Grow lights ballasts are required in traditional tube fluorescent bulbs as well as all high-intensity bulbs. Ballasts are needed for starting your bulbs and they will control the operations of your light.
Now, when it comes to establishing your grow space and you plan on using high-intensity lamp discharge, then grow light ballast may be required in your setup. The absence of ballast in your indoor grow space will not make your grow light come on if you’re using high-intensity discharge (HID).
So, we will enlighten you on what you need to know about grow light ballasts so you know their importance for your plants’ growing needs.
What Is Grow Light Ballasts: What Do Grow Ballast Do?
Grow lights ballasts control the current that flows into a grow lamp. They are required to power up or start certain bulbs.
Generally, all gas discharge lamps such as compact fluorescent, HID, and linear fluorescent need ballast. Also, ceramic metal halide (CMH), high-pressure sodium (HPS), as well as the combination of HPS and MH all requires ballast. However, LED grow light does not require a ballast.
Grow light ballast allows you to prolong your grow bulbs’ lifespan and enhance your grow light performance.
How A Grow Lights Ballasts Operates
In a standard situation, grow light needs high voltage to power up or start, and the ballast supplies this. Now, when power is pulled from a high voltage source by your grow light, this process can result in a current surge.
This is why grow light ballast is required to control the current flow so the grow light can be prevented from such electrical spikes.
Grow lights are low resistance and they make use of two mechanisms to light up which are electrical arc and gas. As you turn on a lamp, the bulb receives high voltage from the ballast which gets the electrical arch started. When the arch receives power, the sodium is in a solid-state. However, it later changes by melting to vapor or gas.
Now, when it’s in the gaseous state, the lamp resistance lessens. Thus, the grow light will need only less power to run. If the lamp lacks ballast that controls the current flow, there will be a perpetual increase in current and the bulb will eventually blow.
Also, there will be a period when the HID bulb age and this will cause an increase in the demand for power for the light to keep running. So, when this happens, the ballast will increase the quantity of power to the bulb automatically.
As the bulb attains a point of requiring too much power, the ballast will shut down automatically to prevent any hazard or accident. This implies you have to get a new bulb for power continuation.
Types Of Fluorescent Grow Lights Ballasts: Electronic Vs. Magnetic Ballast
We have two types of fluorescent ballasts namely electronic ballast and magnetic ballast. You can choose either type for your plants’ growing needs. Both electronic and magnetic ballasts have their pros and cons.
Some growers prefer magnetic ballasts because of their affordable price. However, they emit too much heat and consume more power. On the other hand, other growers prefer electronic ballasts as they are more efficient and they emit lesser heat. They will offer you better output while using less power.
How Electronic & Magnetic Ballast Works
- Magnetic Ballast
Magnetic ballast makes use of a magnetic coil in form of a big spool of wire wound about sheets of steel. This setup supplies a huge quantity of voltage required to start up the bulb. The magnetic ballast is known to be old-fashioned. They are bulky built and emit too much heat.
However, they are pretty durable and will last you a long time compared to electronic ballast. Thus, if you want long-term use, you can go for magnetic ballast.
Another great importance is that magnetic ballasts are built to meet a satisfactory standard of the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). They make sure both lamp and ballast operate together accurately.
- Electronic Ballast
Electronic ballast makes use of semiconductors and microchips to supply the required high voltage. It does not make use of a magnetic coil which makes magnetic ballast heavy. Thus, electronic ballast weighs lesser, looks smaller, and produces lesser heat.
Another added advantage is that electronic ballast offers more light which can be up to 30% of what magnetic ballast offers. They also consume lesser power while supplying more light.
However, the disadvantage we noticed is that they aren’t ANSI compactable with a metal halide (MH) and high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps model that has 250+ watts. Thus, they are built in different ways resulting in bulb performance that is not consistent.
For this reason, we recommend you purchase a complete lighting package. This way, you are sure the bulbs included are the right match for the ballast.
Another plus is that electronic ballast can be switched which allows you to operate both HPS and MH without any problem. Also, the majority of electronic ballasts are dimmable therefore, you are allowed to run multiple bulb wattage.
Growing Light Digital Ballast
You may come across some ballast been labeled digital ballast. Have in mind that just a few of them are actually digital and they usually contain a microprocessor.
These digital ballasts are very efficient and will do more of what electronic ballast will do. However, these types of ballasts are more expensive.
Do LED Grow Lights Require Ballasts?
LED grow lights do not require ballasts. This is because they can be easily plugged into a direct standard electrical outlet. They work in a totally different technique and they just require direct current.
When you obtain LED light for your indoor growing needs, all which is required is right inside your package. So, no need for extra things like grow light ballast.
Conclusion for Growing Light Ballast
All high-intensity bulbs and traditional tube fluorescents need a ballast to operate efficiently. But LED grow light does not require a ballast. So, you may decide to opt for LED grow lights to make things simpler.
The good news is that ballasts are mostly included in your grow light package. Therefore, there’s no stress in searching for compactable ballast for your bulbs.