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Purchasing Energy-Efficient Fluorescent Ballasts

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for fluorescent ballasts, a product category covered by FEMP efficiency requirements. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies purchase ENERGY STAR-qualified or FEMP-designated products in all product categories covered by these programs and in any acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

FEMP's acquisition guidance and efficiency requirements apply to instant start (IS) ballasts designed to operate 4-ft medium bipin (e.g., F32T8) or 8-ft slimline (e.g., F96T8) lamps; and programmed start (PS) ballasts designed to operate 4-ft medium bipin, 4-ft standard output miniature bipin (e.g., F28T5), or 4-ft high-output miniature bipin (e.g., F54T5HO) lamps. All other ballast types are excluded.

This acquisition guidance was updated in August 2015.

Find Product Efficiency Requirements

Federal purchases must meet or exceed the minimum efficiency requirements in Table 1. These requirements are stated in ballast luminous efficiency (BLE). A higher value indicates a more efficient product.

Table 1. Efficiency Requirements for Fluorescent Ballasts
Lamp Type # of Lamps Ballast Type
Instant and Rapid Start Programmed Start
F32T8 1 Suspended BLE ≥ 0.87
2 BLE ≥ 0.93 BLE ≥ 0.91
3 BLE ≥ 0.93 BLE ≥ 0.91
4 BLE ≥ 0.94 Suspended
F96T8 1 Suspended N/A
2 BLE ≥ 0.93 N/A
F28T5 1 N/A Suspended
2 N/A BLE ≥ 0.92
F54T5HO 1 N/A Suspended
2 N/A BLE ≥ 0.93


BLE is the ratio of total lamp arc power (TLAP) to ballast input power. The ballast types in Table 1 can drive reduced-wattage lamps that save users additional energy.

Product performance must be determined in accordance with the new “active mode test procedure for fluorescent ballasts” found in the Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR 430, Subpart B, Appendix Q1).  

Federal buyers can find product information (e.g., make, model numbers, and BLE) for fluorescent ballasts in DOE's Compliance Certification Database, which contains certification reports and compliance statements submitted by manufacturers for covered products and equipment subject to federal conservation standards. This database houses only certification records of current basic models that have been submitted within the past year, and is updated approximately every two weeks.

Make a Cost-Effective Purchase: Save $4 by Buying a FEMP Designated Product

FEMP has calculated that the required fluorescent ballast model saves money if priced no more than $4 above the less efficient model. The best available model saves up to $8. Federal purchasers can assume products that meet FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. Table 2 compares three types of product purchases and calculates the lifetime cost savings of purchasing efficient models.

Table 2. Lifetime Savings for Efficient Instant Start Ballast Models
Performance Best Available Required Model Less Efficient
BLE 0.95 0.93 0.91
Input Power 55 W 56 W 57 W
Annual Energy Use 198 kWh 202 kWh 205 kWh
Annual Energy Cost $17.82 $18.14 $18.47
Lifetime Energy Cost $225.42 $229.52 $233.62
Lifetime Cost Savings $8 $4 ======
View the Performance and Model Assumptions for Table 2

BLE: The ratio of total lamp arc power (TLAP) to ballast input power.

Input Power: Based on the wattage used by an instant start electronic ballast plus two F32T8 lamps. Some ballasts are manufactured with the capability to drive multiple lamp configurations, so the same ballast can have different input power ratings depending on the ballast/lamp configuration.

Annual Energy Use: Based on the test method referenced in 10 CFR 430, Subpart B, Appendix Q1, for an instant start ballast (BF = 0.88) driving two F32T8 lamps, operated 3,600 hours/year with an average start of 3 hours. Annual Energy Cost: Calculated based on an assumed electricity price of $0.09/kWh, which is the average electricity price at federal facilities in the United States.

Lifetime Energy Cost: The sum of the discounted value of annual energy cost and an assumed product life of 14 years or 50,000 hours. Future utility price trends and discount rates are from Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life-Cycle Cost Analysis – 2015: Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 and NBS Special Publication 709 (NISTIR 85-3273-30).

Lifetime Cost Savings: The difference between the lifetime energy cost of the less efficient model and the lifetime energy cost of the required model or best available model.


Calculated based on the February 2015 update to DOE’s Compliance Certification Database. More efficient models may be introduced to the market after FEMP's acquisition guidance is posted.


Calculated based on FEMP designated efficiency requirements. Federal agencies must purchase products that meet or exceed FEMP designated efficiency levels.


Calculated based on the minimum federal standard for this product type.


Determine When FEMP-Designated Products Are Cost-Effective

An efficient product is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product, discounted to present value) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. FEMP considers up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels. Federal purchasers can assume that ENERGY STAR-qualified products and products that meet FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed federal efficiency requirements, as shown in the Best Available column above.

Claim an Exception to Federal Purchasing Requirements

Products meeting ENERGY STAR or FEMP-designated efficiency requirements may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications or in locations with very low rates for electricity or natural gas. However, for most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost.

Agencies may claim an exception to federal purchasing requirements through a written finding that no FEMP-designated or ENERGY STAR-qualified product is available to meet functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for the specific application. Learn more about federal product purchasing requirements.

Incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulation Language in Contracts

These mandatory requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including construction guide and project specifications; renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 into contracts and solicitations that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products for use in federal government facilities. To comply with FAR requirements, FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into technical specifications, the evaluation criteria of solicitations, and the evaluations of solicitation responses.

Find Federal Supply Sources

The federal supply sources for energy-efficient products are the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells products through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage!. DLA offers products through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and online through DOD EMALL. Products sold through DLA are codified with a 13-digit National Stock Number (NSN) and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). The ENAC identifies items that have positive environmental characteristics and meet standards set by an approved third party, such as FEMP and ENERGY STAR.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for e-commerce. It contains more than 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each with a unique eight-digit, four-level identification code. Manufacturers and vendors are beginning to adopt the UNSPSC classification convention and electronic procurement systems are beginning to include UNSPSC tracking in their software packages. UNSPSCs can help the federal acquisition community identify product categories covered by sustainable acquisition requirements, track purchases of products within those categories, and report on progress toward meeting sustainable acquisition goals. FEMP has developed a table of ENERGY STAR and FEMP-designated covered product categories and related UNSPSC numbers.

Fluorescent Ballast Schedules and Product Codes

GSA offers fluorescent ballasts through Schedule 51 V (Hardware Superstore) and Schedule 56 (Buildings and Building Materials/Industrial Services and Supplies). 

DLA offers fluorescent ballast models with the ENAC "GF" at the end of the NSN.

The UNSPSC for fluorescent ballasts is 39101901.

Buyer Tips: Make Informed Product Purchases

Instant start ballasts typically use less energy than rapid and programmed start ballasts. However, because they do not preheat the electrodes prior to initiating the arc, they tend to shorten fluorescent lamp life. Instant start ballasts are best used in applications where lights are switched on and left on for many hours at a time.  

Rapid and programmed start ballasts heat the electrodes while initiating the arc, resulting in higher energy use and longer lamp life. Because rapid start ballasts continue to heat electrodes while the lamps are operating, they are the least efficient ballast type and not covered by FEMP. Programmed start ballasts, also known as programmed rapid start or modified rapid start, cut the heat off to the electrodes after the arc is initiated, reducing energy use. Programmed start ballasts are better suited to applications where the lights are switched on and off frequently.

While electronic dimming ballasts are exempt from these specifications, FEMP recommends that federal purchasers consider using dimming ballasts for appropriate applications. Dimming ballasts with well-designed lighting controls can save energy by moderating the timing and light output of lighting systems.

Fluorescent lamp ballasts should have a ballast factor between 0.85 and 1.05 in most applications to maximize light output, avoid reduced lamp life, and prevent unnecessary power consumption.  

Total harmonic distortion (THD) measures the degree to which the current wave shape is distorted from a sinusoidal wave, expressed as a percentage. THD should be 20% or less to reduce interference with electronic equipment. 

Current crest factor (CCF) is the ratio of the peak lamp current to the root mean squared (rms), or average, lamp current. CCF should be 1.7 or less to avoid reducing lamp life.

User Tips: Use Products More Efficiently

Turning off lights in unoccupied spaces is the simplest way to save additional energy and costs. Occupancy sensors, timers, and other controls are available that turn lights off automatically. Remind staff to turn lights off when they leave their spaces for extended periods of time and at the end of the day.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.