How To Test An Electronic Ballast With A Digital Multimeter (3 Step Guide)

Do you want to know how to test an electronic ballast with a digital multimeter?

Fantastic, you are in the right place.

In this ToolsGaloreHQ.com guide, I will show you: 

  1. What makes ballast different
  2. Testing ballast with a multimeter
  3. Steps to take to ensure safe testing
  4. And So Much More
electronic ballast

Before we get into the details on how to test an electronic ballast with a digital multimeter, please have a read of the table below.

What You Need To Know About How To Test An Electronic Ballast With A Digital Multimeter

Testing an electronic ballast is actually a lot easier than you might think. It requires a very simple test with a multimeter and you are good to go.

However for completeness, I thought it necessary to provide you a little bit of background on a couple of key topics. 

This will make the entire process of testing out your electronic ballast with a multimeter a whole lot more understand. Keep reading to find out more. 

Read More:>>> Find Top Quality Non Contact Voltage Testers 

Differences between magnetic ballast and an electronic ballast

It’s important that you truly understand the differences between an electronic ballast and a magnetic ballast.

Magnetic Ballasts

Magnetic ballasts are typically heavier due to their solid steel core. They are however cheaper to start with and are very reliable. This can be seen by their comparatively lower prices when it comes to purchasing replacement parts as well.

They also allow you to connect between various different lights (i.e. your Metal Halide or HPS bulbs).

Electronic Ballasts

The electronic ballast on the other hand is made from electrical circuitry and hence is a lot more compact in it’s overall design. That is why you will typically find these paired with electronic ballasts.

The negative however is that they are a lot more expensive, in the order of 1.5 to 2 times the cost.

Analysis of the electronic ballast

When cutting the wires of your electronic ballast you will typically find wires in the configuration below. A pair of white and black wires, 2 x red wires, 2 x yellow wires and 2 x blue wires.

The pair of black and white are there to provide mains power supply. The other pair of wires are for connection to the loads (typically fluorescent lights).

When there is an issue with the internal workings of your electronic ballast you can typically pick this up via using a multimeter to test the resistance.

We will go through this exact step with video details in the sections below to follow.

Is it legal to change your Ballast

In many regions across the world, you will often find that it is not legal to work on electrical circuitry within your household, unless you are a qualified electrician.

This is an important but often missed point. Please be sure to check with your local authorities if you are Infact able to change out and test electronic ballasts from your lighting. For you specific region.

Read More:>>> Find Out How Multimeter helps test IAC Valves 

Safety is always #1

Electronic ballast are solid state devices they may carry electrical charge given that they are naturally inductive by nature. Please ensure that before working on any electrical components that the power supply has been disconnected successfully.

Equipment You’ll Need To Know How To Test An Electronic Ballast With A Digital Multimeter

To perform a successful test on your electronic ballast is actually quite quick and easy. You will need a couple of the equipment below.

  • Digital Multimeter
  • Electronic Ballast (Of course)
  • Wire Strippers
electronic ballasts

3 Steps Guide On How To Test An Electronic Ballast With A Digital Multimeter

Step 1: Turn off the mains supply and disconnect your ballast

Turn off the mains supply. Wait for about 2 to 3 minutes before disconnecting the ballast from it’s position.

The reason for this is due to the fact that the ballast is in fact an inductor with a coil wrapped around a steel core. The current does not change instantaneously and takes time to die down.

Step 2: Remove the Ballast and visually inspect 

In this step remove the ballast from it’s fixed location. Let it cool down if it’s still hot before handling it.

Better off use workman gloves as these will also protect you in the case of any static electricity still stored in the device.

Visually inspect the electronic ballast and check thoroughly for any bulges ,discoloration or defects.

Read More:>>> Learn all the multimeter symbols needed to test ballasts

Step 3: Perform a resistance measurement test. 

There are two ways of conducting this test.

The first method can be viewed in the video below.

Set the multimeter to the lowest resistance setting if you are using a manual meter. If you have a multimeter that is equipped with auto-ranging then all you need to do is set it up to measure resistance.

Once this is done take the black negative (-) lead and connect it to the white wire on the electronic ballast. You should then be able to use the positive (+) red lead to test the rest of the wires (red, yellow and blue).

For the test to pass successfully, you should not get a reading on any of the measurements. If for whatever reason you get a reading on a specific measurement. Say white-wire-to-red-wire or white-wire-to-yellow-wire, then you can be certain that the electronic ballast is broken and needs to be repaired.

The very same test can be done but via a probably more simpler method. Please see the video below.

This is similar to running a continuity test with your multimeter. Remember a faulty electronic ballast will result in discontinuity in the wire that forms the inductor. This results in reduced lifetime of fluorescent lights as an example.

Therefore by applying a continuity test at the terminals of the electronic ballast with a multimeter we can easily determine if the electronic ballast is still operational or not.

If you pick up a resistance with your multimeter, then you know that there is continuity and the electronic ballast works. If not we have a problem, and the ballast most likely needs to be replaced.

Read More:>>> Learn the real differences between clamp meters and multimeters

Final Thoughts On How To Test An Electronic Ballast With A Multimeter

Electronic ballasts are part and parcel of our everyday lives. They allow for the efficient operation of gas filled tubed lighting. For example fluorescent bulbs, I hope as you can see from the article above that testing via a multimeter is not very difficult at all.

Always ensure that you operate safely, all the best.

Mogale Modisane

Mogale Modisane

Mogale is a qualified B(Eng): Electrical Engineer. With experience working on large-scale Solar, Wind, and Hybrid Projects. He has been exposed to multiple tools throughout his career and has a keen interest in breaking down the often murky world of power tools, machines, and measurement equipment making them more accessible and understandable to everyone.

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Mogale Modisane

Mogale Modisane

Mogale is a qualified B(Eng): Electrical Engineer. With experience working on large-scale Solar, Wind, and Hybrid Projects. He has been exposed to multiple tools throughout his career and has a keen interest in breaking down the often murky world of power tools, machines, and measurement equipment making them more accessible and understandable to everyone.

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