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What to do about lights for orchids?

This is a discussion on What to do about lights for orchids? within the Semi Hydro / Lights / Greenhouses / Accessories forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; I have used fluorescent fixtures for years to start my garden seedlings. I have been ...

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  1. #1
    sciencegal's Avatar
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    Default What to do about lights for orchids?

    I have used fluorescent fixtures for years to start my garden seedlings. I have been buying one brand of shop light, Lights of America, that I can get locally. It is a two light, T8 fixture. The first four I bought have been working for years. I replaced all of the bulbs last year since I understand that they will lose their light power after a while.

    In setting up my grow area for the orchids I purchased four more in the last month - same brand. The third one just blew out the ballast this morning. The first two went a few weeks ago. They are lasting less than a month. I only have one box and receipt from the one I bought to replace the first one that went out so can only get one refund. The second one went out after I replaced the first.

    I bought two T8 Lithonia 4 light fixtures last year. They are working fine. So, I decided to go ahead and try to replace the four soon-to-be-non-working ones with Lithonia but their two light fixtures only come in gray so you have to paint the inside white. The white ones do not have much of a reflector but are super cheap. I worry about how long they will last.

    I have these plugged into surge protected strips so I don't think it is my power supply that is causing the ballasts to fail so quickly. The ballasts from the older ones have lots of ventilation holes and strips. The new ones only have four small ventilation holes and yesterday I noticed that most of the holes were not completely open. I punched out the holes yesterday but one of them blew out today anyway. They must be overheating.

    I've looked into converting these dead fixtures into LEDs by bypassing the ballast but they do not have the typical tombstone holders. I can't tell if they are shunted or non-shunted. If non-shunted I can just disconnect the ballast. If shunted I would have to replace the tombstones which I can't do. They are pretty much scrap metal at this point.

    I don't know what to do. I thought about getting the round reflectors and using a compact fluorescent bulb or an LED bulb. I have one of these over a rack with some phals and the 40 LED gives off quite a bit of light. If I got a 60 watt it might work okay. I do have natural light from the windows. The lights are just helping out.

    I hope it is okay to discuss brands of lights but I wonder what others are using. This is ridiculous to have to replace $11 light fixtures every 4 weeks. I am expecting the fourth go any minute.

    ---------- Post Merged at 10:42 AM ----------

    to add..
    I saw a video on how to convert these useless fixtures by taping LED light strips to the inside. It needs a 9V adaptor. I almost did this but after researching out available 9V adaptors most reviews say that they burn out too after a short time. Do "they" make anything anymore that lasts??

  2. #2
    78Terp's Avatar
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    One of my T-5 fixtures, Agro-something, also recently blew its ballast. I went and bought a replacement but want to open the blown one up and just swap in a new ballast. That way it is an easy job that is just verifying the way the old one was wired and slap it in, connect it up and close the patient back up. Then maybe I will replace the 2 tube fixture with the repaired 4 tuber.

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    I investigated the possibility of replacing ballasts. If it is replaceable which it isn't in this piece of crap fixture, the ballast costs as much as the fixture. I think I have a plan. I watched some videos on making your own CFL fixture. I can get two double light sockets, drill a hole in the worthless fixture to attach them, then use CFL bulbs. I can put four in the one fixture. I can use the plug and wire it to the sockets. I am going to town for supplies on Wednesday and see if I can everything I need. I will post the results if I don't burn down the house.

  4. #4
    78Terp's Avatar
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    When I bought a ballast for my kitchen fixture last year (T8) it was under $20.

  5. #5
    Chris in Hamilton's Avatar
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    I'm surprised you can get any kind of fixture for $11. Minimum $40 here.

  6. #6
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    Default

    This might be a case of "you get what you pay for..."

    When I started growing, almost 50 years ago, 50/50 (total watts) using 40 watt shoplights and 100 watt incandescent bulbs, was pretty much the state of the art. When T-8 lamps came out, with their boosted lumens-per-watt (about 90, versus 40 for the T-12), it was a major upgrade.

    The problem is that the typical, "Home Despot" shop light is a Chinese-made piece of crap, and they're counting on you not having the receipt to get your money back when they fail. (Although I am appalled that Karin is only getting about a month out of them.)

    If you're going to buy a plant light, it is probably wise to look at T-5's (more watts per bulb, and more lumens per watt) that are made specifically for plants. I know, for example, that those sold by the "Hydro -f***" folks come with a one year warranty on them, but are still relatively inexpensive. In the years I have had those drop-shipped for folks, I've only had a couple of claims, and both were honored without any issues.

    Personally, I am moving to LED lamps, and have chosen to go with brand-name fixtures, but I'm paying for them, too.

  7. #7
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    My bad one came from your website Ray. I figured I was SOL on it. Contact me if I have warranty.

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    Default

    Last year about this time of year I bought two T5 four light set ups that came with the lights. I didn't plan on using them until spring to enlarge my seedling set up. When I set them up a few minutes after turning them on smoke and sparks came out of the places where the lights hook in. No warranty. The company said if I could prove it was caused by shipping damage they would send me replacement parts. So, now I have 8 T5 lights but no fixture. I have looked and looked but can't find fixtures that do not include the lights.
    Posted via Mobile Device

  9. #9
    78Terp's Avatar
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    I burn out T5 tubes regularly. They don't last overly long but IMO that is to be expected from this technology. That is the tubes only, not the fixture,

  10. #10
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    Default

    Except that your fixture also burned out.
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