Fluorescent Lamp Fyi: Cold Starts
By Kevin Bonawitz
The starting and light output of fluorescent T12 lamps is very sensitive to ambient temperature. The colder the ambient temperature, the lower the light output (at 20°F the lamp will be at approximately 60% light/UV output).
Light Output: F40T12 Blacklight lamps peak in light/UV output at 77°F/25°C.
Starting The Lamp
The lower the ambient temperature, the harder it will be to ignite the lamp. Fluorescent lamps use Mercury (Hg) to help the lamp ignite and run. When its cold the Mercury is in a solid-liquid condition. At any temperature under 50°F the lamp will need a higher voltage or longer strike time from the ballast to turn on. The colder it gets, the longer it will take the lamp to ignite.
A fluorescent lamp needs a ballast to operate. Some electronic ballasts ignite the lamp as low as 0°F. Others only go as low as 50°F. The ballast used in the fixture will determine the ability of the lamp to ignite in cold temperatures.
This is why fluorescent lamps do not make very good outdoor illumination in the winter months. Lamps have a dim glow for long periods of time “heating up” before starting, if they start at all.
Don’t store lamps in service vehicles overnight or in unheated storage buildings if the temperatures are freezing (or below). Do not take cold lamps directly to the account for installation expecting them to work at peak performance or even ignite at all.
Rule of thumb, bring lamps to room temperature prior to installation (without plugging-in the systems). Conduct your other service work; allowing the lamps to acclimate to the temperature. Circle back after all work is completed and power up the UVA systems for best results.
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