Purchasing Energy-Efficient Fluorescent Ballasts

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Instant-start ballasts are best used in applications where lights are switched on and left on for many hours at a time. Programmed-start ballasts are better suited to applications where the lights are switched on and off frequently.

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for fluorescent ballasts, a product category covered by FEMP efficiency requirements. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies purchase ENERGY STAR-qualified products or FEMP-designated products in all product categories covered by these programs and in any acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

FEMP’s acquisition guidance and efficiency requirements apply to instant start (IS) ballasts designed to operate 4-foot medium bipin (e.g., F32T8) or 8-foot slimline (e.g., F96T8) lamps, and programmed-start (PS) ballasts designed to operate 4-foot medium bipin, 4-foot standard output miniature bipin (e.g., F28T5), or 4-foot high-output miniature bipin (e.g., F54T5HO) lamps. All other ballast types are excluded.

This acquisition guidance was updated in July 2017.

Find Product Efficiency Requirements

Federal purchases must meet or exceed the minimum efficiency requirements in Table 1. These requirements are stated in ballast luminous efficiency (BLE), which is the ratio of total lamp arc power (TLAP) to ballast input power. A higher value indicates a more efficient product.

Table 1. Efficiency Requirements for Fluorescent Ballasts
Lamp Type # of Lamps Ballast Type
Instant and Rapid Start Programmed Start
F32T8 1 Meet 2014 Federal Standard BLE ≥ 0.87
2 BLE ≥ 0.93 BLE ≥ 0.91
3 BLE ≥ 0.93 BLE ≥ 0.91
4 BLE ≥ 0.94 Meet 2014 Federal Standard
F96T8 1 Meet 2014 Federal Standard NAb
2 BLE ≥ 0.93 NA
F28T5 1 NA Meet 2014 Federal Standard
2 NA BLE ≥ 0.92
F54T5HO 1 NA Meet 2014 Federal Standard
2 NA BLE ≥ 0.93

The ballast types in Table 1 can drive reduced-wattage lamps that save users additional energy. Product performance must be determined in accordance with the new "active mode test procedure for fluorescent ballasts" found in the Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR 430, Subpart B, Appendix Q1).

Federal buyers can find product information (e.g., model numbers and lamp efficiency) for fluorescent ballasts in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Compliance Certification Database, which contains certification reports and compliance statements submitted by manufacturers for covered products and equipment subject to federal conservation standards. This database houses only certification records of current basic models that have been submitted within the past year, and is updated approximately every two weeks.

Make a Cost-Effective Purchase: Save $9 by Buying a FEMP-Designated Product

FEMP calculated that the required fluorescent ballast model saves money if priced no more than $9 above the less-efficient model. The best available model saves up to $11. Federal purchasers can assume products that meet FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. Table 2 compares three types of product purchases and calculates the lifetime cost savings of purchasing efficient models.

Table 2. Lifetime Savings for Efficient Instant Start Ballast Models
Performance Best Available Required Model Less Efficient
BLE 0.95 0.94 0.90
TLAP 44 43 52
Ballast Power 2 3 5
Annual Energy Use 9 11 20
Annual Energy Cost $1 $1 $2
Lifetime Energy Cost $8 $10 $19
Lifetime Cost Savings $11 $9 =====


View the Performance and Model Assumptions for Table 2

Performance Column

BLE: The ratio of total lamp arc power (TLAP) to ballast input power.

TLAP: Based on the wattage used by an instant-start electronic ballast plus two F32T8 lamps (shown in watts). Some ballasts are manufactured with the capability to drive multiple lamp configurations so the same ballast can have different input power ratings depending on the ballast or lamp configuration.

Ballast Power: Power to the ballast only, not including power used by lamp, determined using BLE and TLAP, (shown in watts).

Annual Energy Use: Based on the test method referenced in 10 CFR 430, Subpart B, Appendix Q1, for an instant-start ballast driving two F32T8 lamps, operated 4,065 hours/year with an average start of 3 hours (shown in kWh). (Source: DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. 2014. Final Rule Technical Support Document: Energy Conservation Program for Consumer Products and Certain Commercial and Industrial Equipment: General Service Fluorescent Lamps and Incandescent Reflector Lamps.)

Annual Energy Cost: Calculated based on an assumed electricity price of $0.09/kWh, which is the average electricity price at federal facilities. (Source: Federal Government Energy/Water Use and Emissions in 2015 in Comprehensive Annual Energy Data and Sustainability Performance.)

Lifetime Energy Cost: Calculated as the sum of the discounted value of the annual energy cost and assumed product life of 12.3 years or about 50,000 hours. Future electricity price trends and a 3% discount rate are based on federal guidelines (NISTIR 85-3273-31) and are from the Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 and NBS Special Publication 709, Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life Cycle Cost Analysis. 2016.

Lifetime Cost Savings: The difference between the lifetime energy cost of the less efficient model and the lifetime energy cost of the required model or best available model, shown in kWh.

Best Available Model Column

Calculated based on the February 2017 update to DOE's Compliance Certification Database. More efficient models may be introduced to the market after FEMP's acquisition guidance is posted.

Required Model Column

Calculated based on FEMP designated efficiency requirements. Federal agencies must purchase products that meet or exceed FEMP designated efficiency requirements.

Less Efficient Model Column

Calculated based on the minimum federal standard for this product type.

Determine When FEMP-Designated Products are Cost-Effective

An efficient product is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product, discounted to present value) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. FEMP considers up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels. Federal purchasers can assume FEMP-designated products are life cycle cost-effective. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed federal efficiency requirements (e.g., the best available model).

Claim an Exception to Federal Purchasing Requirements

Products meeting ENERGY STAR or FEMP-designated efficiency requirements may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications or in locations with very low rates for electricity or natural gas. However, for most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost.

Agencies may claim an exception to federal purchasing requirements through a written finding that no ENERGY STAR-qualified or FEMP-designated product is available to meet functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for the specific application. Get additional information on federal product purchasing requirements.

Incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulation Language in Contracts

These mandatory requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including construction guide and project specifications; renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 into contracts and solicitations that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products for use in federal government facilities. To comply with FAR requirements, FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency and energy performance requirements into both the technical specification and evaluation sections of solicitations.

Find Federal Supply Sources

The federal supply sources for energy-efficient products are the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells products through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage!. DLA offers products through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and online through FedMall (formerly DOD EMALL). Products sold through DLA are codified with 13-digit National Stock Numbers and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). The ENAC identifies items that have positive environmental characteristics and meet standards set by an approved third party, such as FEMP.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for e‑commerce. It contains more than 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each with a unique eight-digit, four-level identification code. Manufacturers and vendors are beginning to adopt the UNSPSC classification convention, and electronic procurement systems are beginning to include UNSPSC tracking in their software packages. UNSPSCs can help the federal acquisition community identify product categories covered by sustainable acquisition requirements, track purchases of products within those categories, and report on progress toward meeting sustainable acquisition goals. FEMP has developed a table of ENERGY STAR and FEMP-designated covered product categories and related UNSPSC codes.

Fluorescent Ballast Schedules and Product Codes

GSA offers fluorescent lamps through Schedule 56 (Buildings and Building Materials/Industrial Services and Supplies).

DLA offers fluorescent ballast models with the ENAC "GF" at the end of the NSN.

The UNSPSC for fluorescent ballasts is 39101901.

Buyer Tips: Make Informed Product Purchases

Instant-start ballasts typically use less energy than rapid- and programmed-start ballasts. However, because they do not preheat the electrodes prior to initiating the arc, they tend to shorten fluorescent lamp life. Instant-start ballasts are best used in applications where lights are switched on and left on for many hours at a time.

Rapid- and programmed-start ballasts heat the electrodes while initiating the arc, resulting in higher energy use and longer lamp life. Because rapid start ballasts continue to heat electrodes while the lamps are operating, they are the least-efficient ballast type and not covered by FEMP. Programmed-start ballasts, also known as programmed rapid start or modified rapid start, cut the heat off to the electrodes after the arc is initiated, reducing energy use. Programmed start ballasts are better suited to applications where the lights are frequently switched on and off.

While electronic dimming ballasts are exempt from these specifications, FEMP recommends that federal purchasers consider using dimming ballasts for appropriate applications. Dimming ballasts with well-designed lighting controls can save energy by moderating the timing and light output of lighting systems.

Fluorescent lamp ballasts should have a ballast factor between 0.85 and 1.05 in most applications to maximize light output, avoid reduced lamp life, and prevent unnecessary power consumption.

Total harmonic distortion (THD) measures the degree to which the current wave shape is distorted from a sinusoidal wave, expressed as a percentage. THD should be 20% or less to reduce interference with electronic equipment.

Current crest factor (CCF) is the ratio of the peak lamp current to the root mean squared, or average, lamp current. CCF should be 1.7 or less to avoid reducing lamp life.

User Tips: Use Products More Efficiently

Turning off lights in unoccupied spaces is the simplest way to save additional energy and costs. Occupancy sensors, timers, and other controls are available that turn lights off automatically. Remind staff to turn lights off when they leave their spaces for extended periods of time and at the end of the day.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.