Today on the blog I wanted to talk about HID (High Intensity Discharge) lighting, and more specifically the differences between magnetic and digital ballasts. We are going to take a look at the pros and cons of both and why you would choose one piece of technology over the other.
First we will want to look at what a ballast does for your lighting system. If we were to plug an HPS (High Pressure Sodium) bulb right into a wall socket (AC current) you would pop your bulb instantly; there would be so much electricity running through the bulb that it would be toast. The ballasts job is to regulate the current of power to the bulb to have it run efficiently and safely. The two types of ballasts that we will talk about today are the old school Magnetic ballasts and the newer technology of the Digital ballasts.
Magnetic ballasts have been around forever and are the tried-and-true workhorses of the indoor grower. They are heavy, big, and run hot! They get their name of Magnetic ballast because they are basically electromagnets that the electricity is funneled into then passed along to a capacitor to reduce the current to constant level to ignite your bulb and have it light your grow room.
Some of the pros of the Magnetic ballasts are that they can be opened up and have parts replaced as they break; they emit no radio frequency (RF) so you wont be irritating your neighbors by messing with their AM or FM radio; and they last for about 10 years when cared for properly. Magnetic ballasts’ biggest negative in my books is the amount of heat they give off. Running a magnetic ballast is almost like adding a second light to your grow space with the amount of heat they give off. Lastly they are about 30% less efficient on you’re power bill so they will coast you more on a monthly basis. If you think Magnetic ballasts are right for your growing environment then come by Fifth Season Gardening Co. and pick up a Sun System Hard Core 1000W or 600W ballast today!
Digital ballasts are at the forefront when it comes to technology in the grow room. These ballasts are basically computerized counterparts of their Magnetic brothers. They allow the grower to dim his or her bulb to save power or lessen heat stress during peak temperatures in different seasons. One ballast will allow a grower to use the bulb at 50%, 75%, 100% or even 110% of its strength. Not only do Digital ballasts let you dim your bulbs, they are also 30% more efficient at keeping your bulbs eilluminated month after month, meaning more savings for the grower in the long run. Another advantage is that Digital ballasts are lightweight and generate next to no heat. All of these great capabilities, to me, make the Digital ballast vastly superior to its Magnetic counterpart, but every grower has their preferences. At Fifth Season Gardening Co. we stock the Nanolux OG Serious in 400W, 600W, & 1000W. The Nanolux OG has a built in Radio Frequency Filter as well, so it will not interfere with anyone’s FM or AM radio.
When wanting to grow with an HID lighting system you can’t go wrong with either a Magnetic or Digital ballast. That being said you will save more over the years with a good digital ballast and your grow room will be cool and more efficient then ever!