Ballasts and growing cannabis plants indoors
When we are about to set upe an indoor marijuana growing space, there are many factors to take into account if we want our plants to enjoy proper ventilation, lighting, etc. If we grow with discharge lamps (HPS or MH) we are going to need a ballast to correctly operate our lighting system.
The main doubt that can arise is whether to choose a magnetic or an electronic ballast. Electronic ballasts are a step forward in lighting systems for growing cannabis, replacing the traditional power transformer of the magnetic ballasts with electronic components.
Although the price of most electronic ballasts is a little higher than that of magnetic ones, they have a number of advantages in comparison with these:
- Electronic ballasts are lightweight, smaller and they practically don’t emit heat
- They’re much more efficient, with a better use of the electrical consumption
- They are more silent, compared to the vibration emitted by magnetic ballasts
- They lengthen the lifespan of the lamps and reduce flickering
- Most of them have dimmers that allow us to control the light output according to the needs of our plants
In view of such a number of advantages of the electronic ballast compared to the magnetic one, we realize that the only advantage of the latter is its price. While we can get excellent cannabis harvests using magnetic ballasts, if we want to get maximum efficiency in our lighting system we should choose electronic ones. It is with good reason that the best lamps, like the LEC CMH lighting kit, include these devices.
We should use a light bulb with the same power than the ballast, and only one lamp for each power supply unit. It’s advisable to keep them out of the growing space and off the ground to reduce the risk of damage by splashes of water and high humidity. Many growers hang them on a fireproof wood-panel at a certain height from the floor, together with the rest of connections like clocks, contactors, etc.
Next we list and tell you more about some of the most commonly used ballasts for cannabis grow rooms. All of them are compatible with both HPS and HM lamps (always with the same power output).
Magnetic Ballasts, Class 1 and 2
Magnetic ballasts are compact and have a built-in starter and condenser. They start up and feed high discharge lamps like high pressure sodium or metal halide lamps, the most commonly used lamps for marijuana cultivation. They also incorporate a heat protection chip, so they automatically shut off in case of overheating.
Normally, we will have to install the electric wiring of Class 1 magnetic ballasts, following the wiring diagram that they usually incorporate: two cables are connected from the output of the ballast to the plug, which we will connect to our power socket. Another two cables will be connected to the bulb holder, which is usually incorporated in most basic reflectors.
This is the most economic option available and – although they work perfectly and have been used during decades – their efficiency has been superseded by the modern electronic ballasts. They are also heavier than the latter, around 6-8 kg.
On the other hand, Class 2 magnetic ballasts like the Tima ballast come sealed in a fireproof polyamide box, which allows a quick dissipation of heat produced by the coil. This case protects the components from external damage (IP-30 protection standard). In addition, this class of magnetic ballasts come with all the wiring system already installed (2m of power cord and 3m of cable for the lamp) so we only have to plug and play!
Lumatek electronic ballasts
Lumatek’s electronic ballasts (available in 250, 400 and 600W) allow us to enjoy all the advantages of this type of power units; there were the first ones to include a dimmer, so we can use different power output depending on the stage of the plants, including a function called Super Lumens. These ballasts are much lighter than magnetic ones, they are silent and can operate in temperature ranges of -25 to 40ºC and 0-90 % humidity.
Their efficiency is higher than that of traditional magnetic ballasts, producing up to 30% more lumens than any of those. They are controlled by a micro-processor which evaluates and compensates the electrical power fluctuations, thus protecting our grow lamps. Without a doubt, these are an excellent choice if you can afford them.
Bolt electronic Ballasts
With very similar features to Lumatek ballasts, and a bit cheaper, Bolt electronic ballasts are guarantee of good operation and performance. They also have a controller (dimmer) with 4 positions: 50, 75, or 100%, as well as an extra lumens position that offers up to 30W more.
They feature on-off control and an integrated protection circuit with automatic frequency control adjustment. They are compact, water splash-resistant and silent. If we are looking for an electronic ballast with dimmer and we can’t afford a Lumatek unit, Bolt units are an ideal choice.
Nanolux electronic Ballasts
Nanolux electronic ballasts are the most compact and lightest on the market. They can be used with different voltages since they adapt to the received current, so they can be plugged in different countries without a problem.
They also incorporate a dimmer to select the desired power output: 50, 75 or 100%. Its random starter protection system turns on the unit between 1 and 15 seconds after connecting it, a very useful feature if we have several ballasts connected to the same timer-box, thus avoiding peaks.
These are by far the lightest electronic ballasts (1.3kg) and the most compact ones, and they generate 20 % less heat than other electronic ballasts. They have a built-in small fan to assure a correct dissipation of the heat.
We hope that this post helped you to better understand how to choose what ballast is best for you.