Fluorescent Ballasts

Industrial Consumer

City staff are required to buy LEDs.  Compared to fluorescents, LEDs do not contain toxic mercury, are more energy efficient and longer lasting.  

Comply with the Guide for City staff below.  

Can't avoid fluorescents?  Try Limited Use fluorescents that meet criteria below.  They have lower levels of toxic mercury than other fluorescents.





Info on this product category: Fluorescent Ballasts

Why Go Green

Manufacturers are not required to indicate how much toxic mercury is in fluorescent lamps. So in 2008, SF Environment created the nation's first list of fluorescents with the least amount of toxic mercury. Using energy-efficient lighting also reduces demand for coal-burning power plants, which are the largest man-made source of mercury emissions to the air in the U.S.

Why Mercury Is Toxic

When fluorescents break, they release toxic mercury vapors. Short-term acute exposure can cause pneumonia-like symptoms, tremors; muscle atrophy, headaches; decrease of cognitive function. Higher exposures can lead to respiratory failure and death. (Read more).

Mercury released in the air gets into water and fish. When pregnant women eat fish that have mercury, it can lead to a loss of IQ in their children.  

Criteria for Fluorescent Ballasts

If LED replacements do not exist:

  • Electronic fluorescent ballasts for T8 and T5 fluorescent tube lamps as well as 4-pin compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). These products must have a 5-year warranty and be listed in California’s Title 20 Appliance Efficiency Database; and
  • Electronic and magnetic ballasts for pulse start metal halide and high-pressure sodium HID lamps.  They must have a 2-year warranty.
  • If available, seek ballasts that are also RoHS-compliantvii.[CJ(1] [MOU2] 

Prohibited ballasts:

  • Magnetic fluorescent ballasts (including magnetic ballasts for 2-pin CFLs, T12 liner fluorescent lamps, T9 circular fluorescent lamps, and preheat fluorescent lamps);
  • Fluorescent ballasts that are not in the California Title 20 Appliance Efficiency Database;
  • Fluorescent electronic ballasts that do not have at least a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty;
  • Mercury vapor ballasts;
  • Low-pressure sodium ballasts;
  • Ballasts for </= 400-watt probe-start metal halide lamps;
  • HID ballasts that do not have at least a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty;
  • Electronic ballasts that do not have a Class A sound rating; and
  • Ballasts that do not have a Class A FCC Electromagnetic Compliance rating.

Last updated

Last updated: 
August 16, 2019

Guide for City Staff

City staff should see the buy green guide for lamps (bulbs), ballasts, LED fixtures, and drivers, and recycling.

Need help switching to LEDs?  Get funding for retrofits with the SF Public Utilities Commission: 415-554-2442, DAYoung@sfwater.org.

Recycling Instructions

Hang posters where lighting is collected for recycling.

In City-owned buildings, pay for a pickup from your lighting vendor or SF Department of Public Health (SFDPH).

In privately-owned buildings, use companies serving the San Francisco Bay Area.

Guide for Small Businesses & Homes

  • Get a free on-site assessment for low-cost installation of energy-saving equipment. Contact SF Energy Watch, 415-355-3769. 
  • Recycle lighting with companies serving the San Francisco Bay Area or the rest of the U.S.

Guide for Large Organizations

  • Get a free on-site assessment for low-cost installation of energy-saving equipment. Contact SF Energy Watch, 415-355-3769.
  • Recycle lighting with companies serving the San Francisco Bay Area or the rest of the U.S.