Hydroponics DIY: How and Why to Grow Indoors

Feb 21, 14 Hydroponics DIY: How and Why to Grow Indoors

For all you gardeners out there, you know the frustrations of growing outdoors: the unrelenting heat withers your plants and makes it almost impossible to enjoy working in your garden, the weather can change in the blink of an eye, bringing a heat wave or torrential downpours, or that giant garden spider that’s made itself nice and cozy around your Rosemary bushes. With all these variables, it’s no wonder outdoor gardening can be so maddening and why moving your growing indoors isn’t as crazy as it sounds. While this isn’t a comprehensive how-to, we’ve gathered the high points of starting your first indoor grow.


So what exactly is hydroponics? Hydroponics is the art and science of indoor growing using all sorts of growing mediums, from growstones, clay rocks, rockwool, soil, coco, and soilless mixes. The beauty of hydroponics is that there’s no one way to grow and there’s no limit on what you can grow. Some choose to grow vegetables to have purely organic vegetables, bypassing all the pesticides, while others grow indoors as a hobby. Plus, hydroponics gives you the control to grow whatever you want whenever you want. Whether it’s 15 degrees with three feet of snow or it’s 110 degrees with 90 percent humidity, your indoor grows aren’t affected.

Where to Start?

First decide what you want to grow. Do you want to grow non-flowering herbs like cilantro or basil, or are you looking to grow flowering plants like vegetables? Your set up will depend on what you choose to grow. For example, if you want to grow vegetables or flowers, you’ll need a 400-watt HID grow light fixture, with both HPS and metal halide bulbs for the different growth stages. For those non-flowering plants, like basil and cilantro, you can stick with T5 grow lights for the whole growing cycle. Commercial growing will need a bigger coverage area, produced by multiple 1000-watt HID fixtures.

*Note: Since hydroponics can be a bit overwhelming, we’ll save many of the details, such as coverage area, for a later time.

As we know from elementary school science, plants need light to grow. If you’re growing indoors, you have to supply your own sun in the form of HID (high intensity discharge) grow lights, which include high pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide bulbs. There are also LED grow lights, which, just like their household counterparts, use less electricity and last longer than other types of bulbs.

Plants go through stages: a growth stage, also called a vegetative stage, and a flowering stage, also called the budding stage. Both of these stages need different color temperatures in order to flourish: the vegetative stage requires color temperatures of 5000K or higher as this produces the blue part of the color spectrum, while the flowering stage needs a color temperature of around 2000K, which produces light in the red spectrum ideal for this stage.

Just like the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day, neither should your grow lights. For the growth cycle, it’s recommended to have between 18 and 20 hours of light, while that amount decreases to only 12 hours during the flowering cycle. The easiest way to control your lights is with timers. Timers streamline the entire growing process and eliminate forgetting to turn your lights on and off.

XtraSun XT8AC 8-Inch Reflector

XtraSun XT8AC 8-Inch Reflector

Now let’s talk grow light reflectors. While there are many different types of reflectors, from parabolic to wing reflectors, to all-in-one reflectors, to air cooled reflectors, and each one offers its own advantages. Wing reflectors, for example, feature adjustable “wings” which increase light coverage, therefore helping to reduce the number of areas without light. Not to mention they’re usually cheaper. All-in-one reflectors, beside the bulbs, include everything you need, like the ballast. All you have to do is plug it in and go. Air-cooled reflectors have ducts on each end for cooling hoses and are determined by the diameter of these ducts, ranging from four to eight inches in diameter. These types of reflectors are usually for the serious grower as they require the proper ducting for cooling. The type of reflector you need depends on the size of your grow area.

Start Small

HydroFarm EMSYST Emily's Garden

HydroFarm EMSYST Emily’s Garden

Before getting too hot-to-trot over setting up a professional grow space, it’s best to start small. Try an all-in-one hydroponics kit, like the Emily’s Garden. This kit comes with everything you need to start a small, successful grow: growing medium, seed starter cubes, even nutrients. While this may seem like child’s play, it’s a great way to get your feet wet with the world of indoor growing.

Jump Start JSV2 2-Ft. Stand

Jump Start JSV2 2-Ft. Stand

For great beginner experience with grow lights, check out the Jumpstart T5 reflectors. Available in heights from two to four feet, these reflectors include the bulbs and the fixtures and are adjustable as the plants grow taller.

*Note: For more information about indoor growing, check out our hydroponics books.

What do you plan on growing in your indoor garden? Tell us in the comments below, or give us a shout on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or LinkedIn!

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How to Liven Up Any Room with Lighting

Feb 12, 14 How to Liven Up Any Room with Lighting

One of the easiest, yet one of the most overlooked, ways to enhance key areas of your home is with lighting. With a little tweaking and a few additions, you can liven up your space, making rooms seem bigger, making ceilings seem higher than they actually are, etc. Below are a few simple tips we’ve collected to transform the mundane into the extraordinary.

Wall Washing

Some key players in wall washing are recessed cans and eyeball cans. Typically six inches in diameter, these are used mainly to flood an area with light, such as in department stores and theaters. Even though these are found commercially, they’re great for residential applications as well.  Wall washing serves two purposes: aesthetic appeal and task lighting. Washing a wall gives the impression of an expanding space, making the room feel larger, which is great for those smaller spaces, while also calling attention to all those pictures on the wall or your stone fireplace.

wall washingDoes having sloped ceilings means you’re left out of the fun? Not at all. This just means you’ll need those eyeball cans (these allow you to adjust the angle of the fixture as you see fit) mentioned above and will most likely need either need lamps with a wide flood or a very wide flood beam angle.

While it depends on how much space you’re wanting to light, it’s generally best to opt for bulbs that have either a “flood” (FL), “wide flood” (WFL), or “very wide flood” (VWFL) beam angle such as R/BR bulbs. Bulbs with these beam angles are great for covering wide areas, creating an overlapping of light.

*Note: if you don’t already have recessed fixtures, these can be easily installed. However, it’s probably best if a licensed electrician performs the work for you. This way you can rest assured the work is done correctly and safely.

Accent Lighting

The possibilities are endless with accent lighting and it’s a great way to add depth to any room.  The key to great accent lighting is to ensure there’s light coming from multiple angles: from down lights, to table and floor lamps, to under cabinet lighting on your bookcases in your bedroom or living room. A nice touch is LED tape light on the back of bedroom accent lighting1your TV, which not only calls attention to the TV, but also adds a unique flair.

The picture on the left is a pretty good example of utilizing light from multiple angles. Notice the wall sconces on each side of the bed, which give off light vertically and horizontally, while the recessed light above the bed directs its light downward. The eyeball can above the bookcase neatly displays the picture, books, and the few knick knacks on the shelves.

Ceiling Uplighting

In the battle against poorly-lit rooms, shadows are your enemy, as they make your space look small and drab. Defeat those pesky shadows with a well-placed floor lamp in the corner of your room, providing you not only with task lighting, but directing the light upwards, eliminating dark spots. A great way to make your ceilings seem higher than they actually are is to utilize overcabinet lighting. You can accomplish this in a multitude of ways, with LED rope light or plug-in fixtures.

Which of these tips will you use to liven up your home? Let us know in the comments below, or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!!

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How Lighting Affects Your Mood

Feb 07, 14 How Lighting Affects Your Mood

Ever feel “not quite yourself” when there’s a lack of light, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Ever notice how your mood seems to improve when you’re in a brighter room? This isn’t your imagination. Studies have shown that light levels do in fact affect our disposition. But how does light affect your mood, and how can you adjust the lighting in your home to improve it?

Low Light = Low Mood?

As mentioned above, low light levels do indeed affect how you feel. While I won’t throw a bunch of science-y terms your way, there are a few terms you should become familiar with: melatonin and serotonin.

Melatonin also helps control weight gain.

Melatonin also helps control weight gain.

Melatonin is vital in controlling your sleeping and waking patterns and is typically highest around bedtime, while serotonin affects many functionalities, such as sleep, appetite, memory, mood, and depression. Specifically, serotonin has a hand in affecting your happiness.

There are both psychological and physiological side effects linked to poor lighting. For example, poor light conditions can impact the amount of melatonin that’s produced, therefore creating an imbalance within your body: the more melatonin that’s produced, the levels of serotonin decrease, as more serotonin is converted to melatonin. So in poorly lit rooms, melatonin levels may be higher, which can cause you to feel depressed and drowsy.

On the contrary, higher levels of light can get your body back in balance, increasing your levels of serotonin and are sometimes even used as a therapy to alleviate common emotional issues.

Lighten Up!

In what ways can you boost the mood in your home? Does this mean you have to transform your home into the surface of the sun so you’ll be cheery all the time? Not quite. Below are a few ways to brighten things up and make the most of your new-found knowledge of serotonin and melatonin:

  • living room sunlightSince bright light can actually give you more energy and increase alertness, it’s recommended to either dim the lights or use warmer color temperatures (2700K to 3000K) to wind down in the evenings.
  • If you’re looking to boost your mood, consider switching to full spectrum light bulbs (5000K), as these types of bulbs mimic natural light. If you’re not a fan of bulbs with this color temperature, try some cool white bulbs with color temperatures between 4000K and 4100K.
  • Do you like your current lineup of bulbs just the way they are and don’t want to trade them out? Try opening some blinds. The influx of natural light will have almost the same effect as the full-spectrum bulbs.

Did you put any of these tips into practice? Let us know in the comments below , or give us a shout on Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, Pinterest, or LinkedIn!

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Lighting Your Man Cave

Jan 29, 14 Lighting Your Man Cave

The man cave is a testosterone-laden haven for you and your buddies to retreat to. It’s a place to watch all kinds of sporting events or just a spot to have that quality “guy time”. Transforming your man cave from mediocre to the envy of your inner circle is easier than you think. With some well-placed lighting fixtures, you can turn your spot into “the” man caves of man caves.

SONY DSCTV Backlighting: Let’s say you’re having a Die Hard marathon. You’re a few hours into watching John McClane careen across Manhattan and blowing things up. Little by little, your eyes start to hurt. Before you know it, a full-on headache is distracting you from the action. The problem could be due to a lack of lighting affecting your depth perception. Simply put, the dimmer the lights, the harder it is for your eyes to differentiate between the television and the wall, putting a heavy strain on your eyes. Luckily, there’s an easy fix for this: TV backlighting. This can be accomplished by simply adding a few strips of LED tape light to the back of your TV. Not only will this increase your viewing time without getting headaches, but it’ll add a unique touch, making your TV “pop”, drawing attention to it.

Display Lighting: You’ve got a sweet collection of sports memorabilia, including an autographed Roger Staubach jersey, professionally framed and mounted in your man cave, along with an autographed picture of Michael Jordan sailing through the air to the basket. What’s the best way to display these gems? Well, one of200543709-001 the best ways is track lighting. Track lighting gives you the ability to light specific sections of your cave, bringing attention where you want it. Generally, the most popular type of bulb used in display lighting are MR16s. Keep in mind that the further away the bulb is from the object it’s lighting, the wider the beam angle needs to be.

Lutron Skylark S-600P-IV Ivory Dimmer

Lutron Skylark S-600P-IV Ivory Dimmer

Dimmable Lights and Dimmers: Adding dimmable lights to your recessed can lights and dimmers gives you the freedom to switch from sports bar lighting to movie theater lighting, all at the push of a button. Not only do dimmable lights and dimmers give you more control for setting the right mood, they also save on electricity costs and extend the life of your bulbs. Keep in mind to make sure your bulbs and dimmers are compatible with each other before you buy them. Otherwise, the bulb may not dim correctly and may emit a buzzing sound.

Mancave_Lighting_Bar__1000Bulbs_LiquorShelfBar Backlighting: This is where you can really be creative. The beauty of rope light is that it can be used virtually anywhere. Create an inviting atmosphere by putting warm white rope light under the counters, or use blue rope light to outline your bar back, adding a cool, refined look. Perhaps line the shelves with red rope light, making your bottles come alive with a fiery glow. The possibilities are endless!

*Just because you don’t have a dedicated man cave, the tips above can apply to almost any room, including living or media rooms.

We’d love to see pictures of your man cave! Show us in the comments below or on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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Security Lighting: Creating Peace of Mind

Jan 24, 14 Security Lighting: Creating Peace of Mind

While outfitting your home with booby traps akin to Jason Bourne might be fun, setting up your home with a good net of security lights is easier, not to mention safer. The good news is that making your home a less appealing target is actually pretty easy. Below, we’ll throw some tips your way that will make criminals focus their attention elsewhere.

Timers: Simple and ultra-affordable, plug in timers are one of the easiest ways to protect your home. Have to work late and don’t want to come home to a dark house? Going away for a weekend to visit the in-laws, but still want your dining room lights and TV to come on as if you were there? Timers can do all that and then some. Many timers have multiple set points, like the Tork 401A, giving you the freedom to customize when your lights turn on and off, therefore increasing that “lived in” look.

Motion Activated Lights: Motion activated lights are one of the best ways to keep your home safe. They don’t need to be turned on, you can’t forget to turn them off, and they’re operational at all times. It’s important to put motion activated lights around key areas of your home, like over doors or on exterior walls that illuminate a darkened section of your home, eliminating potential hiding spots. For example, maybe you have a gate next to your garage that leads to your backyard. An outward-facing motion sensor would be great on your garage, so that when it comes on, you’ll be able to see the lights from a kitchen or bedroom window. Keep in mind that CFLs are not recommended for use with motion activated sensors, as the constant on and off will greatly shorten the life of the bulb.

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing your motion activated lights:

  • Unless you live in a heavily guarded federal building, you don’t want the same type of lights the FBI uses for their buildings. You actually would want something that’s not overly bright, so you can actually see what’s going on. It’s also a good idea, if you can, to have your lights pointing at something that will be noticeable when the lights are activated, something like a fence. That way you’ll be able to notice when the lights are on from multiple areas in your home.
  • Also, make sure to install your lights high enough where they can’t be disabled by someone on the ground and trim those bushes by your windows, to eliminate possible hiding spots.

Porch/Patio Lights: Porch lights shouldn’t only be used during Halloween to determine which houses are handing out candy. Apart from being a sign of hospitality when you have  people over, the outdoor lighting fixtures you have in the front and back of your home play a crucial role in your home’s security. Ideally, there should be fixtures on either side of the door, to eliminate shadows. They should also be controlled by a photocell (a device that keeps the lights from coming on in the daytime) or timers. Avoid having lights directly overhead or behind where someone would be standing, as these placements will create harsh shadows or a silhouette effect. This setup will accomplish three things: allow you to quickly find your keys, let you know when someone passes by or is at your door, and allow you to clearly identify who’s at your door.

*When choosing the bulbs to put in your fixtures, choose bulbs that have a CRI equal to or greater than 80. The higher the CRI, colors will look richer and more vibrant. This will help identify the colors of cars, differences in skin tone, and the colors of clothes with greater accuracy.

Arielouie_landscape_lightingLandscape Lighting: Looking to add a touch of sophistication to your home’s exterior and eliminate holes in your home’s net of security lighting You can accomplish both with pathway lights. Adding a few of these lights to your sidewalk will not only increase your home’s curb appeal, but will also make the journey from your car to the front door much safer. You may want to stay away from solar-powered lights, as these tend to be very dim. What about those Oak trees in your front yard, or the garden you’ve spent countless back-breaking weekends on? Light ‘em up with uplighting and landscape lighting. For uplighting, it’s important to remember to use warmer color temperatures (2400-3000K) for red tones, such as brick, as the warmer colors will bring out the color of the brick. For landscape lighting, cool color temperatures (4000-4100K) are best, as these will make foliage appear more lush and vivid. Uplighting and landscape lighting serve two functions: to display your hard work and reduce the amount of hiding places potential evil-doers have.

We’ve covered the main areas of security lighting. Are there any others we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below, or holler at us on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn!

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