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Does ballast brand matter?
Posted 05 September 2013 - 07:42 PM
I've paid top dollar for Gavita brand ballasts, and bottom dollar for iPower (same as Apollo, with different branding). I've read spec sheets and seen PAR readings which claim one is better than the other. At the end of the day, I can't tell the difference. Note, I was also using expensive Digilux bulbs with my Gavita, but the $20 iPower bulbs work just the same.
What you are getting, for high prices is service. I've had to send in my Gavita ballast once, and it was replaced under warranty... But the iPowers are so inexpensive, I actually have a spare in case of emergency, and I'm still saving money over buying Gavita. That said, I don't need great service using inexpensive ballasts because I keep a spare. The added bonus is that the company selling the iPower ballasts on eBay has excellent customer service. I don't think you can go wrong with a well known budget rig, like iPower or Apollo.
I'm currently growing under 3 iPower ballasts/bulbs, and everything is looking amazing.
Don't buy into all the marketing hype.
Posted 06 September 2013 - 10:50 PM
There is a difference in quality. The difference is in the quality in the signal that the ballast is able to produce for your light bulb. It is also true that not all light bulbs were created equal. That means that the cheap ones that you find for around $30 to $40 (MH and HPS bulbs that is) will not be as good as the ones that you find for $60 to $100. Higher quality light bulbs last longer than the cheap ones and the spectrum of light that they put out is also different. You want to compare the CRI or Color Rendering Index, not the lumens. Plants don't see lumens, they see CRI. The way to think of it is that a light bulb puts out a lot of different colors which are not all usable to a plant. A Hortilux light bulb made by Eye Lighting in example will have a CRI of 25 while only 88,000 lumens. You can take a cheap bulb which may have 95000, but its CRI either won't be rated because its cheap, or it will be less than 25 at say 20. The bulb that has less lumens may have less over all lumens, but more of its spectrum that it creates is actually usable for the plant as compared to the other light bulb. Now back to your ballast. Your light bulb is going to basically do what your ballast tells it to do. Kind of like how an amplifier tells a speaker what to do. What I mean is that the signal from one ballast will not be the same as another. The quality of that signal will not be the same when comparing in example a cheap Ipower ballast to a decent Phantom ballast. One thing that you want to look at is Total Harmonic Distortion or THD. My 600 watt Ipower ballast that I have does not list THD but I have another no name ballast that lists its THD which is 10%. I also have a Phantom ballast made by Hydrofarm and that has a THD of 8%. The cheap ballast has an extra 2% of distortion which may not seem like a lot, but that is power which is being lost. When I mean lost, any type of power that gets lost into distortion creates extra heat on the light bulb and on the ballast. That means you want to have the least amount of distortion possible. In the end if you compare a quality bulb and ballast to a cheap bulb and ballast, you will be able to see your self that the higher quality setup puts out a higher quality light. It looks more real compared to what the sun puts out than the cheap light. Hope I didn't go on too much there. I wanted to explain the differences that I saw by comparing the Ipower ballast and bulb to a Phantom ballast and Hortilux bulb side by side.
Edited by rizzo30, 07 September 2013 - 02:28 AM.
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