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The Difference Between Probe Start and Pulse Start Lamps
When we purchase lamps used for horticultural lighting applications, it is unusual for us to understand exactly how these products operate. We purchase these items based on habit, recommendation or, sometimes, just on faith that they will work with our current setup. Unfortunately, there are differences between lamps, and these differences can cause immediate or long-term problems. Here we will be examining one of those differences: probe start lamps versus pulse start lamps.
In traditional Metal Halide (MH) lamps, probe start ignition is the standard way the lamp ignites. Inside the lamp there is a starting electrode that has a slight gap. When electrons pass over the gap they create an arc, and the lamp turns on. It takes a large amount of energy to ignite this type of lamp, necessitating heavy magnets within the ballast to achieve this energy; much of that energy is lost as heat. Also, each time electrons traverse the gap small amounts of tungsten are released. Over time the tungsten residue builds up and the efficiency of the lamp drops.
Pulse start lamps do not suffer from these problems. There are no starting electrodes to release tungsten each time the lamp is fired up, and there is no need for massive magnets within the ballast to ignite the lamp. Instead, there are ignitors within electronic ballasts that create high voltage pulses within the lamp. These pulses shorten the warm-up time for the lamp, they don’t release tungsten and they allow for a lamp with up to a 50% longer life span.
Because of the differences between the probe start lamps and the pulse start lamps, it is important to use the correct complimentary ballasts. Probe start lamps should only be used with magnetic ballasts, and pulse start lamps should only be used with electronic ballasts.
View the Spectral Chart Infographic PDF
Hi everyone, Nate from Growers House here. Today were going to be doing was brought up by one of customers as a really good question. This customer normally uses a 1000W ballasts, but he wanted to see what happens to the bulbs spectrum and intensity as he dials this ballast down from the SuperLumens feature, 1000w, 600w and down to even 400watts. In particular he was using a Solis Tek ballast and a 1000w HPS bulb from Hortilux so we thought, why not throw these guys under our spectrometer and see how the spectrum changes as a 1000 watt bulb is ran at different wattages not only that but how does the overall intensity change and are there any deficiencies or inefficiencies that are gained by running a 1000w bulb at 600watts. And is the intensity linear or maybe exponential in how it decreases.
We will be using our new spectroradiometer, The Black Comet from Stellar Net which we are now using to do all of our spectral readings and par readings. Rather than using our handheld par meter we used before. Which is great par meter for standard uses, but we found that the meter we were using is not optimal for producing the kind of data and specific accuracy we wanted for our tests. (the hand held we used had a plus or minus 5% on readings depending on the type of lighting you were using led, hps, hid MH, CFLS) with this new very sophisticated Black Comet spectrometer we are able to take accurate measurements and calibrate each time we take a light measurement to get the most accurate light reads possible. This is university research grade equipment and we are really excited to be using it and get some really useful data out of it. So let's take a look at our results.
So using the Solis Tek Matrix 1000W Dimmable Ballast with a Hortilux Super HPS Enhanced 1000W bulb with a Growlite Karma 8 inch Air Cooled Reflector which has panels that cover the air cooled ducting and we thought it would put a nice even footprint over the space let's see we tested this bulb in every wattage setting in the Solis Tek Matrix it has 6 total wattage settings, it has 1000, 600 and 400 watt setting and then it has a Super Lumen setting for each one of those settings, bring them up to 1040, 630, 420 respectively. We also measured the voltage and we tested this at 120 volt the wattage at the wall for each setting and the amperage, all at 60 hertz, and we came up with a ratio of PAR/ watts this center par reading is really right below the fixture at approx. 24inchs above the light meter we measured the light intensity in micromoles. and we came up with the par / watt ratio so you can see how much usable photosynthetic light you are getting per watt of input, there is a pretty good correlation between when the ballast is operating at higher wattage its actually more efficient at putting out usable light for your plants. As you dial your 1000w bulb to 600 and 400 watts you'll actually be losing some efficiency you'll also be losing some wattage. We thought that was a good way to see the efficiency of the lamp.
If you zoom into the spectral chart you can see the differences in the spectra from each wattage setting. You can see the differences for each settings compared to its super lumen setting. What we thought one of the most interesting things was how the graph actually changes as you go from 1000w to 600, you'll notice the lamp does not cover as wide of a spectrum when you change down the setting from 100w to 600w and even from 600 down to 400. S so what you're getting is really a narrower spectrum as you're dialing your ballast down to lower wattages. You can see at the 1000w you're getting much more broad coverage which you would think is more beneficial to plants with more photosynthetic capability.
Lastly we made a graph showing just the three 100, 600 400 settings so you can more easily see how their curves change and also one for just the super lumen settings.
We had a lot of fun doing this test, it taught us a lot about how these bulbs output can change with changing the ballast.
If you have any other tests you'd like to see put it in the comments here or email us or call us- This is Nate from Growers House, Happy Growing!>
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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