How to Test an Electronic Ballast with a Digital Multimeter

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Florescent lighting devices are the most commonly used lighting equipment. Usually used in indoor lighting, most residential premises depend on florescent lighting devices for illumination.

Have you ever wondered how your florescent lighting works?

Electronic Ballast

It is with the help of a device known as electronic Ballast that your fluorescent lighting device glows. Electric Ballast controls the start voltage of your lighting devices. It is also responsible for regulating the operational currents of your lighting devices. Unlike magnetic Ballasts, Electronic Ballast is the best option in these modern times. Here is why:

  • ​Electronic ballasts are quiet and do not flicker
  • ​They are smaller and weigh lesser than the magnetic Ballast
  • ​They are economical
  • ​They are environmentally friendly
  • ​Can be used with lamps with parallel and series mode.

If you have ever or are experiencing some of these signs below with your fluorescent lighting, it means your electronic Ballast is faulty:

1. Delayed start

If your fluorescent light is experiencing luminance (a state where your fluorescent light is slow to reach full brightness), then its electronic blast has a problem.

2. Flickering

Most of us think that whenever our lightings start to flicker, it could only mean that our bulbs or light tubes are about to burn out. While this may be sometimes true, it can also mean that your light’s electronic Ballast is faulty.

3. Low output

An old or failing weight is one of the significant reasons you are experiencing low light output or dim light.

4. Buzzing

The annoying buzz sound you hear in your florescent lighting means your electronic Ballast is almost becoming faulty and requires testing.

5. Inconsistent lighting levels

Have you been experiencing dark corners and inconsistent lighting in your room space? It means that it is not only your lamps having a problem but also your electronic Ballast is failing.

How do you test electronic Ballast using a digital multimeter?

After experiencing some of these problems with your lighting system, it is always advisable to test your electronic Ballast. A digital multimeter is the right tool for the job.

A multimeter

A volt-ohm meter or commonly known as a multimeter is a tester that measures electrical, current, voltage, resistance, and other values. There are two types of multimeters:

1. Analog multimeter
  • This type of multimeter has needles that move over the graduate scale.
  • It is less expensive than a digital multimeter.
  • It is also less accurate and hard to read with by most people.
  • It is fragile as it can be damaged by dropping.
  • This type of multimeter is usually for detecting slow changes in voltage
2. Digital multimeter

Though expensive, this type of multimeter is easy to use and also gives accurate readings. Unlike the analog multimeter’s needle and graduate scale, this device has an LCD screen.

The digital multimeter is the most preferred type of multimeter due to its high digital resistance. Once you are equipped with a multimeter, preferably a digital one, then you can begin testing your electronic Ballast.

Types of digital multimeters

  1. Fluke digital multimeter
  2. Clamp digital multimeter
  3. Auto-ranging multimeter

Tools you require:

  • A set of necessary hand tools
  • Digital multimeter

Steps to follow when testing your electronic Ballast

Step 1: Involves disconnecting the Light from Electrical Power

The first thing you need to do is switching off the electricity before removing the fluorescent bulb.

Allow any remaining electric energy to dissipate into the light circuit by waiting for a few moments.

Remove the fluorescent bulb from the tombstones (two fixtures made to hold the light bulb in place on both sides)

Place your fluorescent lamp somewhere safe, for they are too fragile.

Step 2: Involves Removing the Protective Covering of the Ballast

There is a protective covering that hides the Ballast. Use a screwdriver to remove that covering, to observe.

If you notice an oil leak on the electronic Ballast, you need to replace it. Leaking oil means that its internal seal due to high heat has a rupture.

Step 3: Involves Testing your electric Ballast

​To know other issues in your electrical Ballast, you’ll need to start testing it.

  1. Using your digital multimeter, first, you need to test the Ballast’s side with high voltage for continuity of the tombstones and wires that go to it.
  2. ​Usually, there are one to two wires that run to each of the fixtures.
  3. Yellow or blue wires are the power wires, while white indicates neutrality.
  4. Next, you should turn to the “ohms” setting of your digital multimeter then place both probes end together.
  5. After this, the multimeter’s meter should be reading direct short.
  6. Touch your digital multimeter’s probes to one white wire and one colored wire that run from the Ballast. Ballast that is working will read a continuous circuit. For Ballast that’s not working correctly, a replacement should be done.
  7. Next, you need to check all wire pairs whether they test positive and if so, you can start testing the Ballast’s low voltage side.
Step 4: Involves testing the transformer’s Low Voltage Side

After completing all the tests on the transformer’s high voltage side, you need the transformer’s low voltage side.

First, you need to begin by removing all the nuts of both black and white wires, which come from the Ballast’s power feed side.

Touch your digital multimeter’s probes to the white and black wire. If your Ballast is functioning properly, it needs to show continuous circuits. If it does not, you need to replace it.

Extra Tip…

If your tests on your Ballast’s both low and high voltage sides appear to function correctly, you can also check wire connections of the tombstones. Sometimes it’s usually a loose wire that causes your electric Ballast not to function correctly. Electric Ballast is the best choice of the three types of Ballast. If you are having problems with the other kind, especially the magnetic Ballast, tries switching to electric Ballast for added advantages.

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