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Hello Everyone, Nate from Growers House here. Today we have a special review test for you that we've been antsy to run for a few months now--our 1000w Digital Ballast Comparison Review Test with PAR readings over a 4' x 4' grow footprint. For this ballast review we tested ten of the most popular ballasts in the industry including nine digital ballasts and one magnetic ballast for a comparison between digital and magnetics. The digital ballasts used in this test were the Solis Tek LCD Matrix 1000w Ballast, Lumatek Air Cooled (AC) 1000w Ballast, Lumatek Non-Air Cooled 1000w Ballast, Phantom 1000w Ballast by Hydrofarm, Quantum 1000w Ballast, Raider EP 1000w Ballast, Galaxy Select-A-Watt 1000w Ballast, Nano Xtreme 1000w Ballast, and the Lucius Maximus 1000w Ballast. The one magnetic ballast used in this test was the 1000w SG Lite (Hard Core style) ballast from Hydrofarm, but is also provided from Sunlight Supply, R & M Supply, and most other hydroponic suppliers.
After completing our 1000w Bulb Test Comparison Review with PAR Tests, we decided to use the reigning champion of the review, the 1000w Hortilux Enhanced HPS Lamp (digital ready), for this test. For a reflector we used the Manta Ray 6" Reflector (33" x 29" x 9"). We hung the reflector 24" above the 4' x 4' footprint and took 11 measurements in total including the center, the 2 foot square, and the 4 foot square. Before taking the measurements we let the bulb warm up for 30 minutes, and let it cool down for 20 minutes before each re-strike. The Hortilux bulb used in this test was new, but we ran it for 5 hours before starting our test. Hortilux mentioned that their bulb has a 100 hour "seasoning" period before it completely stabilizes, although it should be very similar when first lit to what it will give off around the 100 hour mark. We will repeat this test after we run the bulb for 100 hours because we want to see how the results differ, if at all. Of course, we'll post another infographic with those readings in the coming weeks.
The clear winner in this test was the Solis Tek 1000w Matrix Digital Ballast. That said, the difference in PAR readings was not drastic between all of the digital ballasts. The best digital ballast (Solis Tek) gave a 10% higher reading than the worst digital ballast (Lucius Maximus). The Solis Tek did have a good size lead on its competitors giving readings 4% higher than the next best digital ballast, being the Lumatek Air Cooled 1000w. What was most surprising for us was the difference between the magnetic hard core style ballast we tested versus all the digital ballasts. The Solis Tek put out PAR readings about 39% higher than the 1000w magnetic hard core ballast, and that is a very, very big difference.
One last note we'd like to make about PAR readings--PAR measures the spectrum between about 400 to 700 nanometers of light color wavelengths. This range encompasses reds and blues, which are the primary colors plants use to photosynthesize. Many plants also use a few spectrums outside of this range, such as UV spectrums. This meter does not measure those spectrums. You need a spectroradiometer to measure all the spectrums a light gives off, but one of those costs $4,000 dollars. Using a PAR meter is better than using a lumens or lux meter though, which only measures light intensity regardless of the spectrum put off.
Some of these ballasts have Super Lumens and Overboost features, but we did not use them in this test. Every ballast was switched onto the 1000w setting. Don't fret--we will conduct another test with just the ballasts that have 'overdrive' features and post those soon. As you can see, every variable has been held constant except for the ballast in this test.
To see the rest of the ballast PAR readings, click on the link in the video description that will also lead to our visual infographic of the digital 1000w ballasts tested. And of course, if there's anything you'd like us to test, please email us or write down your suggestions in the comments. We read all of them. That's it for today. Till our next test, this is Nate from Growers House.
Note: We did not use the Micromole ballast in this test because the manufacturer has stated they will be discontinuing them.
UPDATE: about a week after this test we received in the new E-Fusion 1000w Digital Dimmable Electronic ballast. We tested the E-Fusion under the same conditions as the other ballasts and it tied with the Lumatek Non Air Cooled ballast having a center measurement of 888--essentially tying for 3rd place. We were surprised by this because it is the least expensive ballast in this group (we sell it for about $169) and it's from a new company. We thought this information was worth sharing :) This has been added to the Infographic above.
Ballasts Not Tested in this test, but slated for our next test:
- Hortilux Platinum 1000w Digital Ballast
- Gavita Digistar 1000w Digital Ballast (previously known as the MicroMole ballast)
- Galaxy Grow Amp 1000w Select-A-Watt Ballast
- Phantom2 1000w Digital Ballast