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Quick Start for Fluorescent Lights

We have always used fluorescent lighting in our kitchen and have found the slow starting and flickering very annoying.

About 20 years back I discovered that I could buy instant electronic starters that started absolutely instantly. These are the only two I have and they have been used in our kitchen continuously and must be up near 20,000 starts.




Recently my daughter installed a single 40W fluorescent in her kitchen and was soon complaining that she could trip over before the light came on. So I volunteered to buy her an electronic quick start. As we were going to visit her I gave her one of the old 2 I had, My generosity has lead to many diverting hours when I found that they were no longer available.

To replace it I made my first purchase from an electronics catalogue (The catalog has since been updated and now states 2 seconds) that stated a starting time of less than 1 second. At this point I thought all electronic starters would fire instantly and 1 second was just conservative advertising.


Well it was not "instant" in a 32 watt circular or a 20 watt normal fitting so I started thinking about how I could make some measurements.

I ended up using my Canon A30 to make a movie comparing 2 starters. This worked perfectly and with the Windows player I could run back and forth with the slider but the only display was in whole seconds. A bit of searching found the free programme VirtualDub that gave frame resolution (.05 seconds).

If you click on one of the links below you should see a 2 second example of the 2 above starters.

Note regarding the test movies.
The use of the Kwik as a flash (on the right) as a comparison was just for ease of testing. A better comparison would be with a normal light bulb.
You may need to press the start button of the player. Some players may not show the end of these short movies.

To get back close the PLAYER or if the PLAYER has no close button press the browser BACK button.

GREENSTARTER V HERMOSA KWIK AS A FLASH


By using the slider on what ever player was loaded you should be able to see that the Greenstarter took about 1.5 seconds to get the LHS light to fire and that the Hermosa took about .3 seconds. This electronic starter must have some features for it  to sell for A$11 and a search on the type number of its main component revealed that it is VERY smart --a bit of the blurb follows-

Compared to electromechanical glow starters, the EFS STARLIGHT kit offers extended lamp and starter lifetimes, higher reliability and automatic shutdown of failed lamps, eliminating the unpleasant flickering that occurs towards the end of a lamp's life. Compared to other ele.....................................

It had many good features but it was not particularly fast starting, in fact the blurb went on to say that 1.5 seconds was the designed starting time.

I next located Nelson electronic instant at our local lighting shop and this just had to work. It was marked "instant" and after all my old Nelson had started instantly for over 15 years.


If you click on the link below you should see a 4 second example.

NELSON INSTANT V HERMOSA KWIK AS A FLASH


The Nelson started after about 3.5 seconds.

Talking to a helpful specialist shop about starters and electronic ballasts revealed that "Instant" has a special meaning when dealing with lights. It means that once the light is on it does not flicker off and the delay until it starts is not counted ? The Nelson units did blink on instantly in that they did not cause the light to spend any time at half brightness.

I had previously been advised to try an Osram St-171. There were no claims as to this units speed or to it being "Electronic" but it is of a different design as it has a reset button and it sells at a dearer price than the "Ordinary" starters.


It took 2 seconds and multiple flashes to start but it varies a lot.

OSRAM ST 171 V KWIK AS A FLASH


The Pulsestarter was mentioned often and was specified by a big institution in a tender on the internet by name so it was worth getting but I ended up having to buy 4 at a wholesaler.


It was marked "EFS628". When tested it started to light up at about 1.7 seconds and was fully on by 2 seconds. Pulsestarters must have been on the market for quite a while because I was given a reprint from a review in 1985.

PULSESTARTER V KWIK AS A FLASH


As you can buy 2 on a card for less than $2 I thought I would test an ordinary starter.


It started usually in 2.4 seconds with 2 or 3 flashes but it varies a lot

KLIPSAL700 SER V KWIK AS A FLASH


I was starting to think that I was asking too much when last night I found myself in front of a dark pantry- just as I was about to go back to the switch the light came on. I went back on the internet and searching revealed a product that is made in far away Mauritius.


This is what I am looking for. The manufacturer can be found at  www.palmstep.com   They specialise in starters and have a type for every situation domestic and commercial.

Note Instant starters like Turbio only work where there is a ballast and a starter for each tube. The dual 20W ( now 18W) light fittings that are common in Australia only have one ballast and thus they cannot use fast starters. There are special slow type electronic starters (two required) for these fittings but I believe that they are not imported

Palmstep's electronic starters are now available in Australia from www.fantasticlighting.com.au

I emailed Palm Step to find their agent and they said there was none in Australia and a few days later some samples arrived.

You can see by clicking on the link below that it started in half a second. This is not as fast as the Kwik as a flash but the small delay with no light indicates that the tube is being pre-heated which they say extends tube life and helps keep the tube ends from going black.

TURBiO V Kwik as a flash

I have been advised that a fast starter is also available from TABELEK in the UK. http://www.tabelek.co.uk/tabelek-control-systems-ltd.asp


I think ELECTRONIC STARTERS ARE NOT GIVEN ENOUGH PROMOTION

I recently visited a huge hardware chain to see what was available and met a couple clutching a very blackened 12 inch circular tube. They were trying to buy a long lasting fluorescent. It turned out it was for a bathroom. I told them that the frequent starting would shorten the life of any tube and they should get an electronic starter. The problem was that I had found that no hardware and very few lighting stores stocked them. I was explaining what electronic starters were when they spotted that the shop display lights were using them but the shop did not sell them.

Important Note.

The instant type electronic starters ( about .5 second) work on a different electrical principal to the electronic starters that take over 1.5 seconds to light. All three of the "FAST" (< .5 seconds) starter brands caused an audible "BURRRRRRRP" noise in some light fittings as they started and this is an inherent problem caused by their use of the faster "DC" heating. It is worse with higher wattage tubes and if there is any loose metal in the light fitting. Each type and brand of electronic starter has different qualities that may make them suitable for different applications. For example a long starting time may provide starting at low temperatures and be useful in refrigerators or it may provide extra long tube life. Commercial lights that are only started once a day do not need a fast start, but the sure silent starting of many lights simultaneously, the elimination of end of life flashing and tube life is important in commercial settings. Fast starters are only generally recommended  for domestic use.

Starting time is not a measure of the quality or of value. Nothing in the description of the models above should be taken as disparaging in any way. My aim is to provide some knowledge of electronic starters and how they performed in my kitchen.

In Australia we have 240 Volts and the common fluorescent light has a simple inductor as a ballast. The tubes have 2 pins each end connected to filaments. The ordinary starter is a "Glow bottle".