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Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

Posted by SneakyP86 7B (My Page) on
Wed, Feb 13, 13 at 2:27

I was going to buy a grow light setup I found on Craigslist but it had T12 bulbs which I know are fine but not as efficient as they could be and they are going to quit making the T12 fixtures or so they say. Which I'm sure will make the price of bulbs and ballasts go up unless you start stockpiling now.

So I have decided to build my own setup using either T8 or T5 48" 4 bulb fixtures.

I will be using the 4 pack cellpacks and the trays they come on to start my seeds so roughly 96 seedlings to a tray. I want to run the trays front to back and not side to side so I can fit 4 trays per shelf. I don't know what if any difference but seeds I will starting are tomato,pepper (bell, hot and sweet) corn, green bean, cucumber, onion, melon, zucchini and lettuce.

The T8 does not come with bulbs I know I can get them in the 6500K range so the cost for 3 fixtures plus bulbs will be roughly $200.

The T5 comes with the bulbs included and the price for 3 fixtures is roughly $400.

So my questions are as follows:

Will the performance of the T5 be so much better as to justify the added expense?

Which setup would be more economical to operate?

Well that is all I can think of at this time but any other advice you can give concerning these two lights would be most appreciated.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

I struggled with the same decision about 10 years ago. When the cost, and still the inconvenience of the spacing between the light and the plant, I decided to go with just a little more money and bought the 400 watt HID setup. I have only had to replace one bulb so far, which I found at Home Depot for about $16. Al

RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

Ok a couple of things to consider.

First the cost of the light fixtures and bulbs won't be your only expenses. Cost of adjustable shelving for one. heat source for germination is another.

Second, how many plants do you routinely start? Would you have had the shelf unit in your other post full to over-flowing or only used a part of it? That point will determine exactly how much space you need to light and which lighting fixtures would work best for you tube-type, HID, HPS, full spectrum CFL, or one of the many other options.

For example, check out:

This unit

and This one

and This HPS

Lots of options - even less expensive options out there.

Of the two fixtures you linked I would go with the T8. Several reasons aside from price. It is a better quality fixture with a longer life span (I have 2 of them) and a wider footprint (allows for larger area for the plants. It can be run in a series end to end which gives you more flexibility in layout. The bulbs are widely available and less expensive to replace than T5 bulbs.

While there are some small advantages to T5 bulbs in lumens isn't justified in my opinion by the price but I also know others will disagree with that.


RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

Well on a 48" shelving unit I will be putting at least 3 and possibly 4 trays per shelf.They are the standard tays you get when buying veg. plants in the 4 packs so I would say they are 1' x 2' roughly maybe a little longer.So I will probably be filling the shelves up pretty much. Also I have a 4'L x 2'D x 6'H shelving unit with the shelves 16" apart. When I hang the light I will be using chain on the light to raise and lower it. I did some looking on Ebay and found some more reasonably priced T5 fixtures. I am somewhat leaning more to the T8 as it is available at the Home Depot right down the street to be honest. And that is very appealing to me. But here are the 2 T5 fixtures I found on Ebay I am going to go back and look for T8 fixtures and see what I can find.

RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

Okay did my ordering for the stuff I needed (or at least what I think I needed).

Got 3 heat mats 20 X 48
Would getting a thermostat for it be advisable?

Get these 3 lights
Roughly how many hours a day should I run the lights for vegetable seeds?
Would getting a timer be worth it?
Had a shelving unit that is exactly like this one.
I'm sure I'm missing something any comments and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

  • Posted by gjcore 5 South Aurora Co. (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 14, 13 at 13:50

I run my lights 16 hours per day but anywhere from 14-19 hours would work. Sometimes with seedlings I'll go 24 hours per day for a couple weeks.

A timer is a must have in my opinion.


RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

Thermostat? Yes. otherwise the best you get out of the mats is 10-15 degrees warmer than the surrounding air and they cycle repeatedly so you lose the consistency.

I f growing in a confined space with consistent air temps of 70 degrees they will work without one but with a thermostat you can set it and get the consistency and even higher temps when needed.

One thermo can run all 3 mats with creative plugging.


RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

Thanks greg I was figuring somewhere around 12 - 16 hours.

Dave I was thinking I'd plug the thermostat in the wall socket then plug a power strip into that and the mats into that.

What is a good temp to set the thermostat at for starting seed? When the seeds start to grow I'm thinking I can turn the mats down if not off altogether is that right? Also since the trays will be one above the other which tray would be the best to use the probe on? I was going to get some Styrofoam board with like foil on one side to set the mats on to help reflect the heat back up instead of letting it dissipate down is that a good idea? I also ordered some mylar film to put in front of and behind the shelves to help keep the light bouncing around inside. I don't want to do the sides so that there can still be some air circulation.

I will keep this thread going with updates and pictures as I go so that people can comment on what I'm doing right and wrong. Also so that others might be thinking of doing the same thing might learn from my mistakes and what (if anything) I am doing right.

RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

  • Posted by gjcore 5 South Aurora Co. (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 15, 13 at 1:41

Mylar or flat white paint is a better choice than foil for reflectivity. One product that I've been wanting to check out is reflectix. It's supposed to be highly reflective and insulating.

RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

Okay I got my unit up and finished today. I used 3 48" T5 HO 4 bulb light fixtures using chain I looped over a rod attached to the bottom of each shelf. They are daisy chained and plugged into a timer that I will be setting for 18-24 hrs a day since I am getting a little bit of a late start. I got 3 20x40" heat mats and thermostat from hydrofarm. I enclosed the shelves in mylar to help bounce the light around and to help keep the heat in since it is in my garage. If I have the time I will take a couple pics tomorrow and post them here if I can remember how.

RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

I have a couple pictures of my light stand but can't remember how to upload multiple pictures. I would swear I did it last year but can't remember how, is it possible or not? If it matters I am using photobucket but could move them to picturetrail if thats easier.

RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

from photobucket just C&P the html address they give you for each pic into the message here. It is the one that begins < a href...


RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

  • Posted by bencjedi 6 - Central Kentucky (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 23, 13 at 1:04

Old server console racks are perfect for hanging shop lights. I didn't do anything fancy. These are T8 fluorescent shop lights I bought at Home Depot 6 or so years ago for about $8.99 each. I am using Phillips tubes (economy 20-pack). I'm not certain why anyone would spend $80+ on a shop light fixture when the cheapies from the big box stores get the job done.

I got a giant piece of Mylar sheeting when I did the Tough Mudder It was so cold the day of the event that reflective Mylar 'sheets' were all over the course. I used one on the back side of my rack to help contain all the light.

RE: Changed my mind...building my own Grow Light Setup

  • Posted by gjcore 5 South Aurora Co. (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 27, 13 at 21:40

Your setup looks pretty good. As far as the expensive grow lamps are concerned they really are very nice lamps. High output T5s put out lots of lumens. When I bought one I was a bit hesitant due to the price. They are designed with the indoor grower in mind as opposed to generic shop lights that are made for garages or office space.

I have a variety of fixtures T12, T8 and the one T5. I can say with certainty that in my situation the T5HO is by far the best lamp.

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