Grow Light Basics, Part 3: Ballasts

Mar 22, 13 Grow Light Basics, Part 3: Ballasts

Part 1 of this series covered bulbs and lamp coverage; part 2 covered grow fixtures and timers. In the final chapter, we will be discussing ballasts. There are a wide variety of ballasts to be used with different types of bulbs, different wattages, and different set ups. If you are trying to find the right ballast for your growing needs, stick around and see if we can answer your questions.

Fluorescent Ballasts

If you are using fluorescent tubes for your indoor grow, make sure you use a fluorescent ballast. As stated in part 1 of this series, T5 bulbs are used often for indoor grows, so be sure to double check the lamp type. Once you have determined the size of lamp; you will then need to determine the start method. Instant start ballasts do not preheat the electrodes; they are best if the lamps need to stay on for long periods of time. Programmed start ballasts heat the lamp cathodes slowly; allowing for a longer lamp life, and rapid start ballasts apply voltage and heat cathodes simultaneously. Lastly, consider the ballast factor. For bright lighting, use a high output ballast with a ballast factor above 1.1, for low lighting, a low output ballast with a ballast factor of 0.77 is best.

Magnetic Ballasts

Magnetic ballasts are used with both metal halide lamps and high pressure sodium lamps. They regulate the starting requirements, as well as the line voltage for specific lamps, delivering stable power to the lamps. When using a magnetic ballast, be sure to use a lamp that is at a wattage equal to or less than the ballast wattage.

Some metal halide lamps are pulse rated; they feature a high-voltage ignitor that work with the ballast to start the lamp utilizing a series of high-voltage pulses, generally 3 to 5 kilovolts. The ignitor reduces the amount of tungsten sputtering, as well as warm up time, to increase the life of the lamp. If you use a pulse start metal halide bulb, be sure to double check the ANSI code of the ballast to ensure the pulse rating of the ballast works with the bulb.

Digital Ballasts

Using metal halide and high pressure sodium lamps? Digital ballasts are the best way to go! These lightweight ballasts operate both types of lamps, detecting the lamp inserted at that time, and will run the lamp to ANSI specifications. They can be dimmable and also run quietly without the hum of magnetic ballasts. While most digital ballasts operate both metal halide and high pressure sodium lamps, some only operate one or the other. In this case, you can either use the specified lamp, or a conversion bulb.

If you have any other questions regarding ballasts, fixtures, bulbs, or any other accessories for your indoor grow, be sure to let us know in the comments or reach out to us on Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter!

read more

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!

read more

Your Guide to Incandescent Light Bulbs

Aug 03, 12 Your Guide to Incandescent Light Bulbs

With today’s emphasis on energy efficiency in lighting, it’s easy to forget that our old, inefficient friend, the incandescent light bulb, still exists. In fact, it may never go away. The lowly incandescent isn’t just the less-efficient alternative to modern bulbs, it is oftentimes the only bulb available for many everyday applications.

Standard Shape

They’re known as A-shape, pear shape, or traditional, but most people just call them light bulbs. Standard shape bulbs are the old-fashioned bulbs that many of you are still using or are hoarding in your attic. Though these bulbs are the type most directly affected by EISA 2007 and other lighting legislation, lower-wattage and special application bulbs aren’t going away anytime soon.

Low Voltage

Have an RV or a camper? Chances are you use one of these 12 or 24 volt light bulbs. Other applications include landscape and outdoor lighting, especially battery-powered. Though they look just like other bulbs, don’t use them in your home, or they’ll blow out in a fraction of a second!

Antique and Vintage

An increasingly popular bulb type, antique bulbs are reproductions of bulbs made in the 19th century, with many very closely resembling the original bulb made by Thomas Edison himself. Though they are highly inefficient, even in comparison to other incandescent bulbs, these beautiful creations are popular in restaurants, retail stores, and of course, home restorations.

Spot and Flood

Though Halogen reflector bulbs are more popular, incandescent spot and flood lights are popular options for recessed cans in homes, businesses, and even elevators. Many are also weatherproof, making them a good choice for covered outdoor fixtures.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 19:  McDonald's fren...

French fries under a heat lamp (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Infrared

Also known simply as “heat lamps,” these reflector bulbs emit more infrared heat than light. In effect, they are heaters you can screw into a light socket. Infrared heat lamps are commonly used in fast food warmers, buffets, and even household bathrooms.

Decorative Chandelier

Meant to replicate the look of a flame, these bulbs are what you see in chandeliers, electric candles, and a host of other decorative light fixtures. The most popular versions are straight tip (torpedo) and bent tip, but specialty bulbs like shaped like prisms, satin string bulbs made to reproduce a gas flame, and flicker flame bulbs are also common.

Decorative Globe

Used in holiday lights and outdoor light stringers as well as bathroom vanities and even as a non-traditional alternative for chandeliers, globe bulbs are nearly as widespread as standard shape bulbs.

Tubular

Tubular bulbs include many sizes and styles of bulbs made for applications as varied as older incandescent exit signs and picture lamps. You may also see these in household appliances like vacuum cleaners and as replacement bulbs for microwave ovens.

Linear

Linear incandescents are one of two proprietary technologies made or licensed by GE for their Lumiline brand and by Sylvania for their Linestra brand. Though rare now, these were once a high-CRI, warm-toned alternative to fluorescent tubes.

Silver Bowl

Silver bowl bulbs are frequently used in restaurant pendant lights and other base-up fixtures. The reflective coating on the top of the bulb redirects light into a hanging fixture so that it is refracted by the fixture’s shade, reducing glare.

Control panel

A variety of bulbs in a control panel (Photo credit: Elsie esq.)

S6, S11, and S14 Indicator

S-type incandescent bulbs are found in everything from heavy machinery to instrument panels. S11 and S14 bulbs are widely used in signs, marquees, and flashing arrow sign boards you see in merging traffic as well as in amusement park rides, where they outline the profile of roller-coasters and bring a sparkle to Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds.

C7 and C9 Commercial

C7 and C9 bulbs are well-known for their use in Christmas lights, though they have many commercial and specialty applications as well. Like S-type bulbs, C-type bulbs are often used in marquees and signs. In homes, C7 bulbs have especially widespread use in night lights.

Colored and Bug Lights

Though CFL and LED colored light bulbs are slowly gaining ground, colored incandescent bulbs are much more common. Colored light bulbs can be found in just about any bulb shape mentioned above. An especially popular subset of colored bulbs, the yellow bug light, is used on porches and decks as their yellow color blocks the wavelengths of light that attract moths and other irritating flying insects.

Code Beacon

Code beacon bulbs are high-wattage, high-output bulbs used on the roofs of buildings and in radio towers to signal aircraft.

Traffic Signal

As their name implies, these bulbs are used in old-fashioned traffic signals, though they have been all but replaced by Halogen and LED bulbs.

read more

The Lighting Facts Label Explained

May 18, 12 The Lighting Facts Label Explained

If you’re like me, you ignore the Nutrition Facts label on your food. I know I should be reading it, but a serving of Pringles is only 16 chips? Please! I eat that in 20 seconds. Of course, I might change my habits if there was some sort of monetary compensation for eating better.

There is no such promise with the Nutrition Facts label. However, there is immediate compensation in energy savings when you follow the LED Lighting Facts label published by the US Department of Energy or the Lighting Facts Label published by the Federal Trade Commission. These innovative labels appear on the packaging of all light bulbs manufactured since January of this year.

The Difference Between the DOE and the FTC Label

The biggest difference between the DOE LED Lighting Facts Label and the FTC Lighting Facts Label is right there in the title. The DOE label is only for LED lighting. The FTC label, on the other hand, applies to any bulb with a medium screw base manufactured after January 2012; this includes incandescent bulbs, Halogen bulbs, CFL bulbs, and LED bulbs that do not already have a DOE label.

Another difference is that the FTC label is mandatory, while the DOE label is voluntary. Also, the DOE label is independently verified, while the FTC label contains data solely from the manufacturer. The DOE’s independent testing, combined with more detailed information, can make it more helpful to retailers, lighting designers, and contractors who need specific lighting data for their clients. The FTC label, on the other hand, contains only the information useful to the typical homeowner.

The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the data presented in the DOE and FTC labels:

DOE LED Lighting Facts FTC Lighting Facts
Brightness (Lumens) Yes Yes
Color Temperature Yes Yes
Energy Used (Watts) Yes Yes
Efficacy (Lm/W) Yes No
Lifetime No Yes
Estimated Energy Cost No Yes
Color Accuracy (CRI) Yes No
Mercury Content No Yes

What the Labels Don’t Include

Some of the specifications left out on one or the other label may surprise you. The FTC label, for example, does not include figures for efficacy (the ratio of light output to energy use) or color accuracy. To most homeowners, however, those specs aren’t too important. The missing specs in the DOE label are more notable. The DOE label doesn’t include lifetime, estimated energy cost, or mercury content. Each of these, however, is left out with good reason. Lifetime is left out because, as of now, there is no standard for testing the lifetime of an LED bulb. Estimated energy cost is not included because of the label’s focus on commercial applications, in which lighting designers will need to perform more specific calculations. Finally, the DOE label does not include a statement of mercury content because LEDs do not contain mercury.

Where to Find More Information

This helpful brochure from the US Department of Energy explains the LED Lighting Facts label in more detail, while this article compares the DOE and FTC labels. If there are other specifics you would like us to cover, be sure to leave a comment below or contact us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

read more

Color Temperature Explained

May 11, 12 Color Temperature Explained

Every light source has a distinct character, from the warm, dim glow of a candle to the blue, bright beam of a street light. Brightness, measured in lumens, is one part of that character; the other part is color temperature. Measured in degrees Kelvin, color temperature is not the ambient hot/cold temperature of our surroundings. In fact, the Kelvin scale goes backwards: The higher the color temperature, the cooler light gets, and the lower the color temperature, the warmer light gets.

 

Warm Color Temperatures (2000K to 3500K)

Lighted Makeup Mirror

Lighted Makeup Mirror

Most homes look best in warm-toned light. This is for several reasons, but the first one is a home’s color scheme. People tend to decorate homes in warm earth tones—reds, oranges, and yellows—which warm light enhances. In addition, people tend to look better in warm light. If your grandmother had a lighting makeup mirror with adjustments based on “office,” “home,” and “evening” lighting, you may remember that you looked a lot better in “home” and “evening” modes than “office” mode. That’s because (you guessed it!) those modes had lower color temperatures than “office” mode.

Cool Color Temperatures (4000K to 4500K)

While warm color temperatures are the residential standard, some people prefer higher or “cooler” color temperatures. Because of their neutral tone, it’s common to see color temperatures of 4000K or higher used as task lighting  in offices. Moreover, people often perceive higher color temperatures to be brighter than warm temperatures, while others feel cooler light looks “cleaner.” Finally, higher color temperatures can enhance homes with cooler color schemes, especially those with a lot of blues and whites.

Full Spectrum Color Temperatures (5000K to 6500K)

Less common are very high color temperatures, often referred to as “full spectrum” or “daylight.” Color temperatures of 5000K to 6500K approximate the color of light outdoors on a bright, sunny day. The cast of the light can be a very pronounced blue and can seem harsh to some people. It’s unlikely to see color temperatures of this range in homes, though there is a trend of installing “full spectrum” bulbs in offices as they are sometimes associated with higher productivity.

Making a Decision

There’s nothing that can sour your opinion of CFL or LED lighting like buying a 4000K or 5000K bulb when you meant to buy a 2700K bulb, or vice-versa. When you buy a new, energy efficient bulb, keep your application and color scheme in mind and make sure to buy the bulb with a color temperature to match.

So do you prefer warm or cool color temperatures in your home? Have you ever mistakenly bought a bulb of the wrong color temperature? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below or contact us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

read more

How Many Lumens Do I Need?

Apr 13, 12 How Many Lumens Do I Need?

If you’ve been to a home improvement store within the past 6 months, you’ve noticed household incandescent bulbs have given way to new, sometimes unfamiliar technologies. You may find a couple “full spectrum” incandescents or Halogen floodlights, but other than those, compact fluorescent and LED bulbs line the shelves. Long gone are the days of throwing your favorite brand of 60-watt light bulb in your cart and being on your way. No, you may not even be sure which funny-looking 60-watt equal light bulb you need.

Before buying a CFL or LED light bulb, get rid of any notions you have about incandescent equivalencies. How many times have you bought a 60-watt equal CFL or LED only to be disappointed by how dim it was (or blinded by how nauseatingly bright it was)? Because there is no agreed-upon standard among manufacturers for determining equivalent wattages, statements of incandescent equivalency for CFLs and LEDs are not always dependable. So to light your home the way you intend, stop thinking about watts and start thinking about lumens.

If you read our previous article on lumens, candlepower and CRI, you may remember the definition of lumens. If not, here’s the gist: “Lumens…represent the actual amount of ambient light coming from a lamp. The higher the lumens, the more ‘lit up’ a room will be.” However, while a definition of lumens is nice, if you’re like us, you’re probably asking the real question, “How many lumens do I need to light up my room?” The answer will vary based on the design and color scheme of your room, but here is good rule of thumb, loosely based on the IESNA Lighting Handbook:

Floors: 20 Lumens per Square Foot

Tables and Raised Surfaces: 30 Lumens per Square Foot

Desks and Task Lighting: 50 Lumens per Square Foot

For the average living room of 250 square feet, you’ll need 5,000 lumens as your primary light source (20 lumens x 250 square feet), equivalent to about five 100 watt incandescent light bulbs, five 23 watt CFLs, or eight 10 watt LED light bulbs. Since you probably read on your couch, you’ll also need about 4 square feet of task lighting on each end of the couch. That’s 200 lumens each (50 lumens x 4 square feet), but you’ll need more if the light source is a lamp with a shade. In your dining room, you’ll want about 30 lumens per square foot on your dining table (you want to see your food, but not examine it), so if your table is 6 x 3 feet, that’s 540 lumens.

Room Layout

Create Your Own Room Layout at FloorPlanner.com

Keep in mind, however, that these numbers are for typical conditions. If you have especially dark walls and furniture, you’ll need brighter light sources. The distance of your light source from the surface also changes the equation. We based our calculations on 8-foot ceilings and average height task lamps. Finally, personal preference will play the largest part in your decision. If you like the room to be especially bright, you may want to add 10 to 20% to our numbers. In fact, the best idea for any home may be to aim high and install dimmers to bring the light level down to where you want it.

So how much have you thought about how many lumens you need for your home? Are our numbers too high or two low? Let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook or Twitter, or even post a photo of your home on Pinterest and share it with us!

 

read more