Installing and maintaining a hydroponics system to grow fruit and vegetables indoors can be a rewarding hobby and a good way to provide fresh, crisp produce for the family. Once you have chosen a location and set up the planting boxes, you need a grow light system. In order to protect the system from overheating, blown bulbs, and fire risks, you should install ballast to protect your investment.
Understanding Grow Light Ballast
Electronic light ballasts are devices that limit the amount of current in an electrical circuit. An example is the inductive ballast for fluorescent lamps, which limits the amount of current allowed through the tube to prevent a rise in current level. This prevents the bulb from blowing out. Grow light ballasts vary in complexity and size. Some may be as simple as a series resistor, inductor, capacitors, or a combination of all three. Others systems are complex electronic ballasts used in fluorescent lamps and high intensity discharge lamps (HIDs).
Selecting Grow Light Ballast Wattage
Your plants need usable light to grow, flourish, and flower. Selecting a grow light ballast that balances with the system is imperative to obtain good results. For instance, selecting a ballast at 250 watts with bulbs that are 400 watts limits the amount of usable light the plants receive. Whilst you may save a bit on the electric meter, plants that do not thrive are unable to produce a full crop. Ballasts are available in a wide variety of sizes, the most popular being 250 watt through 600 watt, so there is no reason to skimp on the wattage size.
Choosing Traditional or Digital Light Ballast
The basic function of electronic ballast is to regulate the amount of power your grow lamps can draw; two methods exist for achieving the proper balance. Tradition magnetic ballast units include a copper coil that magnetises as the lamps draw power. The magnetism restricts the amount of power that reaches the lamps. Digital ballasts achieve more consistent results and offer the benefit of consuming less power. Because they use a circuit board to regulate power, digital ballasts waste less in the form of heat and noise. Many, such as those you can find in HPS ballasts, have dimming features and the ability to overrun lamps when you need higher light output. Which type you chose depends on the features that work best for your individual situation.
Installing Light Ballast
You need a few simple household tools and a basic knowledge of wiring to install the proper ballast. If you are not familiar with code regulations or basic wiring, it is best to have the ballast installed by a professional. Be sure all electrical equipment and wires are away from watering systems and excess humidity. Using cables ties to keep the wires above or away from the water is a good idea.