Anyone purchase a lighting system for indoor plants?

prairiemoon2 z6 MADecember 10, 2013

I was hoping to get something for a family member who asked for a grow light. They have one of those clamp on light sockets to put a lightbulb for growing plants in. They have succulents for the most part that need more light than he has naturally. He doesn't have a basement that he can set up a fluorescent fixture from the ceiling, so I need something that can be used in an apartment. Anyone tried something that has been successful for you?

Thanks. :-)

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Commercially produced lighting systems and light stands are often quite expensive. I know of people who use small wire shelves found at places like Target, and it's easy to hang small fluorescent fixtures from those. The exact plants and number will determine how large a shelf needed, and the exact wattage of the fixtures will determine the number of fixtures/bulbs needed. With a little work these can look quite nice, and are relatively inexpensive. Gesneriad growers often use setups like this. More light would be needed for succulents in general, but adding another fixture would probably solve that problem.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 12:59PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks, snappy guy, I hadn't thought of setting up a shelf unit and trying to hang some light fixtures from that. I actually have a collapsable metal shelf unit that I can offer, that I'm not using, so that sounds pretty good. I have seen some high end light systems that are VERY expensive! Not what I wanted. Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 2:34PM
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I just got one of these from Amazon:

It is the only decent looking fixture for a reasonable price but the tubes that came with it wouldn't start. They started fine in an old fixture but I didn't like the color so I gave them to the owner of an aquarium store. I ended up getting a pair of tubes at Home Depot.

If I had to do it over again I would just buy the fixture:

without the tubes.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 11:38AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks BoulderGrower, it helps to hear other's experiences. Amazon has a great return policy, you probably would have gotten your money back. I'm pretty sure I have some fluorescent fixtures that I just need the bulbs for, but my issue is going to be whether they are too long for the metal shelf unit to be used. Not going to put my attention to it until after Christmas, but I might be looking for new fixtures too. Thanks for the links. Nice to see what you were referring to.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 2:16PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

"Grow lights" are highly overrated by the sellers. Fluorescents work just as well and are far, far cheaper. The 4ft shoplight fixtures and tubes are the cheapest way to go. I'd recommend getting ones that are "daylight spectrum,"

There are a number of options available -- depending on the time and resources you and/or the other family members are willing or able to commit.

1) As has been mentioned, purchase an adjustable shelving unit. If looks matter, then options will be fewer and pricing will most likely be higher. The one area not to skimp on is sturdiness. The weight of potted plants and lighting adds up a lot faster than you might expect.

2) Build a shelving unit This gives you the option of tailoring the size of the unit to what space he has available. If you or a family member has the equipment and talent for some minor woodcrafting, you could make him a very simple but still attractive plant stand. This is one my dad made for me several years ago:

A very real plus to the design is that it can be disassembled to make transport easier should I move.

If looks are irrelevant, you could make a plant stand out of PVC pipe. PVC pipe -- even the thicker piping -- is cheap. the most expensive parts would be the connectors. This option, again, gives a wide array of options in terms of customizing size. Also, as long as the connectors are not glued, the stand would be easily disassembled and reassembled should he move to a new apt or house. The piping can be spray painted black or other color of choice to make it visually more appealing.

Either of these options could be utilized as a Xmas or birthday gift.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2013 at 12:48PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

I agree with Paul above that "grow lights" are overrated. In the long run just simple cool white fluorescents will get similar results more cheaply IMHO.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2013 at 3:31PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Hi Paul, what a nice set up you have there! Your Dad did a great job on it. Thanks for the tips on the bulbs themselves too. I havenâÂÂt had a light set up in years, and I seem to remember buying two different tubes for the fixture, and one was a cool one. So I was probably getting the full spectrum between the two different tubes. So maybe they now have one tube âÂÂdaylight spectrumâÂÂ. IâÂÂll look for that.

That is a very good advantage that you can disassemble it and take it with you if you move. Or want to relocate it to another part of the house.

Thanks Albert, sounds like you are talking about what I did in the past, the cool bulb with the standard bulb. Cheaper is always better, when you end up with the same thing.

Thank you! :-)

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 9:05AM
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Stush2049 Pitts. PA, zone 6

Lighting makes a difference. Regular shop lights use T-12 lights and they burn out early. When I was Electrical Supervisor we changed out all the office lighting to the new T-8 bulbs. We had to go back and take half the units out. There was too much light! Also we almost never had to change burned out bulbs. With the T-12 lights, they were dimmer and burn out sooner. Also the T-12's were 40 watt each and the T-8's were 32 watt. Seemed like two T-8 can take the place of four T-12 and last 4 times longer. I now see places like H.D. and Lowes selling the T-8 shop lights for only a few dollars more than the T-12. Check, it does make a difference.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 12:46PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Stush, very interesting information. I went on to the Lowe's site yesterday and saw the T8 bulbs that you are talking about. I see the GE T12 and T8 bulbs and the difference in wattage is as you state. Checking the specs on each bulb, the Lumens are 3200 on the T12 and 2500 on the T8. Isn't that the number that indicates how bright they are? So I am surprised that the T8 would be brighter. But I do see one difference listed between the bulbs, on Energy Efficiency, the T12 is listed as 'NO' and the T8 is listed as 'YES'. The price is exactly the same, $6.98 for two 4ft bulbs. Thanks for the tip. Something I did not know. Always learning something here. :-)

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 8:21AM
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paul_(z5 MI)

PM, yes, the lumens does indicate the amount of light output. (And high lumens is what you want.) A light meter would be more accurate than eyeing it if one were to compare a set up. I do wonder if the T8s simply appear brighter because of the spectrum they emit?

Don't know if it is true, but had heard a year or two back, that T12s might be getting "phased out" at some point. I've been using T12s for around a decade now. I know I don't change them as often as I should for maximum benefit of plants, but I have bloomed orchids even with old tubes.

Surprised to hear, in a way, that the T8s are the same price as the T12s. The T12s used to be far cheaper. Has anyone checked the fixture prices lately? I haven't in a while but recall that the T8 fixtures were quite a bit more expensive than those for theT12s.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 11:39AM
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Stush2049 Pitts. PA, zone 6

I am suprised to find out about the lumens. Also the T-8 might be brighter at 6 months and so on. I just know what we did and everbody said that the T-8's were way brighter.

I just purchased some for my plant stand. The double tube T-8's with pull chain was $21 approx. The T-12's were about $19. Funny, if you bought the T-8 ballast to upgrade your old fixture it was over $20.

The newest out is the T-5's but I don't know anything about them.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 2:24PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Quite a change then. the T12 fixtures used to be 1/2 that price while the T8 fixtures were around $20.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 3:09PM
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We bought a company that used them in contracts and we found they didn't make a lot of difference.

Good ambient artificial light - tubes preferably - was more important than a little bulb on a frame, and they looked unsightly, which rather defeats the purpose of houseplants: to make the place look nice.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 8:57AM
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