One of the most important considerations that you have to make as a small-scale grower is what type of lighting to use. Most people use high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps because they’re affordable, easy to work with and very effective for an indoor plantation.
Working with HID lamps means that you’ll have to go with metal halide (MH) lamps during the veg stage and upgrade to high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps to maintain the blooming phase.
Part of what makes HID lamps so popular is the fact that they’re really good at converting electricity into light, which is what your plants need plenty of at all stages of the growing process.
A ballast helps ensure that the lamp is getting the required electrical output to continue operating efficiently at all times. It does this by regulating the voltage output of the lamp while ensuring that it doesn’t consume too much current.
Types of Ballasts
Ballasts are available in two main types. First, you have magnetic ballasts which have been around for decades and run on a capacitator starter and transformer coils. Most newbie growers go for this option because it’s cheap. However, the low price of magnetic ballasts comes at a cost to its performance. They consume too much power and tend to heat up remarkably, thus affecting the temperature of the growing space.
Secondly, you have electronic ballasts which are smaller, more efficient and cooler than their magnetic counterparts. Plus, they allow you to regulate the amount of power that the unit sends to the lamp in real time. You won’t experience any flickering with electronic ballasts as is common with magnetic ballasts, and they offer a steady flow of power that actually prolongs your HID lamps’ lifespan.
The type of ballast that you choose will have a huge effect on the longevity of your light bulbs. Purchase antiquated ballasts and you’ll end up changing light bulbs more frequently than you may like. For the best results, always purchase your ballasts from a reliable manufacturer such as Adjust-A-Wings, Gativa, Lumii, Lumatek, Nanolux, and Sonlight.
Should you choose to purchase your growing equipment in individual components instead of a lighting kit, make sure that the ballast is compatible with your lamp.
The ballast must be connected to a power socket, while the duo of output cables protruding from it must be attached to a bulb holder. The most important thing is to make sure that you connect the ground cable as well in order to harmonize the polarity.
The good news is that most ballasts come with built-in wiring systems that make the installation process that much easier.
The best place to put your ballast is in an elevated platform just outside of the growing space. The reason for this is that it prevents damage due to humidity or contact with water, and there will be no chance of short-circuiting.
You can hang your ballast on a heat resistant panel or from the wall, preferably from the same spot where other electrical plugs and switches will be located.