When growing indoors, lighting is an essential part of your grow systems. Reflectors and ballasts are required to maximize your lighting energy and maintain safe levels so that you don’t experience damage to your lighting and/or your yield. These systems will also protect your plants ensuring they are receiving the desired amount of light energy and heat, and to maximize your lighting output for fertile growing.
What Are Ballasts
Simply put: ballasts are used for large-scale installations of light bulbs. In indoor gardening they run your grow lights. The ballasts are used with high intensity lamps that imitate sunlight and facilitate plant growth. The lamps emit a strong light and the ballast’s job is to control the current. The ballasts make your lamps more efficient and save you money because they control the energy output of the lighting.
The ballasts are housed in a metal box that contains the necessary components to run and heat each lamp. Because they are designed by wattage, it’s imperative that you have a separate ballast for each wattage of lamp you are using with your hydroponic system.
How Ballasts Work
A ballast’s purpose is to start and control the energy flow through a lamp. It regulates the electrical current that flows through the HID lighting so that they work efficiently. This is particularly important in indoor gardening where light is limited and artificial light needs to be introduced. A sufficient electrical current controlled by the ballasts so that the bulb won’t be destroyed.
Design complexity varies in ballasts. The simplest form can be a series resistor/inductor, capacitors, or a combination of the two. For more complex ballasts there are electronic versions that are used with fluorescent lamps and high-intensity discharge lamps. An electronic version is intended to limit the current through the lamp tube. The tube has negative resistance characteristics and without limiting the current it would increase to damaging levels.
Ballasts include a 120V power cord that plugs into any home or building. Ballasts, reflectors, and lights are all required to complete the system. There are two types of connectors in reflectors therefore the ballast-to-reflector connection must be compatible.
Another important consideration is that the wattage rating of the ballast matches the wattage rating of the grow light. Ensure you have sufficient warranty on your product, it may be the most important feature of your system.
3 Types of Ballasts
- Electronic and High Frequency
Feature Image: Quantum Horticulture dimmable ballast. Image via Quantum Ballast.