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The ballast in my bathroom burned out (brand new bulb won't light up). Looking online, it seems that there are two different types of ballasts: electronic and magnetic.

I recently replaced my kitchen ballast, and the new one was much lighter than the old one. I assume that is because the new ballast is electronic and the old one was magnetic. Other than weight, what is the difference in terms of reliability, longevity, efficiency, etc.?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Reduced Weight

As you've noticed, electronic ballasts are lighter.

Reduced Lamp Flicker

Because the electronic ballast operates at a higher cycle rate, flicker is less noticeable.

Quieter Operation

Again, because of the high cycle rate, hum is reduced.

More Efficient

Magnetic ballasts can have losses between 5-25%, while electronic ballasts have better current control making them more efficient.

No Starters Required

Magnetic ballasts required a starter to get the lamp lit, electronic ballasts do not require a starter.

Higher Price

Electronic ballasts are typically more expensive, though you may find that this is no longer a problem.

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I'm not sure if it's a regional thing, but all of the big box stores in my area only sell electronic ballasts now. You can still get magentic ones at specialty stores. – Steven Jun 13 '12 at 14:09
Electronic ballasts are also cheaper and easier to manufacture- as well as the obvious thing(pointed out) it is more efficient and allows higher output and longer life for certain specialist tubes (eg HighOutput Aquarium lights) Excellent Answer. @Steven Is there any reason somebody would use a magnetic ballast anyway? – ppumkin Jun 14 '12 at 9:04

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