By Reverend Jef Tek
Disclaimer: This is not an advertisement or endorsement for Quantum brand digital ballasts and I have not been paid, coerced or rewarded in any form by the company. I simply came across them at my local grow store and decided to step-up to digital ballasts, here’s my story…
To say I am old school is like saying Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi is short.
I believe in tried and true methods and until recently I have had great success using old school, coil and core, heavy-ass ballasts to run my 1000 watt grow lights.
One reason to love the old bastards is they are very inexpensive for the hobby or first time growers.
And if you were going to start a 100 light grow-show, $40 a piece is much easier to afford than the $300 a piece that digital ballasts will cost. I’m getting ahead of myself.
All ballasts take line voltage and transform it into a high-er voltage to run the high intensity discharge bulbs that are the standard for growing marijuana indoors. The whiter Metal Halides are mostly used for vegetative growth and hardening young plants before being switched to the orangey colored High Pressure Sodium bulbs that are preferred for flowering marijuana. Standard ballasts use miles of copper or aluminum wire wrapped around steel plates and this transforms the volt-age in a very messy way with much heat and amperage being wasted. Digital ballasts use silicon chip circuits to precisely regulate the power being delivered to the bulb; this decreases wasted heat and increases efficiency. They are much-much lighter too.
Hey, I’m all for being efficient and hey, my old clunker ballasts were getting pretty dusty, sitting under a table in my garage. They like to take turns humming sometimes, too, so I had to run a radio to cover the errant hum, com-ing from, my ballast stadium… That is annoying to say the least, a security breach for sure, letting strangers know you are growing “something”? That’s not good! I went and spent the dough to upgrade my degrading, dusty, dilapidated dudes!
Cool looking, state of the art, electronics encased in orange anodized aluminum, nice, neat and nifty-new! The Quantum Ballasts I purchased were very impressive even before I hooked them up. 6 years ago, when I set up my house for growing medicinal marijuana, I decided to have the ballasts located in my garage for a few reasons: One, the heat produced isn’t in the bud room. Two, the heat is a bonus in a garage that is cold 8 to 10 months a year. Three, the hum isn’t in the bud room and it is easi-er to cover the noise in a garage. And Four, when a bal-last inevitably fries out, it’ll be much-much easier to change anytime of the day or night out in the garage rather than mucking-up the grow or bud room.
Having all my ballasts remotely located with simple plugs and outlets let me switch out my 8, 1000 watt bal-lasts in less than 1/2 hour. Two very handy features of these and most digital ballasts is they sense MH or HPS bulbs and automatically adjust and they can be dimmed down to 50% (500 watts) or 75% (750 watts) or 100% (1000 watts) meaning you could run lower wattages for smaller plants and as they grow switch up the watts accordingly or lowering to 75% for those hot-hot sum-mers where your air conditioning is maxxed-out to give your plants a little breathing room.
My Guy told me not to switch down two full steps all at once while bulbs are at full 100% because this may blow the fuse within the ballast. So, don’t go switching them a bunch, be warned.
After 15 years of growing I can definitely see a difference in brightness and color in my bud room. My 1000 Watt HPS bulbs are all housed in a white, Bell LR-1000, tig-welded aluminum hood.
With the old ballasts the room looked more yellow-orange and with the new digital bal-lasts the room looks more white-orange. The plants are sucking-up their water and nutrients at a record breaking rate, suggesting they are working harder, using more nutrients to build more buds. My aching back suggests harvest weights have been up as well, but I have been medicating more so it all works out in the end.
Each digital ballast has a small axial fan that creates a nice ‘white’ noise that drowns out most background noises and I can’t really hear them outside the garage. Even on the hottest day of the year my garage was notice-ably cooler than before and after running 12 hours each ballast was cool enough to rest your hand on without burning it.
You could never put your hand on a coil and core ballast in the same situation. I can’t tell if my power consumption has changed because rates are always going up but there is a great piece-of-mind I get knowing every-thing is safe and secure while still providing maximum lumens to my plants, I couldn’t be prouder.
Yes, they are expensive compared to standard ballasts but each one weighs less than 10 pounds and this makes handling them much easier as well. The cords are heavy
duty and the only thing that ever goes wrong with one is it may pop a tiny inline fuse when over-loaded. It hasn’t happened to me but if you are handy you can just change the fuse yourself and save yourself servicing fees or down time. My garage has never looked more high Tek! The orange bal-lasts match my orange mountain bike perfectly. One lucky guy I know even has a Quantum limited edition iPod stereo system that looks like a mini ballast with tiny speakers on each side, I want one QUANTUM, are you listening? I really want one of those. Hint Hint, nudge nudge.
Check out some cool technology for yourself, the future is so bright I got to wear shades…
Peace & Buds!