Cheap DIY Fluorescent Grow System

Overview

You don't need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for an elaborate fluorescent grow light setup if you are not too worried about aesthetics. An inexpensive, simple and functional light can be made from parts available at any home and garden store.

Clamp-On lights

The cheapest way to set up an indoor grow light is to use daylight spiral compact fluorescent light bulbs in clip-on stainless-steel shoplight fixtures. One light can cost less than $15. The best way to select a light bulb is to look for the Kelvin rating, sometimes marked K on the base of the bulb or the package. Look for 6500K or 6700K to get the color closest to daylight. 5500K and 4200K bulbs will work, but are heavier on the red/orange spectrum. If the Kelvin rating is not listed on the bulb, use one that is marked "daylight." Avoid bulbs labeled soft white and cool white. When selecting the wattage, pick the highest-watt bulb available unless the plants you are growing are in a small space or there is only one plant. Usually the highest-watt bulb sold in stores is 27w. Higher wattages can be found online up to 105w that still have a standard-sized screw in base. Clip-on shoplight fixtures with stainless-steel dome reflectors that take screw-in base bulbs are sold in most home improvement stores, often near the paint section. These are ready to use right out of the box, although some may need the clamp mechanism to be screwed on. Select the largest diameter reflector that will fit into your space so the light is spread over the maximum area possible. These can be hung from the ceiling or upper shelf by the wire or clamped on to a nearby post. The bulb simply needs to be screwed in.

Traditional Shoplights

Traditional T12 4-foot-long dual-tube shoplights make a ideal grow light; both the fixture and bulbs can often be purchased for under $20 total. When selecting a fixture, get one that fits your needs; some require direct wiring to a circuit and others have a plug for a regular home wall electrical outlet. Choose a brand that will power T12 and T8 sized tubes. Other than attaching the included hanger, they are usually ready to use out of the box. When selecting tubes, find ones marked daylight with a daylight Kelvin rating. If the Kelvin rating is not on the tube or packaging, look for specialty bulbs that provide natural light often sold specifically for kitchens and bathrooms. Using T8 tubes instead of T12 will increase the amount of light put out per watt of power used.

Keywords: shoplight, daylight bulb, cheap growlight

About this Author

Brian Albert has been in the publishing industry since 1999. He is an expert in horticulture, with a focus on aquatics and tropical plants like orchids. He has successfully run an aquatic plant business for the last five years. Albert's writing experience includes the Greater Portland Aquarium Society newsletter and politics coverage for a variety of online journals.

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