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New Fluorescent Lamp Ballast Energy-Efficiency Standards

Each year, about 80 million fluorescent lamp ballasts are sold for use in U.S. commercial and industrial buildings. They come in four basic types: magnetic and electronic ballasts for operating T12 (1.5 inch diameter tube) or T8 (1 inch diameter tube) lamps. In the present market, almost all of the T8 lamps are operated by electronic ballasts, and almost all of the four-foot T12 lamps are operated by magnetic ballasts. Since electronic ballasts are more efficient and the lamp/ballast systems are more efficacious, a large potential energy savings can be tapped by transforming the market for ballasts operating T12 lamps into one dominated by more efficient T8/electronic systems.

Graph illustrating the reduction in LCC with the operation of an electronic ballast with two T12 lamps

Figure 1. LCC will be reduced in about 80% of cases when an electronic ballast operating two T12 lamps (in commercial-sector buildings) replaces a magnetic ballast operating two T12 lamps.

Generally, electronic ballasts cost more to purchase than the magnetic ballasts, but they use less electricity. In most situations, the life-cycle cost (LCC) of an electronic lamp/ballast system will be less than for a magnetic lamp/ballast system with equivalent light output. In most past LCC analyses for the U.S. Department of Energy, point estimates were used for the various inputs. In this analysis, where the change in LCC is calculated, we used a different approach—the four most important inputs are distributions. These distributions were developed to express the variability of electricity price, ballast price, operating hours, and ballast lifetime. We calculated the change in LCC for 10,000 combinations of these four variables. A Monte Carlo simulation is used to select from the distributions according to the frequency of occurrence of each possible value of each input. The two figures show the results of a probability-based LCC analysis in which commercial users replace energy-efficient magnetic T12 lamp/ballast combinations with electronic rapid start (ERS) T12 lamp/ballast combinations (Figure 1), or with ERS T8 lamp/ballast combinations (Figure 2).

Graph illustrating the reduction in LCC with the operation of an electronic ballast with two 58 lamps

Figure 2. LCC will be reduced in about 98% of cases when an electronic ballast operating two 58 lamps (in commercial-sector buildings) replaces a magnetic ballast operating two T12 lamps.

In the first scenario, in which the T12 lamp is retained, LCC will be reduced about 80% of the time (represented by the delta LCC values in green, which are to the right of the $0 marker on the x-axis), with a mean savings of $6 over the ballast lifetime. For the second scenario (in which commercial concerns change from T12 to T8 lamps when they change from magnetic to electronic ballasts), LCC will be reduced about 98% of the time, with a mean savings of $18 over the ballast lifetime.

In late 1999, U.S. manufacturers of lighting equipment and energy-efficiency advocates agreed to a set of energy-efficiency standards for fluorescent lamp/ballast systems found in commercial and industrial buildings. This occurred after years of discussion between ballast manufacturers and the DOE. EETD supplied the energy and economic analyses (such as the LCC analysis) to DOE that were used for the negotiations and to prepare a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. We also wrote a Technical Support Document on ballast standards.

The commercial and industrial lighting sector will be subject to new energy-efficient lighting regulations beginning April 1, 2005. These regulations affect ballasts that operate T12 fluorescent lamps. That market is presently dominated by magnetic ballasts. The switch to electronic ballasts will result in cumulative energy savings of 2 to 5 quads (quadrillion Btus) of primary energy over the period 2005 to 2030. The range results from analyzing two different scenarios for the base-case shipments forecast without standards. That is equivalent to the annual electricity use of 19 to 42 million households in the United States. Businesses will reduce electricity costs by $3.4 to 7.2 billion (discounted to 1997 at 7% real), and carbon emissions will be reduced by 30 to 70 million metric tons over the same period. Since the cost of electronic ballasts will be higher than that of energy-efficient magnetic ballasts, we estimated that the net savings to businesses will range from $2.6 to 5.4 billion (discounted to 1997 at 7% real).

— Isaac Turiel

For more information, contact:

  • Isaac Turiel
  • (510) 486-6493; fax (510) 486-6996
  • Andrea Denver
  • (510) 486-6727; fax (510) 486-6996
  • Barbara Atkinson
  • (215) 942-0184; fax (215) 322-2673
  • Sajid Hakim
  • (510) 486-5184; fax (510) 486-6996

For more information, refer to "Technical Support Document: Energy Efficiency Standards for Consumer Products: Fluorescent Lamp Ballast Proposed Rule, January 2000". [PDF]

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Building Research and Standards.

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