Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Setting up Winter Grow Lights (Fluorescent)

No Mochi, chewing on electrical wires is not good for you!

    I should start out by saying I recently went on a little bit of a seed binge.  I ended up ordering 13 different species of seeds and now have to figure out how to germinate and grow them all!  I'll be posting a basic profile and germination info for each species over the next few weeks.  These posts will probably take me up until Halloween!  When putting together this information, I'll try and find the 'average' suggested method for germination.  If you have any experience with the species feel free to let me know.

    After purchasing all of these seeds, it dawned on me that I had nowhere to start them!  Although I keep some plants in the university greenhouses, there is limited room and I like germinating things and would prefer to sprout the seedlings myself.  So yesterday I rewired an old 4 tube fluorescent light fixture.  One of the two T12 ballasts was burnt out and for some reason the fixture had T8 bulbs (this causes the bulbs to burn out early).  I ended up buying a new electronic ballast for $26 that runs all 4 bulbs!  That's actually a really good price.  I'll save the working ballast for some time in the future.

    Now wiring up fluorescent fixtures is actually quite easy.  You just have to match the schematic provided on the new ballast.  All I needed was a screw driver, wire strippers and pliers.  The hardest part is actually removing the wire ends from the tube socket (the plastic things that hold the end of each bulb).  You have to pull and twist until they come out.  Other than that, things are pretty easy.  For lighting I purchased 4 fluorescent T8 tubes with a 6500k spectrum and CRI of 86 (4ft 32 watt Phillips Daylight Deluxe).  They were about $9 for a two pack.  These tubes produce a bluer light that is perfect for vegetative plant growth (but not so much flowers/fruit).

    Then I plugged in the fixture it lit up... sort of.  I was really worried I did something wrong until I found this wonderful website.  Apparently some brands of fluorescent bulbs don't light up fully when first used.  They can actually take up to 3 hours to reach full brightness!  Lamps with reduced Mercury content that have 'ALTO' or 'ECO' will generally exhibit this behaviour.  I left the lights plugged in for three hours.  They achieved full brightness and now light up completely within a few seconds of being plugged in. *wipes sweat from brow*

    Tomorrow I'll start with the plant profiles so stay tuned!


  1. This will be good to have all winter long! I just planted corn, a gretel eggplant, and 2 Mr. Stripey tomato plants! This is our best growing season down here...I am excited!!! I know you will enjoy your lights and growing under them...very cool!

  2. @Julie,I'm super jealous of your multiple growing seasons. Hopefully your plants grow well and you have a great harvest!

  3. Hehe, the end of your post reminds me of the new lamp I just installed in my bathroom - I got very discouraged when it didn't work... only to find that I hadn't screwed in the bulb tightly enough!

  4. Ha, it's frustrating. I'm glad I looked it up!


Thanks for contributing!

Related Posts with Thumbnails