on – it acts as per the specifications of the current regulator.
Emergency power supply remained high-frequency high voltage output current during the emergency lights output.
On the other hand, emergency LED drivers to convert alternate current into low voltage direct current. The type of power that LEDs are designed to run on.
So, fluorescent emergency ballasts are more costly compared to LED emergency drivers as the earlier one needs high-capacity batteries to power the fluorescent tubes in case of a power outage.
Commercially, LED emergency drivers are more cost-efficient for installation as well as in cutting down monthly electricity bill amounts.
How to choose the appropriate emergency ballast for your lightings?
Choosing appropriate an emergency ballast depends on a variety of factors. Here are some of the most critical factor
1. Backup time
Backup time is the estimated hours you want your lighting fixture to run on battery power backup. This is directly proportional to the capacity of the battery to be installed on the emergency drivers.
If you are in countries where power outages are rampant and extend for hours then you should opt for emergency drivers that have bigger battery capacities.
According to laws and regulations in different countries, the emergency power supply must meet specific emergency time, such as the UK 3 hours, China 1.5 hours, this is the critical factor to define emergency duration time. Check what is the requirement in your country.
2. Lamp type
Every lamp has a special power requirement. Some lights require constant current, and some others may require continuous voltage. Check your lamps backend or the cartoon for its power requirements.
Although many emergency ballasts will be compatible with standard lamps like F17T8, F25T8, F32T8, F28T8, and U-bent versions of the same lamp, ensuring the compatibility beforehand is highly recommended.
If you are unsure, you should seek an expert’s advice.
3. Temperature requirement
Lamps have specific external and internal temperatures for functioning normally, and drivers/ballasts play an important role in regulating it. Refer to the lamp’s specifications for this information, and if you are not able to figure it out, seek an expert’s advice.
4. Surrounding to be installed:
Consider the surroundings in which the light is/will be installed. If the egress is to be installed in a damp or a location that is prone to water splashes – than you need an emergency driver that has a higher level of protection from water and dust.
If the fixture is to be installed in an extremely hot location, then you need a driver that can operate in those temperatures.
LED emergency driver manufacturers like Sanforce offer drivers tailored to the specific need of the project.
Unlike mass-produced emergency drivers found in the market, we provide custom-tailored emergency drivers that fit into all your requirements and that comply with the safety standards of your area.