El Cheapo Guide to Lighting

Discussion in 'Indoor Lighting' started by khronik, Jun 25, 2007.

  1. khronik

    khronik Registered+

    A guide to cheap lighting for the broke newbie stoner

    Fluorescent Bulbs
    Fluorescent tubes have good efficiency and put out very little heat, but they usually aren't intense enough to produce a lot of buds. Still, for the vegetation stage of growing, they're great. All types of fluorescent bulbs usually have several numbers written on them that you should pay attention to.

    One is the watts. This determines how much energy a bulb uses, and also how much light it gives off.

    The other number is the spectrum. This is written as ****K, where **** is a 4-digit number. This is the temperature in Kelvin that an incandescent filament would have to reach to produce the same spectrum. For instance, 3000K is more yellowish-orange, while 6500K is very blue. Plants can absorb both ends of the visible light spectrum pretty well, but they reflect most of the middle, where yellows and greens are. For this reason, it's better to use either low or high spectrums for your plants. High spectrums are better for vegetating and low spectrums are better for budding. If you are only buying one kind, go for low spectrum, since you want a lot of buds, right? :thumbsup:

    Another number is lumens. This determines how bright a bulb looks to the human eye. This isn't the same as how bright the light would be to a plant, but it is of some use, for instance, when comparing bulbs with the same spectrum number.

    Compact Fluorescents
    The cheapest lighting, and probably the best lighting for a very small setup is compact fluorescent bulbs, usually abbreviated here as CFL. These are those curly high-efficiency lights that can replace incandescent bulbs. They can be purchased at wal-mart, three 26-watt bulbs for about $8-$10. You can get them at sites like Light Bulbs, Rope Lights, Halogen & Fluorescent Light Bulbs too, but since they're so cheap anyway, after shipping it's usually not worth it. When you buy them, they usually have two wattages on them, the actual wattage, and the wattage that an incandescent light bulb would have if it was the same brightness. The actual wattage is more important, but the equivalent wattage gives you a good idea of the brightness. Most CFLs have a spectrum of about 3000K.

    You can buy higher-wattage CFL lights, but they're usually more expensive per watt. Still, they may be a good option if you're low on sockets to put your bulbs in. Most people have a few unused desk lamps laying around and use these for their lights. However, if you don't have spare lamps, you can buy a bunch of ceramic light bases at a hardware store and wire these to a board, then use that as your light. You need some electrical experience for that though.

    Even if you're not planning on growing pot, you should buy some of these bulbs anyway for your lighting needs, because they only use like 1/4 the power of regular light bulbs.

    Fluorescent Tubes
    If you have a somewhat larger operation, fluorescent tubes might be a better option. The cheapest fluorescent lighting per watt usually comes from the 48-inch tubes. Tubes are designated a number, like T12, T8, or T5. The main thing this tells you is the diameter of the tube in eighths of an inch. A T12 is 12/8 of an inch, or 1.5 inches in diameter, for example. However, different tube sizes usually require different wattages, and many ballasts can only handle very specific wattages. You can get 48" shop lights in Lowe's or Home Depot for about $9 for a two-tube fixture. You have to buy the tubes separately, and they're about $3-$4 apiece in Lowe's or Home Depot, or about $5 apiece at wal-mart. Shop lights can often use both T8 and T12 tubes, but make sure you read the directions. If you have a choice, you should usually go with the higher wattage.

    The great thing about fluorescent tubes is that they can be touching the plants without harming them, so you can put them very close. The bad thing about fluorescent tubes is that they don't give off a whole lot of light considering how big they are. This can be mitigated by using more tubes, but the tubes are kind of big so you can only use so many.

    One type of fluorescent tube that is becoming more popular is high-output T5 tubes. These are very thin, so you can pack them closer together, and thus produce more light. Fixtures for these bulbs are a lot more expensive though, and may necessitate a trip to a hydroponics store.

    Hardware stores usually also sell plant and aquarium bulbs that emit a spectrum close to what plants use. The consensus seems to be that these are only marginally better than regular tubes, and they're a lot more expensive, (about $10 apiece) so they're usually not worth it.

    High-Intensity Discharge Lighting
    All the best growers use HID lighting, and if you want lots of bud, you should too! These come primarily in two flavors, metal halide (MH) and high-pressure sodium (HPS). These are very efficient, bright lights, and they're what streetlights almost always use. If you look across any city at night, you'll see a lot of bluish lights and a lot of orangish lights. The blue ones are MH and the orange ones are HPS. HID lighting requires a bulb and a ballast, and ballasts are usually very specific about what bulbs they can be used with.

    Digital (Electronic) vs. Magnetic Ballasts
    Digital ballasts are slightly better in nearly every way than magnetic ballasts, but they are a lot more expensive. They produce much less heat and noise, and allow your bulb to last longer while producing more light. They also work with both HPS and MH bulbs. They will be very expensive at hydroponics stores, but you can usually get them on ebay for a lot cheaper. The following ebay stores usually have good deals on both digital and magnetic ballasts:

    eBay Store - My Garden Shoppe: 600 watt digital ballast, Lighting Systems, Hydroponic Systems
    eBay Store - High Tech Garden Supply: Light Bulbs Lamps, Advanced Nutrients, T-5 FLUORESCENT Grow Lights

    Don't worry too much if a digital ballast is out of your price range. Magnetic ballasts are a good tried-and-true technology, and the digital ones are only about 10%-15% better. If you have a lot of time and not much cash, you may even be interested in getting a ballast kit, which lets you build your own ballast for not much money. You need some sort of case for it, and it seems old computer power supplies work well. You'd also need some sort of reflector, and a socket, and wire, so by the time you're done building it, it may not be such a great deal after all, but if you have access to that stuff, it may be well worth it. Here are the best deals I know of on kits:

    High Pressure Sodium (HPS) Ballast Kits - Plantlighting Hydroponics & Grow Lights

    Metal Halide Lighting
    Metal halide bulbs are used for the vegetation phase. However, these are not a very good choice for small operations because they are expensive. With some ballasts you can switch bulbs for vegetation and flowering, but this means that you can only be growing one batch at a time. Also, you don't need super-bright light for vegetation, and using the same number of watts for both flowering and vegetation is overkill. Many if not most small growers vegetate under some form of fluorescent light and then move to a HPS light for flowering. Still, using a small MH bulb (100-250 watts) might be a good option, and you can get those types of lights in many hardware stores, although they will definitely be more expensive than say, fluorescents.

    High Pressure Sodium
    If you want to have one expensive light, make it one of these. That's not to say it HAS to be expensive, but this is the light that will have the greatest impact on your yield. For less than 10 plants, 400 watts is a good starting point. HPS bulbs are very orange, and are great for budding. There are special HPS bulbs for growing plants that also emit more blue light. They are quite a bit more expensive, but if you're on a budget, the regular HPS bulbs are very decent too. You can get HPS bulbs at eBay or Light Bulbs, Rope Lights, Halogen & Fluorescent Light Bulbs, or even at Lowe's or Home Depot, if you're paranoid about the police looking at your expenses. (although hardware stores usually only go up to 400-watt) If you want an inexpensive setup, this ebay store has some of the best deals I've seen:

    eBay Store - High Tech Garden Supply: Light Bulbs Lamps, Advanced Nutrients, T-5 FLUORESCENT Grow Lights

    Supposedly Welcome - InsideSun has good deals too, but I've heard their lights are not so great, and run really hot.

    Other Lighting

    Incandescent Bulbs
    Do not use these. Same goes for halogens, and mercury vapor lights.

    LED Lighting
    This has a lot of promise, but to be honest, results have not been so good with these. They can only be used for vegetation and aren't that great even for that, since (like any first-time grower who decides to use them) they just aren't very bright. Still, they use very little electricity, they last for like 20 years, and they can be made to release light only on spectrums that plants can use. They are expensive, but you can get them for relatively cheap here:

    LED Grow Lights Gro-Tek GroTec HID Hydroponic light Fluorescent leds Growing Metal halide MH growing indoors indoor Ultraviolet Infrared light emitting diodes

    Sulfur Lamps
    These are not available commercially yet, and if they were they would be very expensive. However, they are very bright, and I am writing another thread about sulfur lights, which I hope will be helpful to anyone interested.

    I hope this has been sort of helpful. Just so you know I'm no expert grower but I do know a lot about electric lighting and I thought I would share this with you. Peace! :smokin:
    • Like Like x 9
  2. Pinelocked

    Pinelocked Registered

    Thanks for the info
  3. davejohnwright

    davejohnwright Registered+

    Mind if I add a couple tips for the broke stoner? Didnt think so.
    Look on craigslist.org, go to your area and look in the farm+garden section, I often see grow lights for sale on there for a good price.
    Electrical suppliers/ wholesalers in the yellow pages usually carry MH and HPS lighting systems for way cheaper than hydro shops.
    Building your own lighting system may be the way to go to save a buck, but only do so if you feel confident that you can build one without shocking your self or burning your house down.

    Good job Khronic, did you write all this off the top of yourhead, or plagarise it? Either way this is good info and belongs in the FAQ's.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. khronik

    khronik Registered+

    Wrote it myself actually. I worked as an engineer for a company that made lighting ballasts for a while, so I'm pretty familiar with how all that stuff works. I'm glad the information was helpful. :)

    I would like add a few things though, for instance, you can get some really good deals on bulbs and grow lights from High Tech Garden Supply. A full 400W HPS grow light system is only about $130 and that's with a bulb and with shipping included. Also, a high-output 400W HPS horticulture bulb is only $30. Admittedly, the bulb is generic, but when I had a problem with mine and they replaced it for free, so the service is great. I mentioned their eBay store already, but the deals are a bit better on their web site.

    Also, this may change, but Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowe's all have cheap 4-foot fluorescent fixtures for $8-$9. The main difference is, Lowe's cheap fluoro fixtures are strip lights (ie, no reflectors) and Home Depot and Wal-Mart both have lights with reflectors. I actually like the ones with no reflectors better, because you can pack them more closely together for more light.
  5. TheRisen

    TheRisen Registered+

    pretty good and informative. Thanks
  6. smokinbomb

    smokinbomb Registered+

    nice job very informative that might help answer alot of repetive questions

    Thanks-Bomb :thumbsup:
  7. psteve

    psteve Registered+

    I thought I'd share this plan for a light that will get you through your first grow, or until you can afford something better. This rig will cover two square feet of grow space.. You may have most of the parts already!

    1 Clamp lamp (150 watt or more capacity). $9.98 @ Home dePot.
    3 'Y' socket adapters. $2.48 each= $7.44 @ Home dePot.
    4 23 to 37 watt, compact fluorescent bulbs. 2 for $9.98 x2 = $19.96 @ Home dePot.
    Light hanging chain (or other hanging material). $1.49 per foot x6 feet = $8.94 @ Home dePot.
    1 Swag hook. $1.69 @ Home dePot.
    Small Appliance timer (optional). $10.98 @ Home dePot.
    All items are available at Home dePot, Walmart, Lowes, or almost any hardware store.

    First, remove the reflector from the clamp lamp. It is too small for the assembly we are building.

    Next, screw one of the 'Y' adapters into the clamp lamp socket.

    Now screw the remaining 'Y' adapters into the sockets of the first one.

    You should now have four sockets in your clamp lamp.

    Adjust the sockets so they are equal distance apart. It's OK if they are slightly loose, as long as they are solidly screwed in.

    Screw the four compact fluorescent bulbs into the sockets and hang using swag chain, cable or wire.

    DO NOT use the clamp to support the lamp, because we have added too much weight, and the clamp will not hold it.

    DO NOT use more than four bulbs in one assembly.

    DO NOT use bulbs brighter than 30 watts max.

    If you follow these rules, this assembly is very safe, and will not overheat or cause electrical problems. We have tested it extensively.

    Four 26 watt bulbs, will give you 6800 lumens! I like to use 'daylight' spectrum bulbs for maximum usable color spectrum. As mentioned above, they are available in multi packs from Home dePot. Whichever bulbs you use will be fine. You don't have to use the special 'grow bulbs'.

    I'll post later about building a reflector to fit this assembly. Meanwhile, just hang it about 2 inches above your top leaves, in a corner where two white walls meet.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 20, 2007
    • Like Like x 2
  8. khronik

    khronik Registered+

    That's pretty cool, I wouldn't have thought of using 3 Y-adapters. I think a lot of people would already have an old lamp laying around too, so they wouldn't even have to buy one.

    I'm working out the details for a system that can get you vegetating 12 plants indoors for a SOG type setup for about $50, assuming you have seeds or clones already. That includes lighting, containers, and 3 gallons of dirt per plant. The great thing about this system is if you can't afford a HID light just yet, you can buy just the bare essentials and then buy the rest later as you can afford it. This system does assume that you will eventually buy a HID light for flowering. I'd like to run it from start to finish before I post details though.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2007
  9. psteve

    psteve Registered+

    We do exactly that for Medical patients here in Oregon.
    I've been giving away 8-bulb CF systems once a month.
    I build them using add-on lighting kits for ceiling fans.
    We have tested them all the way through flower using just the CF's, and the results are not spectacular, but they are surprisingly good.
    We do recommend getting an HID for flower as soon as they can afford one, but this system gets them started.
  10. khronik

    khronik Registered+

    The only thing I don't like about CFLs is the fact that they all seem to have a spectrum of about 3000K. I've seen 6500K CFLs too, but they're way more expensive. For this reason, I like to use 48" tubes, since the blue light keeps them from getting too spindly.
  11. psteve

    psteve Registered+

    Walmart has daylight spectrum (6000-6500K) CFL bulbs, two for $6.49
  12. Mr.Blue

    Mr.Blue Registered+


    you fixed my problems :)

    my cab isnt big enough for flourecent and this is an easy one light fixture idea.....thanks
  13. psteve

    psteve Registered+

    Glad to help.
  14. andy704

    andy704 Registered+

    would buying something like this work? I havent checked my local home depot but I only found this on the website.
  15. psteve

    psteve Registered+

    Here's an 8 bulb fixture I built using an add-on light kit for a ceiling fan. These are the lights we give away once a month(or something similar). The kit cost me $4 at MallWart. The rest of the parts cost about $40 at goodwill and the hardware store. The reflector is an aluminum deli tray from a catering business that went bankrupt.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 15, 2007
  16. ismokealldaylong420

    ismokealldaylong420 Registered+

    would a 400 watt hps be good for a 3x2x8 space just for one plant
  17. psteve

    psteve Registered+

  18. ismokealldaylong420

    ismokealldaylong420 Registered+

    ok well i could not get the 400 watt hps but i did get my hands on a 80$ 150 watt hps and imma have to use that till i can save about 400$ to buy one from ebay prob a bit cheaper but i want to have some choice but i might make a little grow box thats 2x2x4 for the 150 watt system or would it be ok to still use it in my closet the system is a mini floralux 150 watt hps system and i bought a bulb that says it puts out 21,000 lumens which is a little more than the original bulb came with its been awhile since ive grown any info will be used:stoned:
  19. khronik

    khronik Registered+

    depends a lot on temperatures, strain, ventilation, etc. But a 150 watt hps will not put out more heat than a typical light bulb or two, so you're probably ok there.
  20. ismokealldaylong420

    ismokealldaylong420 Registered+

    ok one more question can i just go out and by a conversion bulb and use that for veg or does it have to be like a certain ballast that lets you use them

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