12 Volt Fluorescent Lamp Drivers
Whenever there is a need for battery-powered lighting, like for camping, solar powered cottages, cars, boats, planes, or emergency purposes, fluorescent lamps have a great appeal. Firstly, they are very much more efficient than glow lamps, so they produce much more light for less power consumption. Secondly, their light color stays constant while the battery runs down, while the color produced by a car lamp, really designed for 13.8 Volt, is very yellow-orange under the typical battery-light conditions: 12 V at the battery, minus the voltage drop on some meters of cable, usually results in only 11 V or so at the lamp.
This has lead to many manufacturers producing fluorescent lamp drivers for battery use, generally accepting input voltages of 6, 12, or 24 Volt. Also there are a lot of complete fluorescent lights available, powered by flashlight batteries. But most of these cheap things have a quirk: They don't drive the fluorescent tubes correctly, resulting in low light output, and an efficiency that is not so much better than that of a glow lamp. The manufacturers are not to be blamed for this: The culprit is the public, which prefers buying the cheapest thing available, instead of checking for specifications and paying 20% more for something that is 200% better. In this article I will offer a little insight, and offer three drivers for 12 V that I'm using myself: One for 20 Watt, one for 8 Watt, and one that puts 2 Watt into a 4 Watt tube.