Light Electronics

Others have talked about ballasts, quite well too. 

I find that some lamps are designed to be "pre-heat" started, and really
don't start well at all on Rapid Start or Instant Start ballasts. Many times,
simply rubbing the lamp or lamps from one end to the other will start them.
 This is related to the way many Rapid Start ballasts need a "ground" (some
folks call this "earth") quite close to the lamp to induce the arc.  In most
Rapid Start fixtures, the ballast is grounded to the metal fixture, and the
metal reflector.  The distance from the reflector to the bulb, and also the
"ground effect" from the distance the Ballast is from the bulb, can be
critical.  Also darned annoying.  (  :-) )

Many Electronic ballasts will start just about anything.  Here in Central
Iowa, the W.C. Grainger folks carry Advance (brand) Electronic Ballasts, as
well as a lot more brands.  At least, they are in their catalog - sometimes
the actual ballast you want has to either be shipped from one of their other
stores, or special ordered for you.  The "catch" is that Grainger will ONLY
sell to a "business." NO "retail" sales.  Still, if you have a friendly
business person - - - - .  It is not a matter of Sales Tax, if any.  The
"Business" accounts ALSO PAY SALES TAX!!  Grainger has to collect Iowa Sales
Tax on any business purchase that is to be used in the business itself.  The
business has to collect the tax on items they will either re-sell or will
install for someone else. It is a matter of a Business Supplier just not
wanting to get into the hassle of retail sales. 

I am informed (meaning I hope the person who told me this knew what he was
doing - he had just replaced all of the lights in his store with T-8 bulbs,
no ballast change, just the bulbs, on advice of his Power Company) that T-8
bulbs ALL give more light per watt of electricity than T-12 bulbs. This is
supposed to be because the arc inside the bulb is CLOSER TO the phosphor
coating, hence the phosphor glows brighter with the same amount of
electricity in the arc.  I know the store is considerably brighter with the
T-8 bulbs, as compared to identical wattage T-12 bulbs.

Hope this will prove helpful.