T5 Program Start Ballasts

When choosing lighting, LEDs are preferable since they do not contain toxic mercury, are more energy efficient and longer lasting. Can't avoid fluorescents? Try the products below, which have lower levels of toxic mercury than other fluorescents.


Consumer, Industrial

Info on this product category: Fluorescent Ballasts

Why Go Green

Manufacturers are not required to indicate how much toxic mercury is in fluorescent lamps. 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 Fluorescent 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 f and/or ø degrees c 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. All electronic instant start and programmed start fluorescent ballasts with standard or low-ballast factors for 32-watt 4-foot T8 lamps should be “extra efficient”.  (The extra-efficient ballasts are those that are labeled as “NEMA Premium Efficiency” and can be found on the following list, which is maintained by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency: cee1.org/com/com-lt/
  4. All linear and U-bent fluorescent ballasts must have a power factor of >0.90. (According to the US Department of Energy, “Power factor indicates how effectively the input power and current are converted into usable watts of power delivered to the ballast. High-power-factor ballasts reduce current loads on building wiring and transformers.”)
  5. Must be high-frequency and operate lamps at a frequency above 42k Hz to avoid interference with infrared devices and to eliminate visible flicker.
  6. All ballasts for fluorescent lamps  must have a lamp current crest factor (ratio of peak to RMS) not to exceed 1.7 crest factor.
  7. All linear and U-bent fluorescent ballasts should be designed to enable light output to be maintained such that it does not vary more than +/- 5% within operating ranges of +/- 10% of rated system voltage.
  8. 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, TOSullivan@sfwater.org.
  • Contact Steven Mesh, LC, IESNA, Pacific Energy Center, 415-972-5238, sdmn@pge.com.

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.

Citywide Contract

Special Purchasing Instructions

See discounted prices in the most recent Lamps and Ballasts Contract Award.

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.

Write a Review

Log in or register to post reviews