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Grow Q&A: Choosing Grow Lights

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Dear Dan, I’m very interested in starting a garden. I have had some great luck with CFL‘s, but I want to work with Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium.  I’m looking up 250-watt ballast online because I am going to do about six or so plants in a 3’ x 3’ or smaller area. I’m somewhat ignorant when it comes to growing, but I will become great at it with practice. What my question is for you is: when it comes to purchasing a ballast, is there something that I need to know about getting the whole setup?  – OG Eric

Dear Eric,
You are smart to start with the 250-watt unit. Too many growers set themselves up for failure by buying a light too strong and hot for their space. 400-, 600- and 1000-watt HID lights create increasing amounts of heat buildup that must be addressed. Stepping up from Compact fluorescents to HID lights is a big step so act accordingly. You can also keep your CFL’s for growing seedlings into the vegetative stage and then switch to a HPS for flowering.

As for ballasts, most grow lights come as kits with a ballast, bulb and reflector all together. This is better than trying to mix and match a ballast to a separate bulb and reflector. Many people favor the new digital ballasts for heat reduction, but I’m not convinced yet that they don’t shorten the life of the bulbs substantially. Find a decent 250-watt HPS system specific for growing plants costing between $200 and $300 or so and you’ll be fine.

Have a grow question? Ask away at deardanko@hightimes.com

Danny Danko is a writer, photographer and the Senior Cultivation Editor of High Times magazine. He has selected High Times’ annual Top 10 Strains of the Year since 2005 and is also the creator and founder of the High Times Seed Bank Hall of Fame, author of The Official High Times Field Guide to Marijuana Strains and the forthcoming book Cannabis: A Beginner's Guide to Growing Marijuana. He hosts the podcast High Times presents "Free Weed from Danny Danko."

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