Compact Fluorescent (CFL) Ballasts

Industrial Consumer

City staff are required to buy LEDs.  Compared to fluorescents, LEDs do not contain toxic mercury, are more energy efficient and longer lasting.  

Can't avoid fluorescents?  Try Limited Use CFLs that meet criteria below.  They have lower levels of toxic mercury than other fluorescents.





Info on this product category: Compact Fluorescent (CFL) Ballasts

Why Go Green

Manufacturers are not required to indicate how much toxic mercury is in fluorescent bulbs. So in 2008, SF Environment created the nation's first list of fluorescents with the least amount of toxic mercury. Using energy-efficient lighting also reduces demand for coal-burning power plants, which are the largest man-made source of mercury emissions to the air in the U.S.

Why Mercury Is Toxic

When fluorescents break, they release toxic mercury vapors. Short-term acute exposure can cause pneumonia-like symptoms, tremors; muscle atrophy, headaches; decrease of cognitive function. Higher exposures can lead to respiratory failure and death. (Read more).

Mercury released in the air gets into water and fish. When pregnant women eat fish that have mercury, it can lead to a loss of IQ in their children.  

Criteria for Compact Fluorescent (CFL) Ballasts

Ballasts must meet or exceed the following requirements:

All Ballasts:

  1. Be UL-listed.
  2. All ballasts should be physically interchangeable with standard electromagnetic or standard electronic ballasts, where applicable.
  3. Meet California’s Title 24 Energy Code requirements.
  4. Contain auto restart circuitry in order to restart lamps without resetting power.
  5. Be able to tolerate sustained open circuit and short circuit output conditions without becoming damaged.
  6. Be rated for a starting temperature down to 32 degrees farenheit and/or zero degrees celsius or less.
  7. Contain no exposed live parts.
  8. To the greatest extent practicable, all ballasts should be ROHS-compliant (i.e., compliant with the European Union’s Restriction on Hazardous Substances Directive).
  9. Be made in a factory that is certified to ISO 9002 Quality System Standards or equivalent.
  10. Not contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Fluorescent Ballasts:

  1. Must be electronic, instant start or program start only.  (No magnetic fluorescent ballasts)
  2. Must have a Class A sound rating.
  3. Must be high-frequency and operate lamps at a frequency above 42k Hz to avoid interference with infrared devices and to eliminate visible flicker.
  4. All ballasts for fluorescent lamps  must have a lamp current crest factor (ratio of peak to RMS) not to exceed 1.7 crest factor.
  5. Instant start ballasts must run on 120V or 277V or both. All Program Start ballasts must be multi-voltage and run on 120V, 230V and 277V.

Last updated

Last updated: 
February 12, 2014

Guide for City Staff

Need help switching to lighting that's Required above? 

  • Get funding for retrofits with the SF Public Utilities Commission: 415-554-2424,
  • Contact Steven Mesh, LC, IESNA, Pacific Energy Center, 415-972-5238,

Recycling Instructions

Hang posters where lighting is collected for recycling.

In City-owned buildings, pay for a pickup from your lighting vendor or SF Department of Public Health (SFDPH).

In privately-owned buildings, use companies serving the San Francisco Bay Area.

Guide for Small Businesses & Homes

  • Get a free on-site assessment for low-cost installation of energy-saving equipment. Contact SF Energy Watch, 415-355-3769. 
  • Recycle lighting with companies serving the San Francisco Bay Area or the rest of the U.S.

Guide for Large Organizations

  • Get a free on-site assessment for low-cost installation of energy-saving equipment. Contact SF Energy Watch, 415-355-3769.
  • Recycle lighting with companies serving the San Francisco Bay Area or the rest of the U.S.