400 Watt MH lamp at Lowes for $21?

hydro_nerdFebruary 6, 2004

At Lowes they have a 400 Watt (U) Metal Halide bulb that sells for about $21. I know it is rated as "street lighting" quality, but what exactly does that mean?

I looked up it's specs:

Type: Sylvania M400/U/RP

Lumens: 36,000

Color temp: 4000 Kelvin

Average life: 20,000 hours

CRI: 65

Base: Mogul BT37/ED37

Ballast: Ansi M59

I have seen alot of the lower cost, plain, 400W metal halide bulbs advertised as plant lights online and I am wondering if it is this same bulb....only for a higher cost. The specifications that were provided on the sites were the same.

Yep, I do know about all the other (plant growth specific) bulbs that are available. Unfortunately, I can't afford alot of the good stuff. :-D

I was just wondering if anybody is using one of these bulbs and if it will successfully grow plants thru the vegetative stage. I would hate to buy a light bulb for $30-$50, when I can buy it at lowes much cheaper.

Anybody bulb experts out there?

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I'm not a metal halide bulb expert but I'm not surprised you can find a wide price variation for the same item. A big chain like Lowe's can afford to sell at a lower price than a small hydroponic company. It the bulb has the right specs, buy it at the lower price.

I clicked on one of the Forum advertiser's links for metal halide bulbs, 1000bulbs.com. They offer a 400 watt metal halide bulb which seems to have the same specs for $16.41.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2004 at 10:44PM
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Goldcroft(Dorset, UK)

I'm sure you are aware, but don't forget it's only the bulb - you will also need a reflector and ballast to make it work. And they're not cheap.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2004 at 6:42AM
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If you are getting a MH lamp at less than 1/2 the price for the lamp, question the quality or age of the lamp. Probably a recall.

MH lamps are a commodity item and every electrical contractor and electrician in the USA would be at the door buying them for $21 if they were any good.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2004 at 10:25AM
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Dave_zone_5(Zone 5a/4b Wisc)

They are fine. I use HPS rather than Halide, but I have grown tomatos to fruiting under the bulbs I got at Home Depot or Menards for about 15-18USD.

I have advised people to buy their bulbs at hardware stores for the last couple years. The speciality grow bulbs at grow shops are comparable to the "high end" floros in that they -may- be slightly better in terms of spectrum or lumen output, but they aren't enough better to justify their cost.

Summary: I have used hardware store bulbs without a problem and see no reason to spend exponentially more on a high margin marketting gimmick.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2004 at 10:59AM
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Thanks everybody for your input...really appreciate it.

I am going to go ahead and try the $21 bulb at Lowes. And, I'll let you guys know how it turns out.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2004 at 7:51AM
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Thanks for telling me about your experiences using these cheaper bulbs.

I will probably buy the MH and the HPS bulb. I can't wait to get started!!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2004 at 7:59AM
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I have also wondered this about the HD HID lights...I was wondering also what you grew and if there is a difference noticed among plants. You said you only used HPS. Are there some plants that as a rule like them better? I am familiar with HPS and flowering. I grow tropicals and it seems like my 400 watt HPS used solely makes the leaves on my plumerias look funny and stunted. My 1000 watt MH seems to make them look more normal...but overall, they were doing almost as good underneath T8's. I am not sure if the huge cost is better for the performance I get...

I wondered, since we are on this thread, if there are also any places to get a 1000 MH bulb at a cheap Home Depot price...

I'll also make a comment that seems "taboo" in the hydro world and that is the market itself. As a new person, the hydro market seems to me a tightly controlled vertical market with a few manufacturers(that are hidden, no web presence, PO Box addresses,) with a single distribution channel where prices are kept abnormally high. When you see a 400 HPS bulb that is going for $20 at Home Depot, you think either the market caters to people with high disposable income(I am a hobbyist) or there is a retail market for hydro plants that makes people that makes it viable commercially...I could be wrong, but I was surprised that when I did a search for them on line, I got systems made by a few manufacturers at roughly the same price. The things that has kept me buying at the "boutique" stores is that I am new and don't trust that "regular" lights used for street lamps would work for plants, didn't want to burn down my house, and wanted quality equipment. Now that I am into this for a season, I am beginning to agree with you...But I would add that my "plant" HID systems aren't really doing me much more than my store bought T8 fluorescents did for them... but now, I am paying for much, much more electricity. I know this is not a popular comment. Many people rave about their HID lights...I sure I would be more satisfied if the HID costs were much much lower...But the conclusion I am coming to lately is I don't think they are worth the huge premium in equipment, replacement cost and electricity. I could be wrong..the control plumerias I have under T'8s may not have as much new growth, but they are still blooming. The HID plumerias have not produced enough add'l growth to make it worth the price, in my opinion. The other thing is that these being high light plants, I may not going to notice much indoors under any lights...Also, they are on light tracks so they are not getting the amount light that they would directly overhead... I think it HID is worth it if you have money to burn, in the business to sell your plants, have to eat tomatoes in the winter, or have a small collection. I am trying to replace a greenhouse collection with them so my collection is huge. So far, no substitute for a greenhouse with sun, imho...

    Bookmark   February 15, 2004 at 11:40AM
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Dave_zone_5(Zone 5a/4b Wisc)

- I have also wondered this about the HD HID lights...I was wondering also what you grew and if there is a difference noticed among plants. You said you only used HPS. Are there some plants that as a rule like them better? -

Tomatos, peppers, lettuce, various flowers and occassionally a houseplant that looks tired out gets a vacation under the HPS.

I suppose some plants might prefer one over the other, but I haven't experienced any issues with the HPS on anything. I haven't ever used a MH though so I can't say whether the results for anything would have been better.

One option for the person who doesn't have any HID light yet is to buy a switchable ballast that can take both MH and HPS. Then go to the hardware store and buy one of each bulb for less than the price of one "high end" bulb from those catering to hobbiests.

The bulbs at the hardware store are marketted for outdoor lighting applications where people aren't willing to spend the kind of money on a bulb that hobbiests are.

As far as 1000 watt bulbs, you may be able to get them, but usually they aren't stocked at hardware stores I have seen. It was about 2 years ago at a HomeDepot where I asked if they would order them and they said yes. Can't hurt to ask, but as a rule 400 watts is the highest I would expect to find in stock most places.

For indoor use a 1000 watt light isn't very efficient given the enourmous heat it gives off. You would do better with 2 400 watt lights which give you greater coverage area.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2004 at 12:27PM
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What can I say, I wish I had ran into you sooner.
My MH 1000 gives off an incredible amount of heat.

Also, I have an Agrosun bulb MH 1000. I am not sure it is doing anything different with what I grow. Maybe they are for other types of plants...like tomatoes...



    Bookmark   February 16, 2004 at 10:26AM
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Dave_zone_5(Zone 5a/4b Wisc)

Scott, don't sweat having a 1000 watter. You live in zone 5 like me so just hook it up in the cold basement and enjoy the warmth ;-)

Seriously the one thing a 1000 watter is better for than the lower wattage lights is canopy penetration.

With a 1000 watter you can grow taller plants like tomatos to fruiting without a problem.

It costs a few bucks to run each month, but a MH light is much better for chasing away the winter blues than the orange glow of HPS. I know folks who use floros to help with the winter doldrums and I thought the HPS might help with that as well. Frankly working near the HPS makes me feel like a space alien ;-) I just tell myself I am outside during the sunset rather than noonday sun ;-)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2004 at 11:31PM
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HPS and MH both run with lots more lumens/watt (light flux) than any other type of light source including fluorescent.

Elec cost is less for same amount of lumens.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2004 at 9:43AM
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1000Bulbs.com for an online source of lighting. HPS definately for flowering. MH or Fluro for veg.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2004 at 3:42PM
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I just happened to visit the Hydroponics forum and saw this topic.

The MH and HPS lights that are sold at Home Depot and Lowes are absolutely fine for growing. Lowes carries Sylvania and Home Depot carries Philips. They are good quality, and not some kind of junk rip-off bulb.

If you buy a lamp from a "specialty grow shop", you ARE taking a chance on getting a low-quality lamp - if there is little or no manufacturer's information with it. I they do not know the company that made it, definitely don't pay any more than Lowe's or HD's price.

There are some MH and HPS lamps custom-made specificially to enhance the portions of the spectrum that the plants can use (mainly 430nm,453nm blue and 642nm,662nm red). Although these lamps may perform well, they are overly expensive and the slight boosts in the "enhanced" wavelengths are overly subject to early deterioration of their output.

One deceptive item you will find in "gro shops" is the "full-spectrum" high-wattage compact fluorescent grow bulbs. They are actually tri-color phosphor lamps manufactured in Asia and being marked as "Grow Lamps". Almost ALL fluorescent lamps nowadays are tri-color phosphor
lamps. "Full-spectrum" is strictly a marketing term, has no real definition and applies to our human vision color rendering - NOT anything relating to a plant's chlorophyll.

Just try to find out where they maufacture bulbs like the Envirolite. Hah! Those same bulbs will eventually (we hope) be in Lowes and HD for a bargain price too.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2004 at 3:20PM
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herb_nerd2000(z7 Tx)

I've used the hal bulbs and the floresent bulbs. 1 thing I know for a fact is "The high output of heat from halide bulbs is not good for plants. They do service a larger area, but they do need good venting for heat control.

After using both, I settled for the floresent lights because of the heat problem, cost of the bulbs and electricity cost.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2004 at 6:11AM
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Any HID lamp makes more light per watt than any fluorescent lamp, ie, they use LESS electricity for the same light level.

Why do you think you see HID lighting the interstate and not fluorescent?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2004 at 9:23AM
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Developments in the physics of phosphorescent emission are making the fluorescent light more and more efficient. The latest fluorescent lamps (T5's for example) have equal, or higher, lumen/watt ratios than a lot of the HIDs. Only when you get above 400 watts do the HIDs become solidly more efficient.

The heat output from the new higher wattage fluorescent lamps is becoming quite significant. The reason the HIDs always seem so hot is because they have been much higher wattage lamps than any fluorescent. Eventually, there will be fluorescent replacements for many of the HID lamps. If you have touched one of the newer high-power CFLs, you know they get hot. Even the 42w spiral CFL's, which are becoming commonly available in stores, get hot enough to bcause quite a burn if touched.

If you want to see some of the CFL bulbs we will be using in the future, check out these sites:

By the way, this is where entreprenuers are buying bulbs and marketing them as "Patented Special Formula Full-Spectum Super Gro-Lites" and the like, since no one knows they are available yet. Those higher wattage tri-phosphor CFLs will eventually be commomplace, I hope.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2004 at 10:34PM
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mkirkwag(Puget Sound)

So what's the warning about not staying near them for more than a few minutes? It's on the MH pkg at Lowe's. I've asked in other postings, but no response. Do you spend time in the room with your lights? Any idea what this is about? Sunburn? Eyes?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2004 at 7:10PM
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alexander_permison(DC Zone 7)

Good question. I've seen this warning on compact flourescents as well. I've also see CFL's that advertised they were "shielded" and safe for inside. I am guessing they produce in the UV range. Anyone have any other ideas? Anyone get a tan from their CFL's?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2004 at 9:49PM
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hi guys
been reading the thread hope this helps
1st un- shielded halide bulbs =danger!! these bulbs are advertised as being shielded because they produce i believe some gamma and x rays not a scientist but you get the idea app what ever rays they are are very weak and cant pentrate glass unless it has a tiny hole in it i mean the bulb here theres no way you can tell if this is occuring but we are talking cancer here not sun burn SO SHIELD THE BULB ring up a bulb manafactuer and tell them you use them in your workshop or whatever and your worried about the workers and get the facts.
this is only a concern with halides NO problem with HPS
2nd the great fluro debate rages on iv had a good run with them used carefully while its true that hps and halides produce more light per watt there is allso truckloads more heat which means the bulb is further away from the plant,light obays the inverse square law which simply means that if you double the distance from the light 2 the plant you only get 1/4 as much light if you double the distance again your down to 1/9th thus you are better off with good fluro bulbs 1" from the plants than a good hps 24" away espec when the plants are small as the plants gro the sitch changes as the hps has much better penertration thru foliage and the plants need 4 light doubles during flowering but you will save a load of electricity in the first month or 6 weeks and the plants wont mind a bit but you must keep them close to the bulb when the bottom leaves start to yellow and die back is the time to swap over.
big difference between how much light your providing and how much the plants are using dont pay 4 light they dont need.
hope this helps and sorry about the spelling guys

    Bookmark   May 13, 2004 at 6:39PM
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mkirkwag(Puget Sound)

Thanks! Glad I didn't race over and buy one.

I suppose the standard hydro halides are shielded, but I'd better go look before I fire it up again!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2004 at 7:11PM
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mkirkwag(Puget Sound)

I'm really having a frustrating time trying to replaced my 400W MH lamp. I just can't seem to find out if they are shielded in such a way that they are safe for indoor use for hours at a time. The vendors I contact don't seem to have the faintest idea what I'm talking about. I know that some bulbs are coated, but I think that this is to make them more shatterproof rather than less UV intensive. Can't get an answer on that, either. Can anyone speak authoritatively on this subject?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2005 at 9:52PM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)


Metal Halide bulbs produces dangerous amounts of UV. This is absorbed by the glass envelope on the bulb. If you examine a bulb carefully you will see it is actually a bulb inside a glass shield. The bulbs are safe as long as this outer enevelope is intact. Intact metal halid bulbs emit a fair amount of UVA radiation, which will fade died fabrics, and a small amount of UVB which causes sunburn. The emitted UVB is far lower than being in shade outdoors. You might be able to get a suntan if you spent the majority of your time in a grow room.

If the outer envelope is damaged, the type and amount of UV that is emitted will give you a severe sunburn quite quickly, as well as possible eye damage and potential skin cancer. Some bulbs are designed to extinguish automatically in this case, some have an outer enevlope that remains intact even when damaged, but there is still a chance of exposure to UV. Metal halide bulbs can also fail explosively and should always be used in a light fitting with additional shielding, both to prevent damage from flying glass and to reduce UV after a failure.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2005 at 6:37AM
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The heat that comes of these lighting systems can be easily fixed with the new air cooled reflectors. I can keep my hand on the piece of glass wich is only 6'' away from the bulb as long as I want. This is a 1000HPS that I can get 12'' from my plants with no burning. Heat problem solved. More light for the buck. Also, nobody is talking about 600HPS. These systems have the most lumen per watt than any other lighting systems. Quite impressive if you ask me.

Example of high output bulbs:

1000HPS Hortilux: 145,000 lumens 145 lumens/watt
600HPS Solarmax: 92,000 lumens 153 lumens/watt

These are just numbers to compare different bulbs. Always have to remember that par (photosynthetic active radiation) is what is truly important.

I have been using Hid Lighting for 12 years, and the thing that have has improved the most on these systems are the bulbs. I have done side by side comparisons with your basic bulb and these new and improved bulbs and without a dought they perform as promised. The most important part of our gardening when it comes to supplemental lighting is the lights themselves. If you love your plants as much as I do I want give them everything they are looking for. Sure you can go by those bulbs at home depot with a 4000k (5000-6500k Much better for veg), but your cutting your plants short of what they can achieve. Your using the electricity why not get the most for your dollar when it comes down to it. If you think we pay a lot for bulbs talk to anyone who grows coral for fun. Those bulbs cost some money. But hey, if you love doing something so much whats a few extra dollars when comes to a lifetime of pleasure. Keep growing!!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 7:36PM
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This is a good thread.

Let's start with some basics:

1) Plants like light.

2) Not all light is the same.

3) Your money is your money.

The 400 Watt MH bulb available at the Home Center will work just fine, but there are better bulbs. How much better and how much more they cost...well see #3 above. Everyone has to make his or her own choices. If you are happy with your choices, so am I.

Each person's individual situation and individual set up are different, so it depends on what you are doing and how you want to do it.

For regular homeowners and general winter gardening, it is a good idea not to look at the high Watt Growlights like 1000 Watt or 600 Watt. Even the mid range 400 Watt Growlight may or may not be too much of a stretch in the price range for regular gardeners either to buy or to operate.

Most home gardeners should be looking at 100 Watt HID Growlights, especially to start. These cost about $175 to buy and cost the exact same to use as a 100 Watt regular incandescent light--or even less than a ceiling fixture which has two 60 Watt lightbulbs.. Indeed, if you can get your kids to turn off the lights, computer monitor, and TV when they are not in the room after you buy the 100 Watter, you may actually lower your electric costs.

Those Incandescent Growbulbs are not a good use of money. You need to get the HID (High Intensity Discharge) fixture to use either a MH (Metal Halide) or HPS (High Pressure Sodium).

A 100 Watt Growlight will grow at least one tomato plant to fruit--especially if there is supplemental window light--even in the winter.

More money, but a better light is the 250 Watter especially when using a mixed spectrum bulb. This costs less than $300 to buy, but uses 2 1/2 times more electricity than a 100 Watter.

The HID light fixtures from quality manufacturers come with five year warranties and if you take care of them can be used for at least 20 years. The bulbs need to be replaced.

Fluorescents can work fine especially for starting seeds. There are many choices here as well. To get an idea of average, most tubes use 40 Watts apiece. There are 32 Watters which give off less light and 54 Watters which give off more light.

A fixture which uses two 40 Watt tubes uses 80 Watts total; a four tube fixture uses 160 Watts.

The key is to try what you think will work best for you, then you will have some experience to judge all the different claims. You can make up your own mind.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 1:56PM
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mkirkwag(Puget Sound)

How on earth can you grow veggies with 100 watts? Mine are complaining about my 400W, which has diminished to about 250.

Thanks, shrubs_n_bulbs. Sylvania said pretty much the same thing, but you were more informative.

It's interesting to note though that it's a Sylvania bulb that carries the UV warning.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 3:55PM
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Artificial light fades fast.

The higher the light is hung, the wider the area it covers--at the same time the farther the light moves from the plants.

The general recommendation is that a 400 Watt Growlight covers a 4 foot by 4 foot area with primary light.

A 250 Watt Growlight covers about a 2 and a half by 2 and a half foot area with primary light.

The 100 Watt Growlight covers just about one tomato or pepper plant with primary light. This is what a lot of apartment growers and homeowners can fit.

A 250 Watt Growlight fits about 2 or 3 tomatoes or peppers, depending on size.

If you also have your vegetables next to a patio door, or window where they get a couple of hours of sunlight as well as ten or twelve hours of growlight, then your tomatoes or pepper plants will do just fine indoors.

As well, a Metal Halide will grow more compact plants while the High Pressure Sodium grows smaller leaves with more space between the leaves. You can also burn both types at the same time.

shrubs_n_bulbs is exactly correct and he wrote it well.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2005 at 3:54PM
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you can buy T5 or T12 bulbs(fluorescent) anywhere. They can touch the plant without burning. And have bulbs in both spectrums. they use less electricity, and are cheaper(especially if you buy at a hardware or electrical store) just look at the kelvin rating on a hydro website and copy there data. You will probably save 50% compared to buying flourescents online. 30% or more compared to MH or HPS

    Bookmark   October 28, 2005 at 6:33PM
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