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New Fancy Light

February 26th, 2014

After years of dealing with insufficient lighting for my seedlings I finally purchased a BIG metal halide light.  I grow my own seedlings to have the healthiest plants and I finally decided it was time to take the plunge. I wanted to future proof my investment, so I got a 1000W one. The nice this is that the ballast I got allows me to dim the light to 400W and 600W for when I have fewer seedlings underneath.
metal halide lights 2
Fluorescents were never my favorite when it came to seedlings, I felt that unless the bulbs were replaced every couple years the seedlings suffered.  The constant moving of the lights was also a huge pain since I didn’t have a real light shelf.  It’s not as big of an issue if you only have one or two lights, but I need around 10 or 15 lights for the number of seed flats I have.   There was also the need for more grow lights this year because of my bigger garden and my old grow lights were in need of new bulbs. I was tired of never having enough space and having to swap out seed flats for 12 hour shifts under the lights.   I could keep limping along and spending more money on a system I didn’t like, or I could invest in something that would give me better results at a cheaper price.  I decided it was time and invested my money in a new fixture.
You may wonder why I chose this particular light. For one, it’s made in the USA (check out SunlightSupply for more info). Another benefit is that it’s actually more efficient for me to use this light than to use fluorescent lights for 20-30 seed flats. How can this be? Because metal halide grow lights produce more lumens per watt than fluorescent lights do. This intense light will also produce shorter, sturdier growth in my seedlings. Another benefit is that this light creates much less waste and environmental impact that fluorescent lights would. The bulb in this fixture needs replaced only every 6000 hours. That means that I can use one bulb for four or five years and when it needs changed it’s only one bulb instead of 30 or 40 bulbs that I would have to replace in fluorescent fixtures. It’s also much more economical for me since each bulb costs around $70. The fixture itself is also much cheaper for the number of seedlings I can grow under it. I can fit 32 flats of seedlings under this light and other plants that need less light around the edges (my citrus trees will be happy in this spot).
metal halide lights 1
This past weekend Mr Chiots and I set up the light in the basement. Eventually it will reside in the potting room up in the garage and hopefully a greenhouse someday, but the ducks live there now, so the basement it is for seedlings this year. I already have a pot of greens germinating under the lights along with planters of cilantro and other herbs.

Do you use grow lights for your seedlings? What kind do you use?

13 Comments to “New Fancy Light”
  1. Caroline on February 26, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    I actually built my own grow light this year.

    Last year (my first gardening year) I started my seeds in my south facing bay window and there just wasn’t enough light. It worked, but not great.

    I found a tutorial on YouTube and built my own because I’m not ready to invest in an expensive light system. It’s essentially a piece of metal duct work, some metal rods in the sides to hold it open, the light fixture installed (that was my first time doing electrical work!) I have chains attached and it’s hanging from the bar in the closet of my home office. It’s very light weight but a PITA to adjust. I’m using 2 full spectrum light bulbs, 100watt each I believe.

    And it’s working! I’ve got some basil, rosemary, lettuce and kale currently growing! (Also chives, but I had to move them because they were growing so tall so fast the tips got burned!)

    Reply to Caroline's comment

  2. Donna A. on February 26, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Ooooh that is so cool!
    When I used to have a seed starting area in my basement I had one long shop light – the standard you can find at a home improvement store, it was enough to hold two 72 cel trays lengthwise. It was great for my smallish garden… But then again, I also did winter sowing in milk jugs and direct-sowed in the spring… can’t have too much of a good thing!

    And I can’t wait to see when you guys get started on that greenhouse!

    I’ll have to look into a light again when I have a more permanent situation… and I’ll bookmark this companies page! Thanks Susy~

    Reply to Donna A.'s comment

  3. Ilene on February 26, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    MORE stuff I didn’t know!! Too cool.

    Reply to Ilene's comment

  4. Reid on February 26, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I have two lights that are about 7-10 years old. I never knew that they should be replaced. I also have a full spectrum light with another set up I have at work (a school). It is in the science room. I have onions, basil, and parsley.

    Reply to Reid's comment

  5. misti on February 26, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    I know metal halides all too well. My husband had several aquariums for many years and his biggest salt tank had these lights. I’ll just say I’m glad we don’t have them anymore!

    Reply to misti's comment

  6. Deb on February 26, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    In 19 yrs. of starting my own plants I have never had grow lights and have had great plants all those years. Guess I’m not sure why they’re needed but glad you found what you wanted. I put my seeded pots in the greenhouse and cover them until they come up with plastic and then uncover and let continue to grow. No problems except many times the plants are way too big when transplanting outdoors, esp. tomato plants. Don’t have money to buy or spend the electric on grow lights anyway so gald I don’t need them.

    Reply to Deb's comment

    • Susy on February 26, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      Having a greenhouse helps with not needing grow lights.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. Marcia on February 26, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    This year will be the first year I start seedlings indoors. I bought two small metal racks with a zipable plastic covering from a neighbor and I’ll see how those work. I’ll have to set them up near my patio doors since I don’t have grow lights….yet!

    Reply to Marcia's comment

  8. Jeannette on February 27, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for sharing! I’ll keep these in mind in the event we end up moving to place with a larger garden area. Right now we’re using metal shelving previously used at a hospital. It was about to be discarded. It’s a good size and it was free. For now the halogen lights are good enough though they do produce some leggy seedlings.

    Reply to Jeannette's comment

  9. Sara on February 27, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    We just added up a new shoplight this year with T8 grolux bulbs. Under $30 total investment. I was going to go with a fancier light this time (we have 4 total) but it wouldn’t fit the budget this year, oh well!

    We’ve been pretty happy just using fluorescent lights for years but I do rotate things around a lot for even growth, and I will say that supplementing with a cold frame (and now the hoop house) for real sunlight helps a LOT with strong seedlings. It will be nice to see how your new light performs!

    Reply to Sara's comment

  10. Tommy on February 27, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Susy,
    I don’t have a grow light, but I started using a heat mat with a dome. Can you help me with a question—the seedlings have all sprouted, which I was happy with. However, they have all grown super weak and spindly—really tall and quick growing, but without much substance or strength. Ideas on what I should change? How to make them grow slower and stronger?

    Reply to Tommy's comment

    • Susy on February 27, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      They need more light! Legginess is a sign of not enough light a grow light should be added. Putting them in a bright window with a grow light above them will help.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. Sierra N Hampl on February 27, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    That is so exciting! I can’t wait to see pictures of the amazing plants you grow this year.

    Reply to Sierra N Hampl's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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