New to hydroponics
I know, I know - you all probably get a ton of "newbie" questions, and I apologize - I haven't quite found the answers I'm looking for yet, so I thought I might as well ask.
I'm a former chef, and recent transplant to CT. Prices up here are heart-rending. My husband and I thought we might try to cut costs (and be a little more healthy/better-tasting) by growing some of our own food. We have a very spacious basement that gets cold, but its not freezing or anything. I'd say the lowest the temperature gets down there (the furnace is down there too) is somewhere between 35-40 degrees in the wintertime. Maybe...it may be a little warmer than that - I can walk around down there in the middle of winter barefoot and not get frozen or anything, so maybe my "guesstimate" is too low..
Anyway, we thought because ot the space we have down there, starting a hydroponic garden would be good. It's conveniently placed, I absolutely DETEST weeding (my mom had a garden when I was younger - hated that thing because she always sent *me* out to weed it in the middle of August - ugh!) and I hear hydroponics - once it's set up well - is fairly low-maintenance.
One BIG problem we have is the price of electricity in CT. If you live here, you know how ridiculous it is. If you don't, I believe the only state that has higher electric rates is Hawaii? Something like that. Put it this way: we've replaced all regular bulbs with "green" ones, never leave lights on in a room that isn't occupied, only wash our clothes in cold water...all of that stuff - and I *still* haven't seen this side of $300 on our monthly electric bill in over a year (and our house is only 1500 square feet!) So it's unreal.
Our basement is quite dark - there's windows, but they're *very* small and at ground level with bushes growing in front of them. I have 2 500-watt plug-in lights that I used for taking photos sometimes, but we were worried that using even one of them would cause a spike in our electric bill - since we'd have to run it for 6-8 hours per day (right?) So we're trying to come up with lighting options for this.
So I was wondering if any of you could provide some advice. I've already found an expandable hydroponics system that sounds like it'll work very well for us (uses PVC pipe, a fish-tank pump and 11 empty 2-liter soda bottles) but we really don't know the intricacies of this stuff. I Google, but I find differing info all over the place.
As for the light source, I was thinking of charging a deep-cycle battery with a solar panel, and using that to run the lights (seems like the best option, but I don't know what voltage/size will run 500 watts for 8 hours!)
So what do you all do? I'd appreciate *any* good links you could pass along to me to read up on this stuff. I'm totally willing to do the work it takes to get this going, but with the plethora of info (and some not good!) I don't know where it's best to get my info *from*.
Thanks for any help you can provide!