Grow Light Basics, Part 1: Bulbs and Coverage

Feb 18, 13 Grow Light Basics, Part 1: Bulbs and Coverage

 

Thinking about starting your first indoor grow? It’s easier than you may think.

In this first of a multi-part series on grow lighting, we’ll consider the different types of bulbs available and their respective benefits. In future installments, we’ll consider fixture and reflector types before moving to peripherals, including ballasts, timers, and controllers.

 

Color Temperature and the Plant Life Cycle

English: Kelvin Temperature Chart

Most plants go through a growth (also known as “vegetative”) stage and a flowering (also known as “budding”) stage. Each stage thrives under a different part of the light spectrum, represented by color temperature.

Lights with a color temperature of 5000 Kelvin or higher produce the blue part of the light spectrum and are ideal for the growth stage of your plants. Lights with a 2000 Kelvin color temperature, on the other hand, produce light in the red spectrum and are essential for the flowering stage.

HID vs. Fluorescent

To artificially create light within the right spectrum for your plants, you have two choices: HID grow lights or fluorescent grow lights.

HID lights are most common in grow lighting. To produce the red and blue spectrum with HID lights, you need high pressure sodium (“HPS”) lights and metal halide lights, respectively.

Linear fluorescent grow bulbs come in T12, T8, and T5, each more efficient and compact than the one before it. Today, T5 lights are used almost exclusively. Fluorescent lamps also come in a variety of color temperatures, so look for the right Kelvin rating before you buy.

Calculating Coverage

But how many bulbs do you need and of what wattage?

Coverage varies depending on the type of bulb and fixture you use, but at least as far as HID lighting goes, the “rule of thumb” is 50 watts per square foot. In lumens (the standard measurement of light output), that comes to about 1,500 lumens per square foot for metal halide lamps and 2,000 lumens per square foot for HPS lamps.

Fluorescent coverage is less precise and determined as much by the fixture as by the bulb itself. Unlike HID lights, fluorescent tubes run so cool you can place them as close to the plants as you want. This means the coverage of a fluorescent grow light is roughly the same as the dimensions of the lamp itself.

For more examples, check out our grow light coverage infographic:

Grow Light Coverage

Grow Light Coverage

Looking Forward

Next week, we’ll look at grow fixture and reflector types more closely. But if you just can’t wait, reach out in the comments section below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. We’re happy to answer your questions anytime!

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Beam Angle Explained

Jan 18, 13 Beam Angle Explained

Reflector bulbs are more than just floodlights and spotlights. Like any light bulb, they come in shapes and technologies to fit any application. Two cases in point are the PAR and the MR16. These common bulbs, whether halogen, CFL, or LED, are highly specified, containing engineered surfaces that control the beam of light to an angle so precise it takes seven different classifications just to explain their possible uses!

Very Narrow Spot (VNSP)

The very narrow spot is just like it sounds. At 7 degrees or less for an MR16 or 15 degrees or less for a PAR lamp, this reflector casts an intense, focused beam without a square inch of wasted light. Bulbs with a VNSP beam angle are often used to highlight a small statue or figure on display in a museum or in a jewelry store to make diamonds “pop.”

Narrow Spot (NSP)

landscape lights

Photo by RBerteig (flickr)

Like the very narrow spot, the narrow spot is most popular in commercial applications. At 8 to 15 degrees for an MR16 or 16 to 30 degrees for a PAR lamp, the reflector casts a beam slightly less focused than a VNSP. Look for bulbs with an NSP beam angle in retail settings highlighting a special or sale item or in landscape bullets illuminating a sign or garden feature.

Spot (SP)

The spot, though primarily used in commercial applications, also shows up in homes from time to time. At 16 to 22 degrees for an MR16 or 31 to 60 degrees for a PAR lamp, the reflector casts a medium-sized beam. Bulbs with an SP beam angle are used in stores to highlight a special or sale area or outdoors to illuminate an architectural feature.

Narrow Flood (NFL)

Fireplace Spot Light

Photo by ell brown (flickr)

Businesses and homeowners alike find uses for the narrow flood. At 23 to 32 degrees for an MR16 or 61 to 90 degrees for a PAR lamp, this reflector casts a medium-wide beam. Stores use an NFL beam angle to highlight a display table, while homes might use this bulb in recessed eyeball lights to illuminate a painting over a fireplace mantle.

Flood (FL)

This true “floodlight” has wide variety of applications. At 36 to 45 degrees for an MR16 or 91 to 120 degrees for a PAR lamp, the reflector casts a wide beam. Bulbs with an FL beam angle can be seen in everything from pendant lights in coffee shops to recessed lights in living rooms.

Wide Flood (WFL)

Need a lot of light? There are worse options than the wide flood. At 46 to 59 degrees for an MR16 or 121 to 160 degrees for a PAR lamp, the wide flood has a dispersed beam to cover a large area. Bulbs with a WFL beam angle are common in many general illumination applications from motion-sensing lights above garage doors to recessed cans in auditoriums and movie theaters.

Very Wide Flood (VWFL)

recessed lights

Photo by mccun934 (flickr)

The very wide flood finds its way into specialty applications, more often than not. At over 60 degrees for an MR16 or over 160 degrees for a PAR lamp, this reflector casts an extremely wide beam. Bulbs with a VWFL beam angle are used to illuminate without highlighting any particular object or area. They’re good options for outdoor flood lighting and low-ceiling recessed lights.

Keep in mind these designations vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some brands, like Ushio, throw them out altogether for their simpler system of “narrow,” “medium,” and “wide.” Also note that just because a bulb may have a commercial application, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it in your home. Use reflectors to make your walls a canvas for your lighting ideas, and be sure to share those ideas with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or Pinterest!

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Five Christmas Decorations You May Have Missed

Nov 30, 12 Five Christmas Decorations You May Have Missed

Christmas is only 24 days away, but it’s not too late to put on your best lighting display ever! You may think you already know everything about Christmas lights and decorations, but there are a few awesome products you may have missed. Here are five of our favorites.

Bubble Lights

Bring back your (or your parents’) childhood memories with candelabra base bubble lights. Used since the 1940s, these unique bulbs aren’t as popular as they once were, but they’re a great idea for a retro-style Christmas. Each bubble light houses a tiny incandescent bulb that creates both heat and light to bubble the liquid within the tube. They even work as nightlights when the holidays are over!

Color-Changing LED Bulbs

Jealous of your neighbor’s Christmas light show, but don’t have time to set up complicated controllers? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just screw in some magic bulbs that did all of the work for you? Color-changing LED Christmas bulbs are just what you’re looking for! Simply replace your existing incandescent or LED C7 or C9 bulbs with these and watch as they cycle through red, blue, green, yellow, orange, and purple.

LED Snowfall Lights

If you live in a climate like ours here in Dallas, you may have given up hope for a White Christmas. But hang LED Snowfall lights from your trees and you can still watch the “snow” fall in the night sky. Ranging from 7 inches to over 6 feet long, each set of these suspended, water-resistant tubes contain cool white LEDs that chase and drift in randomized patterns, emulating a beautiful and calming snowfall.

Battery-Operated Candles

Ideal for candlelit Christmas ceremonies and picturesque holiday displays, battery-operated candles are a safer and cleaner alternative to real candles. Great for windows, tables, and mantles, the wax-drip details and metallic bases of these incandescent and LED candles add a traditional look and feel to any space.

Christmas Light Stringers

C7 and C9 Christmas light stringers are the pro’s secret to a perfect outdoor holiday display. Not only can you choose whatever color of incandescent or LED bulb to use with these stringers, you can also cut them to fit any surface. Reached the end of your gutter? Cut off the excess wire and cap it. Visit our site to pick up whatever length you need, but don’t forget the end plugs!

So what are your holiday decorating ideas this year? Let us know in the comments and drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or Pinterest!

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How to Set Up a Christmas Tree Like a Pro

Nov 16, 12 How to Set Up a Christmas Tree Like a Pro

You’ve set up your Christmas tree and gathered the family around, Clark Griswold-style. You plug in the lights and voilà!

A second goes by before you hear a collective groan. Your tree is so gnarled and lopsided it looks like it’s being slowly eaten away by moths. Half of the lights don’t work, and the other half only flicker. In short, your Christmas tree doesn’t look anything like the picture on the box.

Professional interior designers know setting up an artificial Christmas tree isn’t as easy as it looks. They know just how to adjust, test, and tweak until a Christmas tree looks bright and full, virtually oozing holiday cheer. Fortunately, you can do the same. Use these 4 professional tips for a problem-free tree this year!

Tip #1: Set Up the Stand the Right Way

First, set up your tree stand. Though this may not require the touch of an interior designer, it is literally the foundation to everything that comes after.

For two-piece steel or plastic stands, simply slide the two pieces together and apply slight pressure to the center hub until it clicks. For one-piece fold-up stands, open the legs to their locking position and tighten the bottom thumbscrew to secure. If you have a one-piece stand, no assembly is required.

If your stand is wobbly or flimsy, throw it away and get a real Christmas tree stand made with sturdy materials, superior craftsmanship, and wheels to make the tree easier to move and store.

Christmas Tree Bases

Christmas Tree Bases

Tip# 2: Assemble the Tree Once Piece at a Time

Second, assemble the tree, taking time to adjust and level as you do so. Patience is key.

Insert the bottom section of the tree into the stand. Secure the tree by tightening the thumbscrews and allow the hinged branches to fall into their natural, horizontal position.

If you have a multi-section tree, add the other sections, taking care to lubricate the pole ends for easy insertion and removal at the end of the holiday season.

Tip #3: Shape the Tree Like a Pro

There are two basic ways to shape a tree: The traditional “V” shape and the “upswept” shape.

For a traditional shape, separate all the small limbs from the main branch, then work from the trunk outward, moving one limb up and one limb down, forming a “V” shape. Also form a “V” with the second set of limbs, but instead of up and down, angle one to the left and one to the right.

For an upswept tree shape, simply angle the limbs outward and upward, as if wind were blowing from the bottom of the tree.

Christmas Tree Shaping

Traditional Shaping (Top) and Upswept Shaping (Bottom)

Tip #4: Test Lights and Apply them Section-by-Section

Unless you have a pre-lit Christmas tree, the next step is to add your Christmas lights. Before you start, however, plug in each set of lights to make sure they work. Test for burned out bulbs and partially dead strings with a light tester and avoid the hassle and embarrassment of having to redecorate your tree halfway through Christmas dinner.

Now start lighting the tree, but not all at once. Make sure your tree is evenly lighted by hanging lights section-by-section and making corrections as you go.

Share Your Ideas

For more Christmas tips and tricks, check out previous articles on how to buy a Christmas tree, how to select mini lights, and how to throw a non-traditional Christmas celebration. Share your own tips in the comments, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, and Pinterest.

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Christmas Mini Lights Buying Guide

Nov 09, 12 Christmas Mini Lights Buying Guide

Walk into any big box store this holiday season and you’ll see two, maybe three, options for Christmas mini lights: Number of bulbs, bulb color, and if you’re lucky, wire color. After all, these are the only choices most people consider.

But “most” people aren’t informed buyers. Any informed buyer craves selection, and that’s why we offer literally hundreds of mini light choices at 1000Bulbs.com.

Of course, with so many choices available, we realize it can be frustrating to find just the right mini lights you need, so to make that process easier, here’s a quick guide to buying mini lights.

Bulb Spacing

Have you ever had to double or triple-wrap a Christmas tree with lights to make it bright enough? The typical set of mini lights has bulb spacing (the amount of wire between individual bulbs) of 12 inches. In almost all cases, that’s too far apart.

The maximum bulb spacing for a Christmas tree, gutter, or house trim should be 6 inches, not 12. To wrap an outdoor tree trunk, pole, or banister, tighter bulb spacing of 4 inches is better. For wreaths, garlands, and other objects with a small diameter, you may even want to go with 2.5 inch spacing.

Wire Gauge

Wire gauge isn’t just a topic for electricians. When it comes to mini lights, the thicker the wire, the longer it lasts and the more end-to-end connections you can make.

The standard wire gauge for mini lights is 22 AWG, but for especially long runs or harsh outdoor conditions, use a thicker wire gauge of 20 or even 18 AWG (the smaller the number, the thicker the gauge).

Lead and Tail Length

Lead length is the distance from the outlet (the male plug) to the first bulb in a set of mini lights. It is typically 3 to 6 inches, but many shorter “craft” lights have longer leads of 2 feet or more.

Longer leads are great for wall-mounted items like wreaths that are usually far away from a wall socket. Having a longer lead means you won’t have lights “floating in space” before they reach their destination.

Tail length is the other end of the string (the female plug) that connects to the next string in the series.

Connection Options

Mentioned earlier in the section on wire gauge, mini lights with a thicker wire gauge are able to handle more end-to-end connections. Though the exact number may vary, most 22 AWG 100 light sets are UL listed for up to three end-to-end (male to female) connections. A 20 AWG set of the same length may be rated for twice that—6 connections. Exceed that recommendation and the fuses within the light string will overload and burn out.

Interestingly, the recommendation for a 50 light set is usually the same. Why? For safety reasons, UL does not recommend more than three end-to-end connections for a 22 AWG string light of any length. If you plan a particularly long run, it is better to use a few 100 or 150 light stands than several shorter strands.

What Are Your Plans?

What are your Christmas lighting plans this year? Let us know what you have in store. Drop us a line in the comments below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. If you have something especially interesting, we may even pin it on Pinterest!

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