Despite brisk sales of 4-ft T12 fluorescent lamps, the magnetic ballasts commonly used for the lamps’ operation will start becoming part of the past on July 1, 2010, when their continued manufacture for commercial and industrial applications becomes prohibited by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) ballast efficiency regulations.

“Industry sales data reveal that less-efficient T12s still account for three out of every 10 4-ft fluorescent lamps sold in the United States,” says Susan Bloom, vice chair of the National Lighting Bureau, Silver Spring, Md. “This means that literally millions of existing T12 fluorescent lighting sockets will have to be upgraded sooner rather than later, because the lack of these replacement ballasts will make T12 lighting harder to maintain. The good news is that owners and managers of America's commercial, industrial, and institutional facilities who still rely on T12 lighting can rest assured that there are high-performing and more energy-efficient lighting technologies readily available to them.”

Bloom says facility owners and managers will reap significant benefits from energy-efficient lighting upgrades, including energy savings of as much as 48%, 2-yr to 3-yr simple paybacks, reduced maintenance costs and concerns, and the knowledge that they are supporting the environment and promoting sustainable lighting design. They can also derive additional benefits if their lighting upgrades qualify for the federal tax incentives available through the Commercial Building Tax Deduction (CBTD) established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. In addition, some states offer incentive programs and, in many areas of the nation, utility incentive programs are available.

Managers of facilities whose lighting fixtures incorporate T12 lamps and magnetic ballasts can select from several upgrade alternatives. These include replacing the existing magnetic ballasts with electronic ballasts; modifying the fixtures to accept T8 lamps and electronic ballasts; and replacing the existing fixtures altogether, relying on contemporary T8 or T5 units with electronic ballasts, or, possibly, a different technology altogether.

DOE exempted three types of T12 magnetic ballasts from the rule:

  • T12 dimming ballasts that dim to 50% or less.
  • 2-lamp F96T12HO ballasts designed for outdoor sign applications where temperatures may fall to as low as -20F.
  • Magnetic ballasts with power factors less than 0.90 designed and labeled for residential building applications.

An interactive list of lighting-system designers who provide service throughout the United States is available at the NLB Web site: www.nlb.org. An interactive list of CBTD lighting-system certifiers also is available there. Further information is available through the enLIGHTen America initiative created by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) at www.nemasavesenergy.org.