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Rule #1: TURN OFF THE POWER AT THE BREAKER PANEL.
A fluorescent light ballast is a transformer that outputs a higher voltage than the input (120 volts). The electrocution hazard is very real.
Practically all ballasts have a drawing printed on the label. As a master electrician I still need the drawing to install them properly. Electronic ballasts should have a black and white wire for input voltage. The output to the lamps will be some combination of: red, yellow, blue.
The new ballast must also be matched to the type of lamp. Old fluorescent lamps were T12 (refers to the diameter). New lamps are T8 and produce more lumens with lower amperage.
The feeder or supply power wires (black and white) are the primary of the ballast or transformer, if we are talking about house wiring. The secondary side of the ballast (usually red, blue and yellow wires) supplies from 600 to 800 volts to the lamps. This makes this job very dangerous. Are you sure you want to do this job? Buy a repacement fluorescent fixture, the cost of the ballast will be about the same as the cost of the fixture.
"CFLs" Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (with built in ballast) must be labeled as dimmable to be used on a dimmer circuit.
Traditional fluorescent fixtures must have a dimmable ballast installed inside and can be used with standard fluorescent lamps.
Fluorescent lamps must be sized to match the ballast. CFL's are matched at the factory, but others are not. Older fluorescent lamp fixtures have a ballast inside. A type rating is to operate (2) 48 inch / 40 watt lamps. Newer fluorescent lamps are rated for 32 watts, and these will not work - or will have a greatly reduced life.
If you installed CFL's, the first thing I would do is install regular incandescent lamps and see if it works as expected. If not, something else is wrong - otherwise - make sure you've got the right lamps in the fixture.
Ok - a couple of things, first - when a dimmer is set to minimum; zero to a barely perceptible level of light output is expected. Second, fluorescent lamps have a much shorter range of dimming that the standard incandescent lamps have. It is not unusual for a fluorescent lamp to remain off until the dimmer is at or above the half way point in the dimmer's range. Third, you can not dim a fluorescent lamp or fixture unless the lamp or fixture is specifically labeled as being "dimmable". Use of a dimmer to control brightness of fluorescent lamps and fixtures that do not clearly indicate they are designed for dimming or to control the speed of motors like those in "paddle fan & light fixtures" creates a dangerous fire hazard condition. Most CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) that readily replace the screw-in incandescent type lamps and are clearly labeled as dimmable, can be used with a standard dimmer. The traditional (non-CFL) fluorescent fixtures that have a internally mounted and hard wired internal ballast need a special dimmable ballast to operate.
The first thiing I suggest is checking the installation instructions (either included with the ballast or on-line) of the ballast you just purchased. Many fluorescent ballasts require that the lamps be wired in series - which I believe is what you had before. One lamp connects between the red & the yellow, the other connects between the yellow & the blue. Other fluorescent ballasts require that the lamps be wired in parallel - which may be what you have now (both lamps connect between the red & the blue). The installation instruction sheets should designate the appropriate wiring configuration.
That being said, just double-check one thing: Make sure the new ballast is rated for 2-lamps. Ballasts rated for 1-lamp will only include the red & the blue (no yellow). So I know you sad you already checked with the destributor, but double-check that one point.
Most laptops and thin screen monitors require a "back light" to allow viewing of the screen. This is done with the use of a compact fluorescent light bulb(s) and ballast. These lamps are slightly shorter in length than the monitor and about an 1/8" in diameter. Like all fluorescent lamps, they require a ballast to start. A failed back light system is the result of one or both of these components failing.
It is possible to replace these components yourself, but often times dis-assembly of the monitor is a tedious task - consisting of many very small screws, clips, clamps and ribbon connections that must be removed. Most times, soldering will be required for lamp replacement. The ballast is usually not too hard as they often have a plug or jack connection and clipped or screwed into place. The problem is that you'll probably have to replace both without knowing which is defective.
You can not dim compact fluorescent lamps. The ballast for the fluorescent is built into the bottom of the lamp. IF the manufacture says that it is dimmable, then you would need a special interface (Lutorn FDBI) to make it work properly. It may work for a short while with out it, but will burn out the ballast or dimmer.
The dimmer you purchase needs to be compatable with the ballasts of the C.F. light. A compact flourescent potlight has a ballast, if your replacing incandescent bulbs with compact flourecent lamps
you still need a flourescent dimmer. Remember a ballast is like a transformer! If you compact flourecent fixture has a ballast by Lutron. then you need a lutron dimmer as there ballasts are not officially compatable with other dimmers, allthough I've seen them work. My advise is buy Pass & Seymour (Legrand) or Leviton.