How to Bypass a Ballast Like a Pro

Who doesn't love a good lighting upgrade around the house? Especially if you're replacing fluorescent bulbs with long-lasting, energy-efficient LEDs?
To do that, you'll need to get rid of the old ballast first. Many argue about whether or not you need a professional to get this task done. However, if you have prior experience in this area, there's no reason why you can't do it yourself.
If you're wondering how to bypass a ballast, you've come to the right place. Below are six easy steps to get it done like a pro!
Related: Talk to Someone in Home Improvement

What You’ll Need

Before you begin, here are a few items you'll need to complete the task successfully:
  • Wire cutter
  • Wire stripper
  • Wire nuts
  • Multimeter (optional)

How to Bypass a Ballast in 6 Steps

While bypassing a ballast is considered a relatively easy task for some, there are some potentially dangerous consequences if done incorrectly.
That's why we got down to the nitty-gritty of every element to provide you with these six simple steps:

Step 1: Disconnect the Power

We can't stress how critical this step is. Before you begin, make sure to cut off any electricity in the unit. And no, this doesn't mean simply flipping your light switch off.
You must cut off any electricity flow between the unit and the power source. To do so, locate the breaker box, which is a metal box with a door built into a wall in your home. The breaker box is essentially in charge of distributing power to your entire house.
Once you've located the breaker box, proceed as follows:
  1. Open the service panel door to access the fuses and switches inside.
  2. You'll find a primary switch and a row of individual breakers underneath it. Each circuit breaker is in charge of a different room in the house.
  3. Find the breaker that provides electricity to the room you'll be working in, then move the handle to the "off" position.
  4. If you’d rather turn off the power to your entire home, flip the main switch, which is located at the top or the bottom of the service panel.

Step 2: Locate the Ballast

The next step is to find the ballast. To get to it, you must first remove the casing, bulb, and any other barriers.
It's important to note that fixtures come in a variety of designs. Some fixtures must be opened from the front to access the ballast, while others are opened from the back.
Assuming you're using the conventional T8 fixture, you'll need to remove the tubes and detach the casing to access the ballast.
To remove the bulb, dismantle the tube casing and set it against a wall or somewhere secure. Then, carefully twist the bulb 90 degrees to detach it.
If you want to play it extra safe, use a multimeter to verify that no electricity is reaching your fixture. Simply connect the first leg of the meter to one socket and the second leg to the other. If the meter reads 0, you're good to go.
Although this step is completely optional, it's always better to be safe than sorry!

Step 3: Snip the Wires

Now that the ballast is exposed, you'll notice a bunch of colored wires surrounding it. You'll need to cut the following wires:

The Hot and Neutral Wires

To begin, if you come across a black or red wire, use your wire cutter to snip it. This is known as the hot wire, and it's responsible for carrying the electrical current to the fixture.
Once you've located the hot wire, you can be sure that the neutral wire is on the same side. The neutral wire is typically white, and it completes the circuit by connecting it back to the electrical panel.
Remember, the hot and neutral wires are the input cables that supply electricity to the fixture. Therefore, make sure you leave these wires as long as possible. This makes it much easier to connect them to the main power cables in the future.
That said, cut the hot and neutral wires close to the ballast. If you want to be precise, a good rule of thumb is to cut the wires two inches away from the ballast.

The Socket Lead Wires

Look for the socket lead wires on the opposite side of the ballast. These wires, often coated in red and blue, link to the wires that run from the ballast to the sockets.
Additionally, they're the ones that allow power to reach the bulb. Once you've identified the socket lead wires, use your wire cutter to clip them off. You can also apply the previously mentioned 2-inch rule to these wires.

Step 4: Detach the Ballast

Once you've cut all the wires coming out of the ballast, you'll be able to easily separate it from the fixture. If you’re installing LED bulbs, then it makes no difference what you choose to do with the ballast.
Because LED lights don’t require a ballast, you have the option of removing it or leaving it in place. In any case, there’s no electricity reaching it.

Step 5: Connect the Wires

Now that the ballast is out of the way, you can complete the full circuit connection again. The main objective is to connect the input hot and neutral wires that are exiting the fixtures to the output hot and neutral wires coming from outside.
To do this, follow the steps below:
  1. Locate the input hot wire. Remove roughly one inch of the colored tube using a wire stripper.
  2. Repeat the process with the output hot wire, input neutral wire, and output neutral wire.
  3. After you've stripped all of the wires, use wire nuts to connect the inputs to the outputs.

Step 6: Put Everything Back Together

Finally, it's time to install your new bulbs and re-attach all the casings to the fixture. Before turning the power back on, double-check that everything is neat and sealed.

Conclusion

Now that you've completed a successful DIY project, it's time to kick back and enjoy your new lights... and savings!
Removing a ballast might be a daunting task for some. Nevertheless, with the right tools and precautions, it's nothing you can't do yourself.
If you want to know how to bypass a ballast, we've got you covered with six simple steps!