Advice on fluorescent lights for the ignorant...

fgilles02420(z6 MA)March 21, 2006

I was given a plant light unit - it has 4 shelves, each with a fluorescent light fixture that holds a pair of 24" bulbs. The bulbs in it are Sylvania GroLux T12. I was planning to replace them as I don't know their age, and I had heard that even if fluorescent lights work, you should replace them every year or so. So first, someone tell me if that's correct. I do have to replace some of the (what's the word - ballast? starter? the things that are FS-2).

Now, I went to HD and checked out lights - the "Plant and Aquarium" light bulbs (20w) are 8.50 each. That adds up if you are replacing eight of them. Are there cheaper alternatives or sources? I'm just starting common stuff - marigolds, zinnias, basil, tomatos, etc.

Thanks for any advice!


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hi, i started marigolds,zinnas,petunia's and geraniums. they are doing very well under regular four foot shop lights, they germinated nicely and have been growing great, i have them in the basement where my furnace is and run a fan every so often. i try to keep it at least 70 degrees in there but i shut everything off at bedtime (12am) and turn the lights back on at (6am) and run the fan, i gets down to 65 at night but things are doing well, just some input growing under regular 40watt shop lights.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 7:48PM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

The FS-2 is a starter. You've probably found them already but they are cheap, should be less than a dollar each.

Fluorescent lights put out less light as they get older. Not enough less that you can really notice without comparing old and new side by side, but enough that many growers replace them every 5,000 hours or so. You don't have to but should be aware that you could be getting 20% less light from an old tube.

You can just use cool white tubes if you can find them in the size you need. One thing to remember is that cheaper fluorescent tubes tend to put out less light and burn out quicker. The biggest cost over the life of any fluorescent tube is the electricity so the cheapest tube is not always the cheapest tube!

Gro-Lux or Plant & Aquarium tubes are specialist items and you pay a premium. $8.50 is not a bad price for a plant/aquarium tube, I'm guessing it is a generic? Even a good quality cool white can cost more than that. The 24" tubes tend to cost more than the 48" ones (!) simply because they don't sell very many. You might be able to get them cheaper by the case online, or find the branded version for a similar price, but a quick look found the cheapest at $7.99, and you have to mess with shipping.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 9:16AM
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maineman(z5a ME)


I would continue to use any of the bulbs that still light. They might be a little dimmer than a brand new bulb, but it probably isn't worth $8.50 for the difference.

"Are there cheaper alternatives or sources? I'm just starting common stuff - marigolds, zinnias, basil, tomatos, etc."

Yes, 48-inch T8 cool white bulbs from Phililps are much more efficient than the Sylvania Gro-Lites and the Philips bulbs cost only about $2 each from Home Depot when you buy them in a box of 10 bulbs for $19.99. That's what I use. Last year I set out a bunch of zinnias in full bloom, for a very early start here in Maine.

They say, "don't look a gift horse in the mouth", but in this case, I probably would. Home Depot sells good 48-inch 2-bulb Commercial Electric Shoplights for about $8 each. In my opinion, they are much more cost effective than your 24-inch Gro-Lite unit, even considering that it was a gift.

That said, you probably can start some seedlings under your present gift unit. But checkout the Inexpensive Seed Starting System message thread.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 3:13PM
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