IKEA Lival desktop lamp (like this) uses a huge adapter plugging into power-socket, which should be a ballast/transmitter. The lamp uses a G23 bulb from e.g. OSARAM DULUX S11 W. I feel it is very strange for this "power adapter" and found no where indicating the bulb's voltage incl. from ORSAM's website2. Question:

  • Could the bulb be directly connected to 220V? would it damage the bulb permanently?
  • Why does it need a ballast, esp. such a big block for design nowadays is really weird.
  • I would switch it to G23 LED type e.g. from Amazon, would it still compatible? If so, I think the design for still use "power-adapter"(ballast) is really awkward (industrial cheating). But are there any benefits for this? reliability? long-life than direct LED (like this)?

Please help me understand this industrial revolution.

2 Answers 2


I think you're thinking of all light bulbs as just a thing you put 120V on, and then magic happens and light comes out.

Voltage is pressure. Current is flow.

Not at all. Lights work on current, and most of them need external help to limit how much current flows through the bulb (or else they will flow too much current and explode). Edison's biggest challenge with the incandescent bulb was to get it to work on constant voltage. Using constant-current was impossible because in the day, that was only possible with AC power, which would've required conceding the War of the Currents to Tesla.

Of course Tesla did win, and the result was discharge lights were viable even before silicon electronics.

So the upshot is that every light source needs some sort of current-limiting device, except for incandescents are able to do it themselves because of Edison's vast search for a self-limiting incandescent.

So yes, fluorescents need a current limiting device called a ballast, that also knows how to run pre-heaters and provide an initial "arc strike" voltage when preheating is done (which takes less than a second).

All the HID lights (low/high pressure sodium, metal halide, and mercury vapor) also need a ballast. So do neons and traditional arc lights ("Batman beacons").

LEDs too need a current limiting device. A resistor will suffice, but if you want peak performance out of them, it really needs to be an active ballast-like device. Because they're electronic now, they call it a "driver".

Fluorescent ballasts and LED drivers are not interchangeable and one will not play with the other.

The things on the market that you call LED "bulbs" that have an Edison base are actually a manufactured products containing a) LEDs, b) heatsinks, c) lensing/diffusion, and d) an LED driver circuit.

As far as an LED "replacement unit", first I wouldn't buy anything from Amazon ever since they became eBay, because so much of it is unsafe junk from the worst overseas factories who cut every corner and ignore safety standards.

But yes, there is such a thing as an LED "fluorescent replacement" designed to work even though the ballast is still present. This too has LEDs, heat sinks, lensing and electronic driver. So in effect the ballast feeds power to the LED driver, which is built "smart enough" to behave the way a ballast expects a fluorescent tube to behave.

  • I understand all the bulbs(fluorescent, as well as LED) need current regulator, but why the currently popular E14/E27 LED bulbs can be directly swapped with old Incandescent bulbs? Do they have a tiny IC board inside? On the other side, would you answer to my 3rd question? thanks!
    – Gustaf
    Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 21:04
  • 1
    @Gustaf I edited in a few more paragraphs at the end. Meantime go hit up www.mouser.com and look at what actual real LEDs look like. That so-called "bulb" is actually a packaged consumer product including a bunch of LEDs, heatsink, packaging, and yeah ... a tiny IC board inside. Though it's a bit more than a chip. Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 21:49
  • thanks! I should have submitted these questions(OP) here before I plugged the bulb directly into 220V power outlet. Now I damaged one :-(, but fortunately I still submitted the quesiton and now I know the techniques inside:-)
    – Gustaf
    Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 22:13

That is a fluorescent lamp. They need a ballast to regulate the current. In short no you can not connect it without a ballast.

Will the one in the video work who knows they don’t show how they tested the led?

Is that led a direct replacement lamp or ballast bypass? It makes a difference and some direct replacement lamps won’t work with some ballasts.

I did not see any listing information other than the CE mark and to me that screams “junk from china” if it had a UL listing and DLC I might give a try but my experience with JFC is it might not even last a week and good luck getting a replacement.

So buyer beware who knows what was going on in that video as far as a power source. But the original fluorescent requires a ballast.

  • 1
    CE mark is a declaration that it conforms to European standards. Everything sold in Europe has CE marking - no matter where it's made. Ikea is a Swedish company, so it should not be surprising that products sold by Ikea has CE marking. Ikea electrical products are generally very safe. They may not be the most efficient or modern, but they are far removed from junk.
    – vidarlo
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 17:40
  • @vidarlo It may be “safe” but it is a self certification, not an independent certification so relative safety is Questionable. Those products are not allowed to be sold in the us brick and mortar stores so they do go under the definition of JFC in my and many others opinion.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 18:29
  • CE marking would have no bearing in the US market. And do you have any basis for your claim that they would not be allowed in brick and mortar stores in the US? AFAIK IKEA has several locations in the US. Furthermore, the question hints about 220V, which would indicate that he is not located in the US, so UL is probably not relevant.
    – vidarlo
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 18:36
  • 2
    Yes, CE is a self-certification, and the only meaningful certification in Europe. Unfortunately all the cheap Cheese from overseas has exactly the same mark, which makes "direct mail from China/Amazon Fulfillment" all the more dangerous. So you can only count on CE if you can affirm a chain-of-custody which precludes counterfeits... which Ikea actually can do. Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 0:34
  • Thanks! Let's firstly apart from the CE certificate or quality concerns, concentrate on the technique side: With a huge ballast block is quite ugly and if the current LED even support this design, which would also consume extra power/energy. A desktop lamp with a simple LED bulbs would be more preferable, right?
    – Gustaf
    Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 21:15

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