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Hydroponics 101 with Deonna Marie: Ballasts for Beginners Featured

Baddass ballasts are the best on the market. Baddass ballasts are the best on the market.

Before you became a hydroponics grower, when you heard the word "ballast," you probably only thought of the weighty materials they throw off of hot air balloons to make the balloon rise. But when you're talking about hydroponics lighting, a ballast is an interface device that uses analog or solid-state circuitry to get the right amount of electricity to your hydroponics bulbs. You can't just plug a bulb directly into electricity. You need a ballast as an interface. Old school magnetic ballasts are so heavy and hot that they could double as boat anchors. The most effective, efficient and safe hydroponics ballasts are digital low frequency ballasts. Here's what you need to know:

When it comes to purchasing ballasts, there are many questions to ask yourself. What wattage ballast am I going to go with – 250 watt, 400 watt, 600 watt, or 1000 watt? Do I want to go with an electronic digital ballast or a cap-and-coil ballast? It really boils down to what you can afford to purchase.

I prefer to use a digital ballast. Digital ballasts run cooler and more efficiently than a cap-and-coil ballast, and are much smaller and lighter. Another plus with digital ballasts is that you can run either metal halide or high pressure sodium bulbs without having to flip a switch. Most digital ballasts are dual voltage, which means they can run 120 volt or 240 volt.

When it comes to ballasts, the Baddass digital ballast is the cream of the crop. It’s compact, silent, runs dual voltage, and is super high-quality. The only downfall with digital ballasts is the cost - they are almost twice the cost of a traditional cap-and-coil ballast. But you get what you pay for, which in this case is a piece of effective equipment that isn’t going to cause you any headaches.

That said, there isn't anything wrong with cap-and-coil ballasts. They’re bulkier and noisier, and also run quite hot, but they still work. Cap-and-coil ballasts have come a long way over the years, and many are now switchable so that you can run a metal halide bulb or a high pressure sodium bulb. You can also get them in dual voltage 120/240v.

If you don’t know the difference between 120v and 240v, it’s essentially this: 240v pulls half the amps that 120v does, which allows you to run more lights off a single breaker. If you choose to run your ballast at 240v, you must have your grow room wired correctly. To determine how many amps your ballast is pulling, all you have to do is divide the watts being used by the voltage. For example, if you have a 1000w ballast running on 120v, divide 1000 by 120, which equals 8.3. One of the biggest myths is that running your ballast at 240v saves on your electric bill; this is not true. 240v only draws fewer amps. So if you have a 1000w ballast it will use 1000 watts of energy regardless.

Whatever ballast you end up choosing, digital or cap-and-coil, you can always have a great yield in the end. But if you want to be assured that you are using an efficient, effective, and safe product, or if privacy is a concern and you want to reduce the noise your grow room produces, get a high-quality digital ballast. You’ll produce more light and less heat, and that makes for a top notch indoor garden.

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Ballasts might run hot or cold, but Deonna Marie runs at just one temperature - smoking hot.
Last modified on Monday, 30 July 2012 15:25

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