One of the most common questions we get is, "Can a regular fluorescent ballast be used to run an ultraviolet bulb?"
The answer to that question is...
Ballast manufacturers like Philips Advance, GE, Fulham, Robertson, and others often specify which lamps their ballasts are designed to run. Because fluorescent tubes are much more common than germicidal bulbs, these specification sheets only specify fluorescent lamp types.
But that doesn't mean the ballast won't run a UVA, UVB, or UVC bulb. And some manufacturers have tested their ballasts with UV lamps.
In most cases, for regular fluorescent ballasts, manufacturers don't list compatible UV lamps on their spec sheets.
One reason for this is the huge number of specialized UV lamps in comparison to architectural fluorescent bulbs. For instance, we have over 1,200 UVC germicidal bulbs on our site, many of them very specialized for particular applications and equipment, but many others are standard UV bulbs. And there are a lot of them!
To list the electrical specifications of each one of these, ballast manufacturers would have to do a lot more testing, and spec sheets would get a lot longer. And it's not worth it for them to do that for specialty bulbs like UV lamps.
However, not every ballast can run every ultraviolet bulb. The more specialized the UV bulb, the more particular it is, and the more difficult it can be to find a compatible ballast.
For a regular G4T5 lamp, many ballasts that run F4T5 bulbs will work. But for complicated, high-output, amalgam UV lamps, only a few manufacturers make ballasts for those and they are highly specialized.
So How Can You Tell?
In the last few months, ultraviolet ballasts have been bought up and lead times have been extended from weeks to months. So many people have started switching to compatible non-UV ballasts that can run the bulbs they need.
One way to find a ballast for your UV bulb is to contact several ballast manufacturers. They may be able to find a cross reference for your bulb.
Second, you can always ask us. We keep a list of compatible ballasts -- UV and regular -- for a large list of germicidal and regular ultraviolet lamps. In most cases, we've been able to find an ultraviolet ballast for our customers, and many times we've found several options from different vendors.
In these uncertain times, ultraviolet equipment manufacturers have gotten smarter and more creative about matching bulbs to ballasts.