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Fluorescent tubes require a ballast to operate. A fluorescent tube circuit includes a ballast, wires, lampholders, and the tubes.

Bulb vs Lamp

Electricians usually refer to a light bulb as a lamp. Light bulb manufacturers use the term “lamp” when referring to fluorescent lights. On this page, we will refer to a fluorescent light bulb as a lamp or tube.

Individual vs Common Ballast Wires

Individual ballast wires each connect to a lampholder on one side of each tube. The common wire(s) connect to all of the lampholders on the other side of the tubes.

Ballast Wiring

Ballast Wire Colors

Wire colors for individual and common connections on fluorescent ballasts will vary depending on ballast type, brand, and the number of lamps they support. Ballasts have certain colors for individual wires to lampholders, and other colors for common wires to holders.

Magnetic vs Electronic Ballasts

Older magnetic fluorescent ballasts are usually wired in series. Newer electronic ballasts are usually wired in parallel, except for rapid start, programmed start, and dimmable ballasts.

Series vs Parallel Ballasts and Wiring

When a series ballast operates multiple lamps and one lamp fails, the circuit is opened and the other lamps will not light.

When a parallel ballast operates multiple lamps in a circuit, the lamps operate independently of each other. If one lamp fails, the others can keep operating as the circuit between them and the ballast remains unbroken.

With some 3 and 4-lamp series-parallel ballasts, if a single lamp in one branch fails, the lamp(s) in the parallel branch will continue to operate.

2 Lamp Parallel Ballast1 Lamp Series Ballast1 Lamp Parallel Ballast

1 Lamp Series Ballast

1 Lamp Parallel Ballast

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Fluorescent Ballasts

Ballast Wiring

Parallel Ballast Wiring

Series Ballast Wiring

Series Ballast Wiring 4 Lamps

Dimming Ballast Wiring

CFL Ballast Wiring

Fluorescent Lampholders

Fluorescent Lampholder Wiring

Parallel Ballast Lampholder Wiring

Series Ballast Lampholder Wiring

Series Ballast Lampholder Wiring 3 Lamps

Swap Terminals on Non-Shunted Lampholders