Shed a little light on the matter – Part 1

When it comes to setting up your first hydroponic system, there’s an awful lot to consider – from merely what plants you want to raise to what pumps you need and what solutions will work best – and it’s easy to overlook something as seemingly standard as lighting.  After all, a light’s a light... isn’t it?

That’s where you’d be wrong, but fortunately the BIG Shop is here to help out!  The world of hydroponic lighting is, like many other ‘technical’ realms, awash with terminology that makes little sense to the new or otherwise inexperienced indoor grower.  Here’s where we step in to help with a few key terms you’ll encounter in your search for the right light.

First off, although you may set out just to buy a standalone ‘light’, you may not be aware that it’s best to buy individual components first and put together your own personalised kit.  Not only is it easier to adapt a DIY assembly for a different hydroponic system if you decide to change something after you’ve started, but there’s nothing quite like the “I did that” effect when you step back to admire your finished piece.  So what exactly do you need to get your hands on to set up the perfectly customisable hydroponic lighting system?

Constructed basically from a ballast, a reflector and a bulb (with a timer being an optional and infinitely useful addition), your setup should be planned around your hydroponic system – after all, the light is quite possibly the most important part!

The ballast is essentially your power unit, used to keep your lamp safely lit and moderate the power input.  It’s best to keep this unit off the floor for safety purposes – you don’t want it getting wet if you have any hydroponic mishaps!  Pay attention to the wattage of your ballast too, you’ll need to match this to your bulb’s – for small scale systems a 400w setup should be sufficient, but if you’re thinking of leaving room for expansion do consider a 600w.

A regular light will spill energy in all directions – and any energy lost to the surrounding area is energy wasted!  That’s why reflectors are essential in order to focus and direct the output of your bulbs to make the most of how much energy will be taken in by your plants.  Especially if you’re growing to sell, it’s a good idea to keep overhead costs to a minimum and getting the most of your energy usage like this is a necessity.

Your bulb is arguably the most important feature of your lighting though – and these come in two major varieties.  Stay tuned to the next BIG Shop blog for more details on this frankly illuminating subject!


Control the environment of your growroom – Lighting

The main purpose of almost every growing system is the crop yield gained as a result.  Anyone creating a hydroponic system or modifying an existing one has a wide variety of factors to take into consideration that can directly affect this yield, such as;

  • Temperature
  • Smell
  • PH Levels
  • Water treatment
  • Nutrients

Several blog posts over the past few weeks have been dedicated to these topics and more before now – however, today we’re focusing on the world of:


It may be an obvious thing to point out, but the lighting in a hydroponic system is probably the most important part.  Photosynthesis is the process of absorbing sunlight and, using water and carbon dioxide, creating glucose (food) and oxygen.

The process of photosynthesis is the main influence on a plant’s growth and yield, so the importance of a lighting system cannot be understated.

A grow light has three essential components – the lamp itself to produce light, a ballast to regulate the power input of your lamps and a reflector to best direct the output of the lamps.  The interaction between these three parts is essential in the assembly of a functional and effective lighting system.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps come in three varieties for different growing periods, each with different light outputs optimized for specific stages in a plant’s development.  Metal Halide lamps, for instance, emit more blue spectrum light, which is more effective on plants in the early, vegetative stages of development, while High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps produce more red spectrum light specifically for flowering periods.  Some types of lamp, such as Grolux or Sunmaster Dual Spectrum lamps, emit light from both the blue and red spectrums and can, as a result, be used for growing throughout the cycle.

Ballasts come in two major types – magnetic and digital.  Magnetic ballasts work by using a copper coil that becomes electromagnetic as power is drawn through it and into the lamp.  This magnetism reduces the amount of power that can be drawn through the coil, thus regulating what goes into the lamp.  Therefore, the bigger the coil, the higher wattage lamp can be safely powered.  Digital systems use a circuit board instead of an electromagnetic coil, losing far less energy through heat and noise than their magnetic counterparts.

Lamps don’t focus light on their own; that’s the job of a reflector.  Reflectors take all the light energy put out by a lamp and reduce wastage by focusing as much as possible at your crops.  This process means that your plants can absorb the same amount of light with less energy expense on your behalf, and is important in making sure your system is economical.

One more thing to remember is that all lamps produce heat – excess heat isn’t good news for your plants at all, as you can read in our blog entry here.  Don’t forget, you can always ask our experts at The BIG Shop for advice relating to this or any other growing topics.