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HID lighting stands for High Intensity Discharge, which is a special type of lighting that is much more intense (brighter) than other type of lighting available. An HID lighting system consists of a ballast, reflector, socket and lamp (light bulb). The ballast acts like the engine, converting and driving energy to illuminate the lamp. HID lighting options include High Pressure Sodium (HPS), Metal Halide (MH), Mercury Vapor and Low Pressure Sodium. The two used for plant growth are HPS and MH systems.
MH lamps provide more of the blue spectrum, which is ideal for leafy crops, and/or plants that are in a vegetative (actively growing) stage. MH lamps provide a more natural appearance in color and are typically the choice for plants that have little to no natural light available. HPS lamps provide more red spectrum, which is ideal for most plants that are actively fruiting and flowering. In addition, HPS lighting is the choice for growers looking to supplement natural sunlight. Ideally, growers will use MH to grow their plants and HPS to fruit and flower their plants.
Traditionally, fluorescent lighting was used for seedlings, cuttings and plants with low light-level requirements and HID was used for established plants and plants with higher light-level requirements. Advances in fluorescent lighting technology, however, have provided more options for horticulturists. T5 fluorescent lighting is the latest in plant growth lighting. T5’s high-light output combined with its low heat and energy consumption makes it an ideal light source to grow a broader array of plants.
T5 lamps promote incredible health and vigor of seedlings and cuttings. Root development is superior relative to other lighting sources. While T5 lighting is excellent for starting seeds and cuttings, it’s also able to produce enough light for vegetative growth. Because of their minimal heat output, T5 lamps can be placed a few inches above the plant canopy which maximizes photosynthetic response. T5’s slim diameter enables better photo-optic control of the emitted light, increasing efficiency in the form of even light distribution.
Frequency output to the lamp and energy conversion from electricity to usable light are the biggest differences between magnetic ballasts and electronic ballasts. Magnetic ballasts produce a frequency of 60 Hz. Electronic ballasts vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the frequency produced can be 400x that of a magnetic ballast. Magnetic ballasts produce more heat than electronic ballasts, thus making electronic ballasts more energy efficient.
Electronic ballasts are more efficient at converting electricity into usable light. Growers report in a slight decrease in electrical usage, with a slight increase in light output. Because the electronic ballasts produce very little heat compared to magnetic ballasts, growers will also save on air conditioning.
An average lighting system will increase your electricity cost about $8 to $20 per month. The exact amount depends on the wattage of the system and the number of hours operated. To calculate your cost, multiply the bulb wattage X the number of hours of operation and divide by 1000. This figure is the number of kilowatt-hours of electricity used. (Example: a 400 watt lamp running for 18 hours will use 7.2 kilowatt-hours). Check your power bill for the cost of each kilowatt-hour. Then multiply the number of kilowatt-hours used by the cost of a kilowatt-hour (K/hr) to figure the cost to run your light for that many hours.
Lighting systems are available in a variety of voltages. The standard used by most gardeners is 120 volts which plugs into a standard wall outlet. These days, most ballast can also be used with 240v wiring. When using several grow lights, 240v circuitry can provide options for running thousands of watts on a single timer. Standard wall outlets will work for small installations.
HID systems are available in 120 volt, 208 volt, 240 volt, 277 volt and 480 volt. Fluorescent lighting varies, but most are available from 100 volt to 277 volt.
No. Electric companies base your electrical bill on Wattage, not Voltage or Current. While ballasts wired for 240 volt will draw less current and run a little cooler than one wired for 120 volt, it will not save you money on your electric bill.
Most lamp manufacturers rate their lamps by “Average Life Hours” and usually claim 10,000 to 24,000 hours. These ratings are based on when the lamp will completely fail to come on. They do not factor in loss of intensity or loss of color. Growers who demand the highest yields from every crop will change their lamps every 2 – 6 months. Never use a grow lamp for more than 10 months, or decreases in growth will inevitably occur.
As a general rule, when you are in a vegetative stage of plant growth, run your lights 18-24 hours a day. If you have natural sunlight, it will vary because the sunlight may or may not be direct. It will take a little experimenting to find the best length of time to run your lights. If you are actively fruiting and flowering, the rule is to run your lights 12 hours a day.
The higher the wattage the further away you want the light to be from your plants due to the amount of heat and the intensity of the light. HID lighting will be further away than a fluorescent fixture because of this. You want to keep the light as close as you can, but not so close to burn the plant. 1000w lights should be at least 18” from plant tops, while lower wattage HID lights can be slightly closer. T5 fluorescent lamps can be place mere inches away from plants.
The size of the garden area will determine the wattage you need. The following sizes are for flowering plants. A 1000 watt light will cover about 4 x 4 feet of growing area, a 600 watt will cover 3 x 3 feet, and a 400 watt will cover 2 x 2 feet.
Regardless of old, outdated information, the above figures are very accurate. Growers used to attempt much larger areas with these lights, and the large garden would yield a very small harvest per plant. Modern growers use tighter garden spacing and yield very large amounts per plant. The result is higher quality with fewer plants, and no decrease in yield.
The inner arc tube of a Metal Halide lamp contains mercury. Underwriters Laboratory has stated that for a Metal Halide fixture to maintain its UL Listing, that an additional tempered safety lens is required in the event that the arc-tube and outer glass fail. This will prevent the spread of Mercury.
No! The internal components of the ballast are designed to send the correct voltage and current for the rated lamp. Mixing lamps and ballasts will result in premature failure and will void the manufacturers’ warranty. Consider the size area you want your garden to be prior to making a lighting purchase. It is better to grow into a fixture than out of one.
Yes, the internal components of 400 watt and 430 watt ballasts are almost identical. You will only get 400 watts of light out of the 430 watt lamp, however.
Manufacturers do not state that gloves are required when handling their lamps. It is
recommended that your hands be thoroughly washed prior to handling HID lamps though. Wipe down bulbs with a dry, clean cloth after installation.
A lamp that operates on the opposite ballast it was originally designed for. For example, a 940 watt conversion lamp is an HPS lamp that runs on a 1000 watt Metal Halide Ballast. There are also MH lamps that are designed to operate on HPS ballasts. These bulbs allow the grower to purchase the ballast of their choice and offer the flexibility of growing a variety of plant types by simply changing the lamp they need.