Author Topic: Grow Light System  (Read 20763 times)

matthewpaul

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Grow Light System
« on: February 28, 2010, 04:29:12 PM »
Looking for a sturdy light fixture system to start seeds early indoors.

Saw this Hydrofarm system on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hydrofarm-4-Foot-Start-Light-System/dp/B0001XLSGQ/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=garden&qid=1267398736&sr=1-7

Anyone know of a better system available without having to self build one?

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2010, 04:58:00 PM »
I have a thread on down on page 2 of this forum about my seed starting set up.  Here's the link to that thread.

http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=13082.0

Here's a shot of my setup.  So far I'm very happy with it.

matthewpaul

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2010, 05:47:11 PM »
Thanks! Will look into that.

Offline ModernSurvival

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2010, 12:58:53 PM »
Here is a super simple system I put together for about 35 bucks.  I used three of the cheap 24inch plant lights from Walmart, one of the long and shallow tubs from Sterilite, some scrap plywood (for a mounting surface) and a bit of all thread and some nuts and fender washers.

The nice thing is I don't have to worry about over watering because I can just fill the tub about a 1/4 inch deep and let the pots be watered from the bottom up.  You can sit these things anywhere and one cheapo power strip controls everything.













There are 60 plants being started now and more could easily be added.  I like this approach because it is cheap, simple and portable.  If you wanted a few of them they could all be in different locations around the house which helps if you are space challenged.

Offline LvsChant

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2010, 01:43:10 PM »
What an excellent, simple system!

Offline ModernSurvival

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2010, 02:26:47 PM »
What an excellent, simple system!

Wellllllllll ummmmmmmmmmmm, sorta,  :D


You see those spots where there are circles with no paint on the plywood?  In my first attempt I used a marine epoxy putty to attach 1/2 inch PVC couplers to the plywood and made the legs out of PVC.  That DIDN'T WORK WELL AT ALL.  "Will bond any substance to any other substance permanently" my butt! :o

The allthread was both a cheaper and better system and works really well and you can easily change the height of the light.  But I have to be honest that my first attempt equaled............fail!  ;D

Offline chrisdm8

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2010, 03:16:17 PM »
I have my seedlings in a rubbermaid also (there is a picture in the thread Fritz posted already)  but I like the threaded rod to hold up the lights.

Since it's all threaded together can you adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow? That's the only complaint I have with my setup so far.

Offline ModernSurvival

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2010, 03:19:14 PM »
I have my seedlings in a rubbermaid also (there is a picture in the thread Fritz posted already)  but I like the threaded rod to hold up the lights.

Since it's all threaded together can you adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow? That's the only complaint I have with my setup so far.


Exactly!  I use two nuts on the underside which helps them stay tight but you can just run the nuts up or down the allthread to any height you want.  I used precut 12 inch all thread but you could use longer or shorter to fit your needs.

Offline Poolboy

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2010, 02:58:02 PM »
Nice Jack, I like that it's adjustable and simple. I just put together a setup a couple weeks ago using two of the same Wal-Mart lights. Mines not adjustable though but I figure that I can place shoe boxes underneath my cartons to raise them up to the light. I may buy one more light and try to put together something similar to yours.

I'm really new to gardening and permaculture but I've become quite obsessed with it.

Heres a pic of the one that I just put together. I've since put kind of a lampshade over it made from a cardboard box wrapped in aluminum foil to reflect more light towards the plants.


Offline cohutt

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2010, 07:33:56 PM »
Another idea - a high output fluorescent flood stopped on its way to the back eaves; I'll weight the back leg of the tripod a bit so I can tip it over a little more.   This was a 20 minute rigged solution that could be improved upon this weekend.  It is a 65 watt flourex that frickin killed my eyes trying to get it set up.



Offline ModernSurvival

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2010, 08:02:05 PM »
Another idea - a high output fluorescent flood stopped on its way to the back eaves; I'll weight the back leg of the tripod a bit so I can tip it over a little more.   This was a 20 minute rigged solution that could be improved upon this weekend.  It is a 65 watt flourex that frickin killed my eyes trying to get it set up.




Very cool +1

Offline trucker larry

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2010, 11:20:36 PM »
Would a halogen shop light work for starting vice flouresccents?

I have a 2 light halogen work light (each light looks similar to the light Cohutt has in his pic above). The lights have a low and high setting and I am pretty sure the bulbs are rated at 500 watts each (high setting). If they would provide the proper spectrum to start seedlings, my next question would be about the heat output of these mini-suns (they get friggin hot!) and how close would you recommend them being to the seedlings vice the flourescent grow bulbs.

Last question is (assuming the halogen is usable in the first place) how long per day would be recommended for the halogens to be on? I am assuming because the halogen is brighter than flourescent grow bulbs, I wouldn't want the halogen to be on for 17 hrs...


Offline cohutt

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2010, 04:15:38 AM »
Halogen isn't brighter than fluorescent on a watt for watt basis.  They generally aren't used for plant growth lighting.  The spectrum  produced supposedly isn't ideal for growing plants; efficiency is poor, they are one modest step up from the "heaters that glow a little" we call incandescent bulbs.

I used a portable 300 watt quarts halogen shop light with my outdoor lettuce , but not for the light, for the heat. When it got down around 10 degrees here i put one under the plastic with the lettuce to raise the temperature and be certain it didn't all freeze. It worked but melted the plastic that it was relatively close to.

I bring this up because these lights would have a broiler effect on your young plants and dry/fry them if anywhere close enough to them to produce enough useful light. By contrast i can touch any part of the light I'm using after it has been on for hours and it will be barely warm enough to tell it has been on.  



« Last Edit: March 05, 2010, 08:21:21 PM by cohutt »

Offline ublinkd

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2010, 02:57:24 PM »
the only thing I can find light fixture wise, like jack built cost $34 a piece! does anyone have a model #?

Offline trucker larry

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2010, 05:09:37 PM »
Thanks, Cohutt, for your reply. Figured the heat would be a problem but didn't know about the spectrum. So, in a fit of jealousy and envy over your lettuce, I just bought the Sunshine 14w LED grow light (if interested check out at Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Sunshine-Systems-LEDGP14-Grow-Light/dp/B001N4K2QE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1267833539&sr=8-2 ).

What really sold me on this, besides the earlier stuff re: LEDs, was the glowing  :D reviews. Hopefully will be at house soon and will give a review in a couple of weeks.

Offline Geoff

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2010, 10:49:05 AM »
the only thing I can find light fixture wise, like jack built cost $34 a piece! does anyone have a model #?

If you're looking for a cheap lighting solution, you can use compact florescent bulbs.  Get a $4 fixture from Home Depot and a few of the light socket Y adapters.  Since these fixtures are made for incandescents, and are rated for 200 watts, you can hook up quite a few 23W CFLS by hooking y adapters into y adapters.

Offline ublinkd

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2010, 11:28:11 AM »
If you're looking for a cheap lighting solution, you can use compact florescent bulbs.  Get a $4 fixture from Home Depot and a few of the light socket Y adapters.  Since these fixtures are made for incandescents, and are rated for 200 watts, you can hook up quite a few 23W CFLS by hooking y adapters into y adapters.

Thanks for the info. It isn't that I am wanting to go the cheapest I can as much as it is that Jack stated that he put what you see together for about $35. So if I am seeing one light for that much something has got to be wrong with what i am seeing.

Offline CountryRootsCityJob

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #17 on: March 16, 2010, 06:48:14 AM »
Thanks for the info. It isn't that I am wanting to go the cheapest I can as much as it is that Jack stated that he put what you see together for about $35. So if I am seeing one light for that much something has got to be wrong with what i am seeing.

I'm with you on this one... I went out and bought a $5 light bulb from Lowe's that was supposed to be a grow light, or so the guy said.  I put it in my lamp and over the sprouts- next to that I put my regular GE Reveal regular light bulb... the sprouts definitely leaned over towards the GE light bulb... I think Lowes will get a return on that one. 

From what I can guess, you guys are all using regular florescent lights and regular bulbs tubes to light up your seeds... is there anything special about what you are using, or is it just go buy the cheapest florescent light you can find and put it over your seeds?

While I am still stuck in my slot canyon at the apartment, I can still help out my parents garden buy getting these things started... otherwise I'm sure somebody would like to have a tomato plant I can give away  ;D  Hey, at least I can learn the seed starting part right now... hopefully some day I'll be able to start a garden and make a go of this... or maybe I could start a gorilla garden... hmm  ::)
~CRCJ

Offline Geoff

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2010, 10:11:14 AM »
I think your light fixture selection depends on the size of the garden trays you are trying to illuminate.  If you have a 2'x4' section, then standard (inexpensive) 4' shop lights with T8 tubes from HD would be great.  If you are lighting a smaller section you can use the system I suggested earlier with CFL bulbs.  

As you have already found out, the "grow" lights from HD or Lowes are a gimmick.  Don't over think this.  All you really need to get are standard tubes or CFLs.  Look for the bulbs that have the highest rated lumens per watt.

Another factor, but not really important for seed starting, is the light color.  For early growth, you should get lights that are in the 6500K range.  This casts a bluish/white light.  For later stages of growth, if you were going to continue to grow indoors, you would need to switch your lights to 2300K lights which are cenetered more around the red spectrum, but since most of you will be moving the plants outside, you might as well get 6500K lights.  

I start a lot of seeds and clones indoors, and in my experience, for seedlings, any standard florescent light, CFL bulb or tube will be fine.  Do not use any type of incandescent or halide lights.  These bulbs generate more heat then lumens.

For the guys who are having problems with the plants "leaning," try moving your artificial light closer to the plants.  If you are using florescent, you can move them to within an inch or two of the canopy of the plants.  Hold your hand at the plant canopy height under the light.  If your hand does not feel warm, then your plants will not burn.  When sunlight hits the ground, it measures around 10,000 lumens.  The further you move from a fluorescent light, the quicker the lumens drop off.  So, if your lights are a foot over the canopy, not much of your artificial light is even making it to the plant, and they plants are leaning towards the strongest source of light.





« Last Edit: March 16, 2010, 10:16:47 AM by Geoff »

matthewpaul

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2010, 07:15:02 PM »

Offline Geoff

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #20 on: March 16, 2010, 11:13:34 PM »
I just use phillips daylight spectrum t8 bulbs from home depot.  nothing fancy.

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #21 on: March 17, 2010, 04:58:54 AM »
I just use phillips daylight spectrum t8 bulbs from home depot.  nothing fancy.

This is what I'm using as well.  Actually, mine may be T12, I'm not sure.

matthewpaul

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2010, 04:20:18 PM »
I built the setup at the top (like fritz_monroe). How high above the plants should the light fixtures be?

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #23 on: March 17, 2010, 04:47:21 PM »
From what I've read, about 2 inches above the top of the plants.  I allow the plants to grow up to the point where they almost touch the lights, then raise them up.

matthewpaul

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #24 on: March 17, 2010, 10:21:41 PM »
Should the lights be left on all day & night or just during the day?

Offline Geoff

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #25 on: March 17, 2010, 11:42:57 PM »
Depends on who you ask! 

Some people say the plant needs to "rest" while the lights are off.  I leave mine on 24 hours a day, and I have excellent results.  I guess the best answer would be to try it both ways and see what works best for you.  If you're going to give your plants a dark period, set them on a timer for 18 hours of light and 6 hours of dark. 

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #26 on: March 18, 2010, 09:51:46 AM »
Depends on who you ask! 

Some people say the plant needs to "rest" while the lights are off.  I leave mine on 24 hours a day, and I have excellent results.  I guess the best answer would be to try it both ways and see what works best for you.  If you're going to give your plants a dark period, set them on a timer for 18 hours of light and 6 hours of dark. 

Funny how "depends on who you ask" is the answer to most questions. ;)

I'm one that turns the light off.  I use a timer and turn them on for 17 hours and off for 7.  That time came from a post I saw online somewhere.  My seedlings seem to be doing really well.

Offline T Kehl

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #27 on: April 11, 2010, 09:31:43 PM »
I just built a box similar to Jack's and kept all receipts in case anyone was curious as I saw some comments about this further up the thread.

Big Box Mart
(3) undercabinet lights 7.96 ea; $23.88
(1) under bed storage box; $8.50
(1) extension cord with three outlets (eliminates power strip); $2.43

Lowe's
(4) 2' (1/4-20) threaded rod; $1.47 ea; $5.88

Westlakes/Ace
(8) 2" fender washers; $.39 ea; $3.12
(4) 1/4-20 wing nuts; $.29 ea; $1.16
(1) box of 1/4-20 nuts (it was just a bit more than the individuals); $2.49
(1) bag of cable ties; 8"; $3.99

$51.45 total ($55.36 with local tax)

Could have done it cheaper if I priced shopped or bought used, but I wanted it done as I had procrastinated. 

I think the cable ties simplify the build and by tying to the light fixtures in multiple places also serves to stiffen the lid.

Thanks to Jack for the great idea!!!



Offline Stein

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #28 on: April 11, 2010, 09:57:08 PM »
I have a thread on down on page 2 of this forum about my seed starting set up.  Here's the link to that thread.

http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=13082.0

Here's a shot of my setup.  So far I'm very happy with it.


Mine looks remarkably similar to that one but just one level.  The thing I have discovered after a couple years is that most people drastically overestimate how much light the plants are getting.  From my experience, if you want to grow (not just sprout to 2-3"), you need four 40W tubes just about touching the plants.  I first tried two tubes 6" above and nothing really happened.  My room has no natural sunlight, so if you can use the real thing you will need less lights of course.

Next year I might try to add another fixture and bump it up to 240 W.

Go outside on a bright day and look directly at the sun.  Then, go look directly at the fluorescent bulb and it will become obvious that they aren't in the same ballpark.

Another tip is to keep the lights as close to the plants as possible.  The light drops off at the square of the distance, so a plant 1" away is getting double the energy as a plant 2" away.  A plant a foot away is pretty much getting nothing.

They aren't hard to build, or costly.  I bought two 4" fixtures at Lowes for about $9 each.  They had a pile of the cheapo GE plant tubes which are about $7 at Lowes or Walmart.  I had four left from last year so I only needed to buy the fixtures and about $8 in PVC parts.

Offline Folinator1

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Re: Grow Light System
« Reply #29 on: April 14, 2010, 03:06:06 PM »
Great posts and ideas all!

On a side note, I just bought and started using Hydrofarm's Plant Light and Heating Pad for starting some seeds in my garage. How often should the seeds be watered? Should the Heating Pad be left on all the time or turned on/off with the Plant Light?

Last year I bought a Indoor Tomato Seed Starter Kit from Lowe's that had a plastic tray for the seeds and a clear plastic covering that wasn't vented. I poked a few holes in the plastic top so that the seeds could breathe, kept it outdoors in the full sun and watered it weekly but nothing grew and when I dug the seeds up they seemed to have rotted. Not sure exactly what went wrong and should have taken it back to get a refund but wasn't sure if my watering practices were to blame or if I just had a bunch of "bad seeds" (no pun intended...).

Thanks.