Depending on where you live in the world, electric ballast systems with 120-volt systems are most common in North America while 240-volt systems are most common in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
If you can utilize 240-volt ballasts for your indoor growing lights, these systems operate at a higher efficiency than 120-volt systems saving 10 – 20% in utility costs. If you are unable to build your grow room using 240-volt electric ballasts then 120 volts will be the best way to go.
Many newer types of ballast available on the market have variable light controls built into them that allow you to use different amounts of power to be delivered through the lights. Usually, you can control the lumen output from 50% – 75% – 100% or more with just the rotation of a control.
If you are using these ballast systems you will want to make sure to use the proper hood and bulb so they perform correctly. Other ballasts that you can purchase allow you to switch from using Metal Halide (MH) to High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) with the throw of a switch.
When using these make sure the correct hood and light are connected to the switch set for the light to work properly. With many other types of ballast, you can power one or two lights from one (1) ballast.
Ballasts utilize a lot of electricity and generate a lot of heat. Be sure to place the ballast in an area where they will be away from water or not able to easily fall over.
If heat is too much of an issue with the ballasts, use a long cable that can extend the ballasts into another room or outside of the grow room to avoid excess heat buildup. If ballast vibrations are a problem, place the ballast on a non-flammable or melt-able foam pad below the ballast to reduce vibrations.
Lighting fixtures that have built-in ballasts will generate more heat and will need better ventilation or more room. When you are using indoor lighting systems you will need to attach the ballasts to either an individual timer or to a whole lighting control system that controls your entire grow room.
By purchasing a whole room control system, you can save money on the number of timers while ensuring that all lights and systems are turning on at the same time.
Electronic Ballast vs Magnetic Ballast
- Fast Startup – Reaches full brightness in less than one (1) minute; magnetic ballasts typically take up to 20 minutes.
- Very Silent – You have to put your ear up to the ballast before you can hear the sound.
- Small, Compact Design – Most electronic ballasts weigh only 8 pounds compared to up to 44 pounds for magnetic ballasts.
- Produces Less Heat – Than magnetic ballasts.
- Efficient – Uses less electricity than magnetic ballasts.
- Longer Bulb Life – Lumen output loss over time is drastically less than magnetic ballasts.
- Convenient – Some electronic ballast can light both MH and HPS lamps.
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Bulbs
Many types of HID bulbs are available on the market with many different shapes and sizes that can fit into more confining reflective hoods. HID bulbs are rated by wattage and the size of the outer envelope or bulb.
By recording the day, month, and year you started using a bulb you will be able to keep track of when a bulb needs to be replaced. You should replace metal halide (MH) bulbs after about 12 months of use and high-pressure sodium bulbs after about 18 months.
HID bulbs are designed to be tough and durable, however, a single drop can shatter a bulb and a slight bump can greatly diminish their life expectancy and lumen output. You never want to remove a warm bulb since heat causes expansion of the metal mogul base in the socket.
Removing bulbs when they are hot can cause the bulb to blow from the pressure and rotation of your hands. Always let bulbs cool down for an hour or more before removing them.
If you ever turn off your ballasts and lights then leave them turned off for a minimum of 20 minutes before you restart them. Restarting them before 20 minutes can damage your bulbs and decrease their life.
The outer arc tube of a bulb. If a bulb should break when you are installing or removing it in the fixture, shut down the ballast immediately and avoid contact with metal parts to prevent electrical shock.
When you are removing the bulb from the fixture you want to be sure to never use your bare hands. Your hands contain oils that can slowly degrade the bulb, and eat (etch) through the glass when heat is exposed to the contacted area.
Always keep the bulb clean when you are removing the bulb from the fixture, use clean paper towels or a clean cloth to hold and remove the bulb. If you have touched the bulb, use Windex or rubbing alcohol on a towel then wipe the cooled bulb down.
This will remove oily residues. Be sure that the bulb is well-cooled since a hot bulb that comes into cold liquids can shatter or explode.
When you are disposing of your light bulbs place the bulb back into its original container and place it into the trash. HID bulbs contain materials that are harmful to your skin and eyes.
Be sure to not break the bulbs and always wear protective clothing to shield yourself. Never place your disposed light bulbs in a fire as these can cause an explosion.
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