The fraud of energy efficient lighting – e-ballasts

In Australia, conservationists have led a push for replacement of a range of appliances that were in good working condition for more energy efficient appliances. For this reason, some types of appliance can no longer be purchased, or serviced with spares as required.

The humble flourescent light is one of those. Although still one of our most efficient lights, rivalled only by the best of LEDs, the push is on to replace the conventional magnetic ballast flourescent T8 flourescent with T5 lights, and in the interim, T8 lights with electronic ballasts.

On purchasing my current home nearly five years ago, I installed 33 flourescent lights. They were purchased around the transition to e-ballasts so there are 17 with magnetic ballasts, and 16 with electronic ballasts.

There have been zero failures of magnetic ballasts in five years.

In the five years, there have been 11 failures of e-ballasts, four within the first year of operation of the lights, and seven in the last month or so.

The first four to fail were Osram 3 wire ballasts in Davis brand lights, about 50%, 66% failure rate within one year.

Essentially, ballasts are not economically replaceable as one can buy a new light for about half the cost of a replacement e-ballast.

The recent failures (seven out of 12 Pierlite lights) prompted a warranty claim under the Australian Consumer Law.


There were 10 Pierlite 1x36W bare battens installed two to three years ago.


Three of the lights continue to operate at this time, and they used the above e-ballast.


Seven of the lights failed in the last month, they used the above Luxalite branded e-ballast. These ballasts all suffered leakage of electrolyte from the largest electrolytic capacitors on board, a sign that they are not capable of the ripple current / operating temperature to which they were subjected. (Note that the lights were outside the building or in the garage which is not heated, and it is winter time in a cold place.)

BallastNewPeirlite (Gerrard) replaced the seven defective lights with new ones which used the above Luxalite ballast. Time will tell if Luxalite / Peirlite have addressed their problems.

Now suppliers know there is a problem. The new Pierlites are bold emblazoned “50,000 hours electronic gear life”. For a light that runs say 12h a day (as some of mine do), that is just over 10 years… and in my last home, magnetic ballast lamps all lasted 30 years with no faults and still all working.

Meanwhile I had replaced the first failures with new lights with magnetic ballasts and electronic starters.

startersAbove, a selection of electronic starters. Phillips claim their one (which appears to the a re-brand of the upper right jobbie) extends lamp life considerably.

My experience has been that most flourescent tube failures are a result of failure of the starter which damages the heater in the tube and they both need replacement.

Electronic starters are definitely more reliable in starting, especially with modern lower mercury tubes (another green push) in cold climates.

Though the e-ballast form claims higher efficiency and therefore power savings over the magnetic ballast configuration, it takes decades of savings to cut out the cost of short lived lamps, transport to buy them, and the work in fitting them.

The bad news is that my electrical wholesaler advised that he is advised by suppliers that the magnetic ballast lamps he sold me are being superseded.

If I were working as an electrical contractor, I would not want to be bearing warranty claims (supply and fitting) for these things which should last 30 years or more… as magnetic ballast lamps do.

Another green hoax where the total cost of ownership and real world savings are not part of the justification!