How to Bypass a Ballast
You may have seen this warning on our website before: “Ballast bypass installation required. To be installed by licensed electrician only.” While bypassing or removing a ballast from the power circuit in order to install LED lamps is easy to do, it is also fairly easy to create a renovation nightmare. Therefore, please read the following warning carefully: “If a person is lacking the expertise to be able to install electrical equipment safely and correctly, it is strongly recommended that they request the services of a professional electrician before proceeding with their reconstruction.”
These instructions will help you to bypass electronic ballasts, which are most likely being used with T8 fluorescent tubes. In this situation the fixture would be retrofitted for non-shunted T8 LED tubes upon the completion of these steps.
1. Turn off the power. Flipping the light switch to the “off” position does not necessarily end the flow of electricity. You need to find the breaker box and determine the breaker switch for the power in that area. Turn the breaker switch off. This way no small children, overly helpful neighbors, or established enemies accidentally turn on the power while you are rerouting the wires.
2. Locate your ballast. In many T8 fixtures, the ballast is covered by a casing and the T8 tubes are on top of it, meaning you need to take out the tubes and unscrew the casing to get to the ballast. Remove any covers, case, lenses, or lamps that block your access to the ballast and set them aside.
3. Cut the hot and neutral wires. A hot wire carries the power to the fixture. It is typically covered in black or red, meaning “hot” or “live”. A neutral wire (for the sake of simplicity) is a white wire which completes the circuit back to the electrical panel. In any case, once you identify the hot wire, the neutral will be on the same side. You need to cut these wires close to the ballast; these are input wires because they send power to the fixture. Leave the longer length of wire (coming from the fixture) for attachment to the main power lines coming from the building.
4. Cut the socket lead wires. The socket lead wires (most likely red and blue-colored wires) are located on the other side of the ballast and connect to wires going out of the ballast to the sockets (which should be non-shunted sockets for T8 LEDs). These output wires provide the power to the lamps.
Let’s pause for a brief summary of steps 3 and 4: Cut all the wires that are keeping the ballast in the fixture within 2 inches of length.
5. Remove the ballast. Now that you have severed the wires that create the circuit through the ballast, you can unscrew the ballast and physically remove it or curl up the remaining shorter ballast wires and tuck them away.
6. Connect the input wires to the output wires. Strip about one inch of the colored insulation off of all the remaining wires. The input hot and neutral wires (black and white) coming from the building need to be connected to the output hot and neutral wires coming from the fixtures. Each hot wire from the fixture (meaning multiple lamps in a fixture equals multiple sockets, therefore multiple hot wires) needs to connect to the hot wire from the building. The same connection needs to be made between the neutral socket wires and the neutral wire from the building. This connection can be achieved using push-in connectors or wire nuts that screw on to complete the circuit of power. It is important to note that T8 LED tubes only need power on one end. Fixtures with multiple lights may have more than one set of wires on one end of the ballast. You only need to connect the input wires to one set of output hot and neutral wires.
Your ballast removal is now complete. It is helpful to note that if you discover a magnetic ballast hiding in your fixture’s casing, you need to find the separate starter device and disconnect it as well. In case your mental state continues to be one of confusion after reading this article, please call an electrician. Furthermore, if you find yourself questioning whether your wiring setup is applicable to these instructions, please call an electrician. Either in doubt, hesitation, or just plain ol’ don’t-want-to-climb-a-ladder-today: please call a professionally licensed electrician.
Choosing the best retrofit LED can be a daunting task; some retrofit LEDs can even be installed without bypassing the ballast. So if you’re ready to upgrade to LED tube lights, give us a call at 1-800-624-4488. Our lighting experts can help you find direct wire LED tubes if you’re ready to tackle bypassing the ballast, or plug and play if you don’t want the hassle. We’ll help you pick the right wattage and color temperature for your specific application so that you can get the most out of your lights.