Various lighting systems require an electrical ballast system in order to function properly. For instance, fluorescent lamps need an inductive ballast to control the flow of current, or the current would destroy the tube. Other lighting systems for many home, business, and industrial applications require some form of ballast. If you need a lighting system to facilitate hydroponics, save money by purchasing used ballast and lighting systems.
Determine the Area of the Garden
Before you look at used ballast systems and lights for your hydroponic garden, measure the space that you plan to light. Use that information to identify the power of the lighting and ballast systems you need. Herbs, lettuce, and similar small plants require less light than larger plants such as tomatoes. Keep in mind that you need not measure the width and length of the whole room, only of the actual space that you garden takes up. Consult with an expert if you are unsure about the intensity of light that your plants need to thrive in the hydroponic environment.
Choose Between High Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide Systems
You have two broad categories of used ballast and light systems from which to choose. High pressure sodium (HPS) lights enhance growth for flowering plants, boosting the number of blooms and the amount of fruit by as much as 20 per cent over metal halide systems. The metal halide ballasts and lights work well for leafy plants. Some hydroponics experts change out their lighting systems periodically, employing metal halide for part of the year and implementing HPS during the flowering season. Instead of purchasing the standard systems in which ballast and lighting are integrated, you can opt for a switchable ballast system that lets you switch between a metal halide bulb or an HPS bulb in mere seconds. These ballasts are usually available at 400 watts or 1000 watts.
Select Ballast Power Options
Within the categories of HPS and metal halide, you find a variety of used ballast options. As you examine a lighting and ballast system for your hydroponic garden, note the differences between ballasts. Some systems include a basic reactor ballast with a low power factor. These "lag" or "choke" ballasts usually work well with a single lamp, but fail to adequately regulate secondary lamps. They have a power factor of 50 per cent or so. A constant wattage autotransformer (CWA) ballast usually goes with metal halide lamp assemblies of 175 watts or more. This type of ballast adjusts voltage using a capacitor, boasts a power factor of 90 per cent, and allows for much greater flexibility in lamp voltage. Low wattage lamps usually take a high reactance autotransformer (HX) ballast system, which bears a power factor that starts out low but corrects to 90 per cent with a capacitor.