Are you sure they were 220 volt and not 277 volt lights ? If a plant has 3
phase 480 volts in use, the lights are usually set for 277 volts. That is
because you can get 277 volts from one leg of the 480 to the center of the
transformer that is connected in the Y arangement.
I doubt they last longer because the tubes can be the same and the ballast
is the differance.
Fluorescent tubes are not rated by voltage. They are rated by style,
size, wattage, color temp, etc.
Ballasts are rated for voltage, in addition to other characteristics.
In the US, anyway, you can get 120, 240, or 277 volts, the latter
being common in commercial and inductrial installations.
Of course, using 240 volts or higher,
makes the ballast simpler .... anyway,
in the days before electronic ballasts.
Tubes over about 20 some inches, in
the US with 120 volts, require ballasts
which are actually step up transformers.
This is necessary to maintain the "arc"
in the tube. With so-called electronic
ballasts, the voltage can be anything
the designer wants, making the starting
You'll also need to re-wire your garage for 240V.
They were probably 277V fixtures. The price savings comes in not
needing as big a step down transformer for the 120/240V. Those things
are pricey and the 277V fixtures cost about the same as the residential
In short don't bother chasing 2 bucks. You might get one but not the
Richard Reid, LC
thanks for all the posts, it most like was 277, and I assumed 240 would
be similar, supervisor commented on incredible lifespan of bulbs.
I am plannin on a large garage/workshop in the future and I figured
that if the lighting was 240v, I'd save money just on wiring (a 40x80
Just get fluorescent fixtures with "real deal" ballasts 9.5 inches
overall length including the mounting flanges. Preferably better to get
the fixtures with bulbs and ballasts from one of those electrical/lighting
supply shops of the kind that contractors go to.
Be patient there and thenm confirm that the bulbs are 32 watt T8, that
the ballasts are electronic, and that the ballasts are either of
"commercial grade" or "specification grade" as opposed to "residential
grade". Also that the ballasts are not rated for both T8 and T12 lamps -
I am more suspicious of ballasts that are supposed to be good for both
because T8 and T12 have significantly different arc current.
Don't be afraid to pay more for fixtures that come with good ballasts
and good bulbs. I think of cheap fixtures as being best for those who are
up to buying good ballasts to substitute for the stool specimen ballasts
that cheap fixtures all-too-often come with!
- Don Klipstein ( email@example.com)
The lifespan isn't inherent to the supply voltage, it's more a consequence
of the ballast and bulb quality. "Standard" residential dual-tube
4' fluorescents have _extreme_ price pressure, and that $15 fixture
has lowest-possible-cost ballasts - reasonably decent replacement
ballasts usually cost more than the whole fixture did.
While it may seem silly to replace a failed ballast in a $15 fixture
with a $25 ballast instead of simply buying another fixture, the result
with the better ballast will usually pay for itself.
In industrial situations, there isn't quite the price pressure, the
buyers are much more interested in longevity - the labor in replacing
a bulb (not including the bulb!) might end up costing more than the
fixture did. Sales of such units live or die by longevity and
You'd be hard pressed to save any _installation_ money with decent
fixtures (at any voltage, including perhaps slightly simplified
less costly wiring) compared to el-cheapo $15 120V units. But you'd
probably kick yourself later for picking the real cheap ones.
Especially in cold zones...
Rather than focussing on voltage, you should be focussing on
getting good quality fixtures _first_. It may be difficult sorting
out which 4' ones are any good in the plethora of 120V systems, because
price _itself_ isn't really the issue. Go for names or recommendations
from electricians. Then decide if picking a different supply voltage
will save you enough to be worth the slightly additional hassle.
An alternate approach is to go with 8' fixtures. They're sufficiently
unusual in the residential end, that they don't suffer from the same
The main lighting in my shop is 120V 3 8-foot dual tube electronic ballast
fixtures. In terms of light output, they probably cost about 2-3 times
as much as the equivalent in cheapie 4' fixtures, but they're solid,
reliable, and consistently _start_ at -25C (about -10F) and below.
The bulbs are getting on to almost 10 years old now. Regular "cheapie"
units seem have a 5 year lifespan in the same environment, even with a
far lower duty cycle.
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
all points I thought we assumed. not worried about instalation costs,
but more of the overall cost savings. a ballast that cost $15 and has
to be replaced 3 times is not effective compared to a $25 ballast.
another assumed issue, in a 40x80 shop, 4' bulbs seem downright silly.
this tagline sounds familliar, how long you've been posting lewis?
Standardization has some benefits. Many large warehouses, gyms, and
stores are lit with 4' tubes. More, smaller sources make for less
shadowing, an important issue for detail critical areas.
Many spaces with old 8' lamps are replacing them with 4' T8 tubes. 1/2
the tubes and ballasts, longer lamp life, less power!
The super-bright T5HO lamps are even replacing metal-halides in many
big spaces. Due to their high output they require 1/4 the
fixtures/tubes/ballasts and therefore less installation, maintenance
and disposal. (4 lamp ballasts are big help also.)
Do the math for your case. Get some real costs from local suppliers.
Check out the lamp and ballast makers web sites for tips and quickie
calculators to compare options.
Richard Reid, LC
Incredible lifespan comes from not turning them off and on. I worked for a
company that NEVER turned off the lights, there were no switches, you had to
go to the circuit breakers to get them off. They were running for 20 years
before the price of electricity and other pressures forced them to add
timers to turn the lights off after hours.
During the 20 years that they were on, some of the bulbs were never changed.
Occasionally the power would go out and then the weak bulbs would not light
up and had to be changed out. Others survived until the timers killed them
They probably also only put out a small fraction of their original
ALL lighting fades over time!
Fluorescents can last long enough to barely glow. But of course they
still use the same amount of power. If you can notice a difference in
brightness just by looking at them it is probably time to change the
The bulbs don't come in 120V and 240V ratings.
More likely you as a 120V customer are suffering from any or any
1. The fixtures have those dim 25 watt bulbs and ballasts for those
junky bulbs. The usual 4-foot 1.5 inch diameter replacement bulbs are not
25-watt but 34 or 40 watt.
2. You got fixtures with cheaper ballasts that are sometimes referred to
as "residential grade", and that I sometimes would rather refer to as
"stool specimens" to put it semi-politely.
The better ballasts tend to be referred to as "commercial grade" or
better still "specification grade", and ones of those better grades that
run two 4-foot bulbs have overall length 9.5 inches including the mounting
flanges at the ends, 8.25 inches excluding those mounting flanges, 2.25
inches wide, and 1.5 inches tall. Ballasts for two 4-footers with shorter
length, especially if exclusively for two lamps and/or exclusively for 40
watt lamps or rated for both 40 and 32 watt lamps, I believe are more
likely to be "stool specimens".
In that event, best bet is to get a "real deal" ballast of overall
length including the mounting flanges 9.5 inches, preferably rated to
power 32 watt (T8) lamps and neither 34 nor 40 watt (T12) lamps, and get
some 32 watt T8 bulbs. Second-best is to get a ballast of such a long
length, rated both for 40 watt and 34 watt (or "energy saver F40") lamps
of T12 (1.5 inch diameter), and not 32 watt (T8), and use T12 (1.5 inch)
bulbs of 40 watts or 34 watts ("energy saver F40"), preferably "true
40-watt" unless it won't get chilly where the bulbs are.
If you run into trouble at the hardware store or the big box store in
this area, then try one of those electrical/lighting supply shops of the
kind that contractors go to. Be patient, be prepared to wait, and don't
expect super-fast checkout - especially not in many areas where many of
their customers are paid on-the-clock to have their orders rung up and
where many customers buy hundreds or thousands of dollars of merchandise
at a time. But with meerely reasonable patience, one can buy so little as
one $3.50 compact fluorescent lightbulb or one 4-pack of incandescents at
If you get 32 watt T8 bulbs, I do advise a couple points:
1. Two popular colors are 35 and 41, as in 2-digit abbreviations of color
temperature in Kelvin. 41 is a basically "cool white" "plain white"
color, although color rendering is better than that of "old tech cool
white". 35 is what I like to call a "semi warm white", a "whitish
halogen" sort of a color that I find more pleasant, even more pleasant
than the supposedly-more-incandescent-like 30.
2. If you have a choice of the 35 or 41 preceded by 8 or 7, or preceded
by SPX or SP without an X, 8 or SPX is slightly better than 7 or SP
without an X. The difference is only minor, but the better grade has
color rendering index in the 82-86 range while the worse grade has color
rendering index in the upper 70's.
Keep in mind that I like 835/841 or SPX35/SPX41 more than fluorescents
with color rendering index in the 90's for two reasons:
1. Light output is compromised when color rendering index is pushed past
the 82-86 range.
2. Fluorescent lamps with color rendering index above the 82-86 range,
despite their color distortions being mild, tend to have their color
distortions mostly in the direction of making reds and greens darker and
more brown and skin tones more pale - same direction as most fluorescents
of older technology, just not as bad though in that direction.
Most fluorescents with color rendering index in the 82-86 range,
especially 32 watt 4-foot T8, 17 watt 2-foot T8 and compacts, tend to have
their color distortions mostly in the direction of making colors brighter
and more vivid than "proper". My worst complaint is that pure reds
such as red poinsettia leaves have some tendency to be rendered slightly
orangish - although tomatoes and apples in my experience do not appear
less red than "proper" in my experience with these lamps.
- Don Klipstein ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
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