Ballasts for Greenhouse Grow Lights

What is the right ballast for your greenhouse lighting?

Your lighting choice is the first thing that will determine the type of ballast you need for your greenhouse lighting system. High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps like metal halide or high-pressure sodium. Grow lights receive electrical currents through a ballast that makes sure they run on the appropriate voltage from an outlet (total wattage needed by the ballast and lamp are called the input watts). HID ballasts can come with reflectors and fans or without, so you will want to pay attention to the ballast's features and design.

LED grow lights have gained popularity because they run cooler and can be placed closer to the canopy of a crop. LEDs are also more energy-efficient than HID lamps. LED lamps consist of many small lights (diodes) in a grid, called an array. The LED grow light will have a driver that functions like a ballast and regulates the input power. The driver also protects the diodes from voltage fluctuations as they heat up and age. No additional ballast is needed for this style of grow light.

Quick Tips For Grow Light Ballasts

Ballasts for HPS Lamps

Most growers utilize ballasts like the options below for when they need to feed their plants extra light. The ballast needs to match the wattage for the grow light and be compatible with the voltage for the power supply.

1000 Watt Grow Light Ballasts for Greenhouse Lighting

1000 Watt Compatible Grow Light Ballast (120-208-240 Volt) or Gen 2 Option

electronic ballast for grow lights

This 1000 watt grow light ballast from Galaxycab operates at 120V, 208V, or 240V depending on your needs. The ballast has  50%, 75%, 100%, or 110% settings for running high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps, metal halide (MH) lamps, or double-ended grow lamps.

  • Prewired with a Sun System lamp cord receptacle
  • Compatible with all Sun System brand reflectors. 
  • Includes a 6 ft 208-240 volt power cord; 120-volt power cord sold separately
  • Fully sealed extruded aluminum housing makes this ballast lightweight and quiet operation
  • Compliant with FCC Article 18 Part A (governs commercial use)

Sun System® Hard Core® Ballasts

Exposed ballast grow light designs are compact and help the ballast to run cool. This design also extends the longevity of the capacitor and ignitor.

magnetic ballast for grow lights

  • Dual universal lamp cord receptacle is compatible with all Sun System (and other) brand reflectors
  • Dual input voltage easily switches from 120 to 240-volt power
  • 8 ft 120-volt power cord included (240-volt power cord sold separately)
  • Powder-coated steel housing with louvered venting and solid design
  • High temp 150° C wire connections will provide years of trouble-free operation
  • Removable stainless steel handles

Ballasts for Greenhouse Fluorescent Lighting Systems

Fluorescent grow lights plug into a ballast that regulates the electrical current flowing into the bulb to ensure it is supplied at the correct voltage. There are three main types of fluorescent grow light ballasts: preheat operation, rapid start operation, and instant start operation. Preheat operation is used mainly for bulbs under 30 watts and is more energy-efficient than rapid-start operation. Rapid start operation is the most popular fluorescent ballast operation mode. This is the mode where the stereotypical fluorescent light flicker occurs. Using the preheat and instant start modes may lower the lifespan of the ballast.

How do grow lighting ballasts work?

There are several different types of grow lights for greenhouse growers to select from. In order to select proper lighting, it is important to consider PAR, PPFD, DLI, and other factors that describe a light’s electrical use and lifespan. Some grow lights draw large currents that require outlets that can put out more amperes. It is very important to be sure that lighting equipment is compatible with the outlet capacity! HID lamps and fluorescent bulbs must also be compatible with the ballast where they are screwed in.

Magnetic vs Digital Grow Light Ballast Options

Magnetic ballasts have an iron core. They are heavy, inefficient, and produce a buzzing noise. Digital ballasts are more expensive than magnetic but are more energy efficient. Ballast with built-in cooling fans or exposed ballast designs are helpful since HID lamps produce a lot of heat.

Grow Light Ballast Cooling

Air-cooled ballast hoods are sealed reflective hoods that connect to ducts equipped with an exhaust fan to move out the heat. Water-cooled hoods are more efficient than air-cooled hoods. They allow growers to move lamps closer to the plant canopy. Water used for cooling this type of ballast is chilled in a reservoir above the sealed reflective hood. Then it is pumped through, transporting heat away from the lamp.

grow light ballast operation diagramDiagram of an HPS Lamp Ballast System by Sakurambo CC-BY-SA-3.0

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