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Archive for the ‘Fluorescent lights’ Category


Generator and fluorescent lighting

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Hello, Jeff,

I live in a condominium building consisting of six floors with about 8 units per floor. Since the construction of this building about 40 years ago, we have operated incandescent bulb lighting with about 800 watts per floor, as well as the outdoor lighting and an elevator.

We are now discussing the possibility of converting the incandescent bulbs to fluorescent bulbs which would reduce our energy consumption by about 2/3, thus reducing our energy bill accordingly. It is the opinion of some that our emergency generator (same age as the building) could not or would not operate properly with the conversion to fluorescent lighting. Can you advise if this assumption is correct?

I thank you for any assistance you can provide.

I think this concern goes back to the old style 4-foot 2-tube T-12 style fluorescent lamps that had magnetic ballasts, which were those long black objects inside the fixtures that would get very hot. This type fluorescent ballast “flickered” the lamp on and off 60 times per second, which produced a strobe effect and was hard on your eyes. Also, the ballasts were a form of transformer which altered the “power factor” which is a angle relationship between the voltage and current peaks. If the power factor drops due to lots of transformers on the circuit, this causes the circuit to use more current and can really screw up a lower cost generator.

Compact fluorescent lamps do not have a transformer type ballast so they produce a much smaller power factor drop. Also, the electronic ballasts in these newer fluorescent lamps are “flickering” on and off at many thousands of times per second so there is no “60 cycle” strobe effect that hurts your eyes. Combined, these two features are much easier for a generator to handle and I have installed generators as backup power for on and off grid homes that only used compact fluorescent lamps with no generator problems.

I will suggest that if you re-lamp all at the same time, be sure to document the date as we are finding that many of the most recent compact fluorescent lamps now being made in China are not lasting anywhere near the advertised life, so I would buy them all at the same time from a lighting distributor and let them know you will be monitoring performance.

Good luck,

Jeff Yago



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