"Sunlight Supply, in keeping with their commitment to provide grow lights using cutting edge technology, offers the Sun System Galaxy ballast".
The purpose of a ballast is to provide an initial voltage surge strong enough to ignite a lamp followed by a continuous voltage sufficient to maintain the ignition. Since the balllast is a heavy electrical component it is kept separate from the lamp/reflector and is connected using a high voltage cord. This is done in order to facilitate the raising and lowering of the lamp/reflector which could be rather diffiicult if the complete system were contained in a single unit. 150 watt, 250 watt, and even 400 watt systems are manufactured by Sunlight Supply that are light enough to be used as all-in-one systems although typically the 400w, 600w and 1000 watt systems have the ballast separated from the lamp/reflector.
Grow lights use two different types of lamps: metal halide (MH) and high pressure sodium (HPS), distinguished by the type of gas used inside the lamp. MH ballasts will work only with MH lamps while HPS ballasts will work only with HPS lamps. The most recent improvement with Sunlight ballasts has been the separation of components into their own compartment within the ballast casing. This allows heat sensitive components to be isolated from heat producing components, which further helps to prolong ballast life.
Sunlight Supply, in keeping with their commitment to provide grow lights using cutting edge technology, offers the Sun System Galaxy ballast. By applying digital technology to the requirements of modern high intensity lamps, they have been able to eliminate most, if not all, of the problems associated with traditional ballast including heat, noise,weight, and efficiency. Although the cost of a digital ballast is still higher than a comparable magnetic core ballast, it should be noted that the digital ballast allows the lamp (which represents one of the major costs associated with operating grow lights) to run brighter (15%-20%) and last longer. As lamps age, they lose lumen output. The Galaxy digital ballast has the ability to make up for lamp degradation by adjusting voltage flow to the lamp thus compensating for any loss of lumen output. (which for the grower means less re-lamping) Finally, the digital ballast uses igniter-less soft start technology, which avoids the harsh hard starts of magnetic ballasts that lead to a decrease in lamp life. When taking both lamp output and total lamp life into consideration, it is easy to see how some of the sting has been taken out of the initiial price tag associated with digital technology.
"Grow lights utilizing active air exhausting in conjunction with the use of tempered glass allow for an unprecedented amount of control over growing conditions that will help lead to greater yields"
Reflectors perform two basic functions: First, to maximize the amount of light received by the plants and second, to provide a way for the grower to control the heat being produced by the lamps. Two basic styles of reflectors are available commonly referred to as either HORIZONTAL or VERTICAL REFLECTORS. The horizontal reflector allows the lamp to be positioned horizontally inside the reflector while the vertical reflector allows the lamp to be mounted vertically. Since lamps that are mounted horizontally release more available light, horizontal reflectors have become the reflector of choice for most growers. No matter what the position of the lamp, however, a certain amount of light will end up striking the reflector above the lamp making the reflector surface a factor in determining how much light is going to be redirected downward.
Reflectors are usually made of either steel or aluminum. The advantage of aluminum is that it has a greater capacity to reflect light. The disadvantage is that it is expensive to produce. The best reflectors are made out of steel for structuaral support and then lined with a thin aluminum insert for maximum reflectivity. Steel reflectors without an aluminum insert are often painted white and produce fair results. Although aluminum is more reflective it must first be re-worked into what is referred to as a pebble finish in order to avoid its usual mirror like quality. The end result resembles an orange peel texture that produces a more uniform diffused pattern of light.
All vertical reflectors and some horizontal reflectors are constructed without the features necessary to manage heat and are used solely for reflective purposes. If heat is not an issue then these reflectors are right for the job. If the grow room is located in an unusually warm area of the country or if the growing area is relatively small for the size of grow light being used then heat may become an issue. Many horizontal reflectors are made with vents on each end of the reflector where lengths of flexible ducting can be attached on either the intake or exhaust flanges. This flexible ducting will be connected to an inline fan which will actively carry away heat from the reflector to a remote location. The grower at this point has the option of letting the air being drawn into the reflector to be accessed from the room itself or from a remote source. When CO2 is being added to the grow room it is common to access the reflectors intake air from a source outside the grow room in order not to exhaust out any of the CO2 enriched air in the grow room
In addition to active air ventilation of the reflector one more step can be performed that helps to provide even greater control over heat production. Tempered glass will often be included with the purchase of grow lights produced by Sunlight Supply. This glass is mounted on the bottom of the horizontal reflector and acts to create a closed system within. This accomplishes two things. First it insures that no heat from inside the reflecor will escape into the growing environment and secondly, it allows the grower to lower the reflector much closer to the plant canopy without fear of burning the plants. Do not install tempered glass unless you are using an active air reflector exhaust system as this will cause overheating inside the reflector reducing the useful life of the electrical components and the lamp itself. Grow lights utilizing active air exhausting in conjunction with the use of tempered glass allow for an unprecedented amount of control over growing conditions that will help lead to greater yields.
"If you are growing a highly valuable crop
then re-lamping should occur at about the
one year mark"
Metal Halide (MH) and High Pressure Sodium lamps (HPS) came into use in the mid 60's as a way of covering large areas with relatively inexpensive lighting. They were later discovered by the agricultural community as a useful way of supplementing greenhouse crops and then as a primary light source for indoor gardeners. Metal Halide lamps tend to produce a spectrum that is better suited to vegetative growth while High Pressure Sodium lamps produce a spectrum more suited to Flowering. If a grower must decide between one or the other then HPS is the favorite since it can perform both jobs well plus the added attraction that it produces more useful lumens of light on a watt per watt basis than MH.
Growers wanting to maximize production will use SWITCHABLE ballasts in their garden which allows the use of either MH or HPS lamps. Sunlight Supply digital ballasts also have the capability of running either MH or HPS lamps. For the first month or two while the lights are operating from 18-24 hours per day MH lamps will be installed which act to produce a robust and vigorous overall growth in the plant. Once adequate size is established then the grower will replace the MH lamp with his/her choice of HPS lamps. The lights will be cut back to 12-14 hours and flowering will commence. If a grower is currently using a MH ballast but wants to provide the type of spectrum that a HPS offers there are now lamps available called CONVERSION lamps. When using a conversion lamp you are effectively either turning a MH system into an HPS system or inversely an HPS system into a MH system. The downside of this method is that the conversion lamps are particularly expensive plus the conversion lamps do produce fewer lumens compared to standard lamps. Is using a conversion lamp worth the money and effort? Since HPS systems tend to be better at both vegitative and flowering than MH systems it is more common for growers with only a MH system to want to use an HPS conversion lamp.
When the value of the crop being grown is high it becomes economically feasable to use lamps produced specifically for horticultural purposes as opposed to standard lamps The increased cost of the horticultural lamp becomes marginal when considering the resulting increase in lumen output along with the critical spectrum adjustment which ultimately leads to higher yields.
As a final note on lamps it should be pointed out that their output is rated in initial lumens. This is the amount of useful light that a lamp produces when it is new. As the lamp is used the useful light energy decreases and at some point the lamp will fail. The question for the grower is when to re-lamp knowing that the system may not be operating at peak capacity. The answer will be determined again by the value of the crop. If you are growing an inexpensive crop then re-lamping is less critical. If you are growing a highly valuable crop then re-lamping should occur at about the one year mark or before.
NEWS AND EVENTS
Maximum Yield Indoor Gardening Expo Schedule 2014
Seattle Washington: April 5 to 6
Novi Michigan: May 31 to June 1
San Francisco California: July 26 to 27
Boston Massachusetts: October 18 to 19
For information contact indoorgardenexpo.com or call 250-729-2677
You can go to the following wholesale websites and find out what is currently available in the world of indoor gardening and grow lights. The general public cannot order from these sites but you can spend hours browsing and coming up with new and creative ways to incorporate the latest products into your own growing venture.
A cloning room could be a waste of time, space and money. Many growers opt to plant their first crop and run it under 24 hour light. When the plants have reached an adequate height they then take enough cuttings that will be used to replace the existing crop after it has been harvested. This system allows the grower a trouble free continuous supply of new plants without the hassle and expense of maintaining a special room devoted only to mother plants.
Plants that will replace a crop that is soon to be harvested can be grown under standard shop lights. The slower growth rate can be perfect since High Output lamps may produce more growth than may be desired given that the plants must physically be moved into the main grow rooms. These lights are inexpensive and cost little to run. More is not always better.
An electric mulching machine is useful when it comes time to get rid of unwanted plant material. After grinding the debree it can be placed into a plastic .composting container for the duration of the next crop as it turns into an excellent additive for an outside garden or placed into the garbage or yard debris container. for pickup.
Expensive cloning equipment is not necessary. A cold frame can be constructed out of 1 x 6 pine with a lid made from 1 x 2 strips of wood fitted with a clear piece of plastic stretched over the top. The bottom can made of 3/8 inch plywood that has been painted with multiple coats of a gloss white paint. A single standard shop light can be suspended above that will provide more than enough light for effective propagation. At times the lid of the cold frame will need to be cracked open to adjust for overheating inside the cold frame depending upon the temperature and humidity inside. Success rates of 95 percent can be obtained using this simple construction.
Sometimes it is useful to have two small grow rooms rather than one large one. This can help in a number of ways:
- Crops can be timed so that the work load is sequential rather than all at once
- One room can be off while the other room is on. This allows the grower to send the heat from the hot room over to the cold room where it is needed.
- A natural gas heater that uses a heat exchanger can be placed in the room that is turned off thus warming the room. The CO2 from that heater can then be sent to the room that is turned on
- Less strain in placed on the electrical system when one room is off while the other room is on. Special timed switches are available that will perform the switching every 12 hours
If for some reason you want to buy time and do not want a crop to start its bloom cycle but you also do not want the expense of keeping the main lights on you can simply hang a fluorescent work light in the grow room and keep it on 24/7. This will keep the plants from blooming until you are ready
The following is from a book entitled LARGE-SCALE INDOOR GARDENING published in 1999 by William Walker. The book, although dated in many respects, was at the time considered by many to be an excellent guide for those wanting to build an installation significanly larger than that desired by most indoor gardeners. We have secured the rights to print the book in its entirety and we feel that there are many useful concepts and techniques that may be adopted by prospective gardeners. Chapters will be added as time permits. Unfortunately, the illustrations and tables may not be available for viewing. We hope you find the content interesting.
LARGE-SCALE INDOOR GARDENING
As we enter the twenty-first century much has been accomplished with regard to plant genetics and equipment technology. Very little has been written, however, relating to the overall construction of a facility particularly as it concerns the various systems necessary to establish a professionally run large-scale indoor enterprise. Given the increasing demand for year round fresh produce, it is becoming economically feasable to commercially grow with the use of grow lights various types of herbs and vegetables indoors particularly in areas where the cost of electricity is low. It is the intention of this book to inform the reader as to the best and latest techniques being used in the different areas of indoor horticulture. Most notabley will be the introduction to a method of growing referrred to as the Straussman Technique. For individuals who are presently attempting to compete against growers of greenhouse and outdoor produce, knowledge of this system in conjunction with information allowing the reader to identify and access necessary equipment will insure an increase in production over present levels. If you are novice gardener the book will inspire. If you consider yourself already on the cutting edge, get ready for an experience that will most certainly warrant a restructuring of your present configuration.
High tech in the widest sense of the word can best be thought of as the ability to think and organize so precisely with the mind that even the technoliogy becomes marginal. This has been the guiding principal behind LARGE=SCALE INDOOR GARDENING. Our objective has been to create a system of growing using state-of-the-art grow lights that is so fundamentally intelligent by disign that it appears simplistic in naturee.
This book has been writtten in a chronological fashion that reflects the planning and work necessary to create a large-scale enterprise for the production of herbs and vegetables. Every effort has been made to explain the many procedures with clarity and detail which will hopefully allow the reader to recognize the inherent attributes of a system whose prime objective is efficiency and effectiveness.
Upon first reading, it is suggested that the reader approach the material as one wold a good novel, drinking in t he information freely and with little analysis. Subsequent readings can be more thoughtful giving way to comparative and contrasting notions. It is the authors feeling that if you can walk away having added only one new technique to your personal system, then the book has been a success. It is the author's hope, however, that you will walk away not only with technique but inspiration as well.
Taking knowledge that has been acquied under one set of circumstances and then attempting to aply it when confronted with a new set of parameters can be challenging. This is the problem most growers face after developing habits that do not take into consideration that time and labor could be an ever increasingly scarce commodity when faced wit6h an operation many times larger than previously encountered. Te object of this chapter is to familiarize you with some general concepts and techniques that will allow for a change in perspective as to how thngs can be done, and must be done, when demands on both labor and time become seriously challenged.
A. The Straussman Technique
Traditional growrooms have one primary grow area that uses grow lights to provide a photoperiod of eighteen to twenty-four hours while the plants are in their vegetative state. When flowering is desired the photoperiod is cut back to twelve hours inducing flower production. The consequence of this action is where the growers find themselvesat at strategic loss. The next two to threee months of production will now be utilizing the available electricity only fifty-percent of the time. During the dark period of twelve hours our most critical variable in the system, the electricity, is sitting idle. It is this electrical down time that the Straussman Techniqaue eliminates by bringing back into play electrical usage ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF THE TIME that will be applied to the systems grow lights
If the key to maximum production is in using all of the available electricity one hundred percent of the time then the question becomes how can we accomplish this if plants need a phbotoperiod which requires that the grow lights be turned off for an extended period of time. The answer to this problem lies in the creation of a growing facility that uses two independent rooms for growing rather than one. The first room will be on for twelve hours while the second room will be off and vice verse. In order to switch electrical usage from one room to another a piece of equipment called a timed switch is employed. Unlike a traditional timer that simply throws a switch and turns a circuit off, a timed switch will reroute the electric being used from one location to another. The timed switch is the heart of the Straussman Technique.