An electronic lamp ballast uses solid state electronic circuitry to provide the proper starting and operating electrical condition to power one or more fluorescent lamps and more recently HID lamps. Electronic ballasts usually change the frequency of the power from the standard mains (e.g., 60 Hz in U.S.) frequency to 20,000 Hz or higher, substantially eliminating the stroboscopic effect of flicker (a product of the line frequency) associated with fluorescent lighting (see photosensitive epilepsy). In addition, because more gas remains ionized in the arc stream, the lamps actually operate at about 9% higher efficacy above approximately 10 kHz. Lamp efficacy increases sharply at about 10 kHz and continues to improve until approximately 20 kHz. Because of the higher efficiency of the ballast itself and the improvement of lamp efficacy by operating at a higher frequency electronic ballasts offer higher system efficacy. In addition, the higher operating frequency means that it is often practical to use a capacitor as the current-limiting reactance rather than the inductor required at line frequencies. Capacitors tend to be much lower in loss than inductors, allowing them to more closely approach an “ideal reactance”.
Electronic ballasts are often based on the SMPS topology, first rectifying the input power and then chopping it at a high frequency. Advanced electronic ballasts may allow dimming via pulse-width modulation and remote control and monitoring via networks such as LonWorks, DALI, DMX-512, DSI or simple analog control using a 0-10V DC brightness control signal.