fluorescent ballast longevity

After 2 years of moderate use (2 hrs / day on average) I've determined that the el cheapo $8 Commercial electric shop lights (2xF32T8) have a pretty short life expectancy -- 5 out of 7 units have failed, and a 6th is starting its flickering death throes. The bulbs are fine, the ballasts (Sunpark CL-15) are toast. Meanwhile all the other ancient shop lights that I inherited with the house are still going strong.
Since the units were cheap, it's a painless learning experience. But in the quest to find longer lasting ballasts, the path is not so clear. Some other units in the $20-$30 range at the BORG come with the same 2-year warrantee as the cheapo units, and most other units have no such indication of life expectancy. Even the local lighting speciality store only gives a 5-year expectancy for their $38 ballasts. At that price, it makes no economic sense to do anything but buy new cheapo lights every 2 years, although it feels wasteful and the repurchase and re-hanging is a small hassle.
Other random details: electric system measures 120V on the money; these lights are hung 4" from the basement ceiling (between joists) just like the non-failing older units; basement temp is 60-75 degrees most of the year, maybe up to 85 in rare summer heatwaves.
Does anyone have better info or experience with long-lasting quality shop lights? Thanks in advance for any advice.
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I have 30yr+ units that are fine, try Grainger .
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I'd stay away from the real cheap electronic ballasts like they sell in the $10 fixtures. The new commercial electronic ballasts seem to last a long time

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chocolatemalt wrote: ....

The cheap ones are just that. Buy quality and they will last a long time, give better service and likely more light for the same energy use.
It has been my experience that for this product price = quality.
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chocolatemalt wrote:

Get electronic ballasts. You'll be glad you did.
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wrote:

These failing Sunpark ballasts are in fact electronic, so no luck there. They are instant-on with nice light output... I had no complaints before their short expiration date was up.
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chocolatemalt wrote:

If you got electronic ballasts for 8 bucks, you shouldn't be surprised if they're not top quality.
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chocolatemalt wrote:

Don't feel too bad, I have 26 of them. They were installed a little over two years ago, and one by one they're all starting to fail (ballasts) -- right on schedule.
The sad part is it's cheaper to throw the whole fixture away than to repair the ballast.
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Tim Killian wrote:

Would it be fair to guess that the rest of the fixture was of equal quality?
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Joseph Meehan wrote:

Oddly enough, the sheet metal on these fixtures is well formed with a nice powder coat finish, and the bulb sockets are the same quality as used in commercial two-bulb lamps I've seen. Other than the 2.1 year life of the Sunpak ballast, these lamps are a good value ;-)
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Yay! Sorry for your misfortune but it's nice to know I'm not alone. :)
And I came to the same conclusion as you about ballast repair cost. Be sure to cannibalize the cords before chucking the fixtures -- similar cords cost $4-$8 when bought separately.
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What is your time worth? If it is worth nothing, then the time you spend replacing the cheap fixtures/ballasts costs you nothing and you should keep buying the cheap stuff. My time is worth a lot, so I buy good stuff and it lasts a long time. I save money and agravation in the long run. Just my two cents worth.
Stretch
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Good point. I would like to avoid the time-consuming hassle of replacement, but don't want to shell out a bunch of extra cash for just a few years of extra life. If the 2-year cheapo units cost $8, and the 5-year units cost $40... the latter units are double the cost per year of service and it just isn't worth it.
But further research indicates that electronic ballasts can last from 2 to 20 years depending on the vendor. That's a very wide range, and I'd probably pay $40 or even $50 for the 20-year quality units, but so far I've seen no indication on any of the units for sale at Home Depot, Lowe's, or Ace Hardware that will guarantee a lifetime beyond 2 years. Usually there is no guarantee at all. If anyone has specific brands/models to recommend, that would be great... otherwise I'll keep looking and hopefully pin down a make with quality parts.
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