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The Best Grow Light Ballasts of 2020

Grow room from ceiling

If you’re thinking about setting up a grow room or grow space using high-intensity discharge lamps, then you may already know that you need the best grow light ballast. Without a ballast for your HID lights, they won’t turn on.

You will need a ballast for any traditional tube fluorescent bulb and all high intensity (HI) bulbs. Metal Halide (MH), Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH, CDM), High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) and Combination MH and HPS all need a ballast. The ballast will provide power to the lamp and preventing HID lights from drawing too much current.

Compact fluorescent grow lights come with ballasts integrated into their circuitry, so if you use these lamps, you don’t need to purchase an external ballast. LEDs used for growing do not require ballasts.

Quality and reliability are as important as the power requirements for your bulbs when selecting a ballast. Grow rooms are wet and hot so when dealing with electrical devices a low priced device with a questionable quality is not recommended.

Below I gathered some vital information and chosen a few of my top recommendations for the best grow light ballasts you can count on for your indoor growing setup.

Best HPS Grow Light Ballasts:

Vivosun 1000 watt ballast:

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A Reliable 1000 watt ballast

If you’re looking for a durable and reliable electronic ballast, then the Vivosun model is an excellent choice. One important factor is that it’s a more affordable price than many others models.

Another very important feature is the dimmer settings. This Vivosun ballast will dim to 600 watts or 750 watts of output.

Compatible

If the dimmer settings arent enough, Vivosun ballasts also come in 400 watt and 600 watt models that fit most HID lights.

Just make sure to get the model that matches your bulb wattage. If you have a 1000 watt bulb you need the 1000 watt model. Even though it dims to smaller wattage, that feature is meant to dim a bulb of the stated original wattage.

Durable

The Vivosun ballasts include a 3 year warranty and customer service from a well known indoor gardening company

. When you feel it, you can tell why they cover the machine for so long. It feels indestructible with a sturdy casing. Because the Vivosun ballast cools itself without a fan, there are no moving parts to break. You may think that would make it run hot, but it stays cool.

Overall this is an excellent buy for anyone looking for ballast for their indoor growing.

Other Vivosun Ballast Features:

Feature:
Compatible Voltage:120v / 240v
Overheat Protection:Yes
Short Circuit Protection:Yes
Power Cord Length:8 feet

Pros:

  • 3 Year warranty
  • Reliable
  • Quiet
  • Stays cool

Cons:

  • Only dims to two levels.

Click here to see reviews and prices for the Vivosun Ballasts on Amazon.com


 

 Phantom II, PHB2010 1000W Digital Ballast for MH or HPS Grow Lights, 120/240V Dimmable

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Actually Digital

Here is a true digital ballast. The Phantom II from Phantom has a high precision microprocessor to help you keep your set up running smoothly. With it’s Smart Alert Technology that utilizes multiple status codes it really is a “smart” digital ballast. This device is ultra quiet, so you won’t have any problems with noise if you have your grow room inside the house. The Phantom II is one of the most energy-efficient ballasts on the market.

Accommodating

You can choose between 600W and 1000W, and it comes with a Universal Reflector Adapter that can accommodate most lamp cords. Like most ballasts, this unit offers protection in case of surges and fluctuations, but it also has a built-in hot restrike programming to protect your bulbs. The Phantom II has four dimming options 60, 75, and 100 percent as well as super mode. This ballast has no fan, but it doesn’t run hot.

It’s Smart

This ballast really does it all it is 120 and 240 volt capable as well as being able to run off a generator. It can run Metal Halide (MH) and High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) bulbs and will indicate you when the lamp is at the end of its life. That means there is no more need to guess if the bulb is dimming!

The company has a three-year warranty for this model and based on feel and performance you should never need to use it. The only drawback to having a real digital ballast is that the smart features can be a little tricky to get used to.

Pros:

  • It’s a “smart” device
  • Quiet
  • Runs cool
  • Smart alert for your bulb

Cons:

  • The interface can take some getting used to.

Click here to see reviews and prices for the Phantom II on Amazon.com


 

  Hydrofarm SGO600S 600 Watt 120/240v Convertible Ballast

 

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This is my recommendation for a quieter, top quality ballast. The SG600S ballast is a reliable and durable machine. It has an all-aluminum exterior.

Long Life

This ballast comes in a 600 watt and 1000 watt model so keep that in mind when shopping for a bulb.  As a magnet ballast, it has a remarkably long life expectancy. Hydrofarms offers an two year warranty on this ballast so you won’t have to worry about it breaking.

It is a rugged and durable ballast meant to last. This machine is 120v and 240v compatible. The patented design allows electrical contact to happen only when a seal is achieved, extending the ballast’s lifetime.

Pros:

  • 2 year warranty 
  • Very long life expectancy
  • Reliable and rugged

Cons:

  • Louder than electric ballasts

 


Click here to see reviews and prices for the Hydrofarm SG600S on Amazon.com

 


Factors to Consider When Buying Ballasts

Whether you are buying from our list or searching for another model of ballasts, we encourage you to keep a few things in mind. Below we offer our advice so that you may find the right choice for your indoor grow setup.

Compatibility

Probably the most crucial aspect to consider in buying a ballast is compatibility. The ballast you choose has to match the bulb you want and vise versa. Each lamp has a required wattage and energy input. If you select the wrong pairing, you will end up blowing your bulbs too fast. We recommend choosing your bulb then finding a ballast to match it. Or you can buy a kit.

Cost and Energy Consumption

Price can be an essential aspect of buying any new machine. You should be paying attention to how long the ballast lasts, and it’s reliability. Cheaper devices may save you money today but cost you more in the future. They may break quickly. Magnetic ballasts are more economical to buy but require more to run because they are less energy efficiency. Electric ballast may save you more money in the long run.

Heat Output

Heat can be a big problem for magnetic ballasts. Grow rooms using HID lights are going to be hot enough without adding extra heat to the mix. If you are growing in a small space, you may need to worry about heat as much as large indoor growing spaces. If you don’t want to invest in a cooling system like fans you may want to look at electric ballasts.

Noise

Noise may not seem like a big problem for most people looking into buying ballasts for a growing set up but trust us it can be. If you want to have multiple bulbs then you will need multiple ballasts. The noise can really start to add up. If the sound is a concern for you, then you’ll probably want to get electronic ballast for your lamps.

Electric ballasts do not buzz or whine, and some don’t even need fans. Making they are whisper quiet. Some magnetic ballasts can be quieter than others, so if you have one or two, it won’t be as big of a deal.

Dimmable Lighting

One huge advantage to the electronic ballasts is that they are dimmable. Magnetic ballasts can’t. Here’s the thing; when your plants are little, bright light can hurt them: think winter sun vs. summer sun.

You can easily bypass this problem if you want a magnetic ballast by using CFLs or other fluorescent bulbs in the early stages then switching to your HID lights when the plants mature a little. Keep in mind that electronic ballasts also usually have an overdrive function for maximum output in the last stages of plant development. This can be a massive plus for electronic ballasts.

Which is more important – bulb or ballast?

Each type of bulb offers different colors and light intensity. Depending on what you want to grow you may not need to invest in a ballast or High-intensity bulbs. LEDs and compact fluorescents can work very well for you in smaller spaces and with some plants. But for the best results in growing vegetables or large scale growing HID bulbs are still highly recommended. Below you will find information on each bulb type and its benefits and restrictions.

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Grow Lights

For these bulbs, you will require a ballast to turn on and control your lamps. Fluorescent bulbs used to dominate the market but now HID lights are the most popular option and for a good reason. HID lights have high lumen-per-watt efficiency. There are many types of HID lamps on the market today, and they all offer different benefits.

These lamps can produce a color spectrum similar to the sun giving your indoor grown plants the very best light to thrive. These bulbs run hot so a fan may be needed to cool down your grow space. Each lamp has a specific voltage requirement so when purchasing ballasts and bulbs; it is essential not to mix and match. If your lamp doesn’t match your ballast in voltage, it could cause your bulbs to blow quickly.

Fluorescent Grow Lights

Fluorescents are another favorite type of growing lights. They come in two different types high-output fluorescents and CFLs. Fluorescent lights are not as intense HID lights and are best at growing herbs and vegetables. Fluorescent lights for growing are sold in color temperatures from 2700 K to 10,000 K. 

These bulbs are not as well suited for large plants because the light they emit won’t penetrate as deeply as High-Intensity Discharge lamps. If you are looking for lights for a smaller grow room or growing herbs fluorescent may be a good choice.

High-Output Fluorescent

This type of fluorescent light requires a ballast to start them up. These ballasts are a little different than the ballasts of the HID bulbs. Some High Output fluorescent bulbs come with a ballast housed inside the light while others require an external device.

These lights are great for starting seedlings inside or growing smaller plants. You have to bring the lamp and its fixture much closer to the plants than with the HID bulbs. One benefit of Fluorescents is that they have a length of up to 20,000 hours.

CFL or Compact Fluorescent Lamps

These bulbs are the kind you probably use in your home. They have a remarkably long life expectancy and use less electricity. CFLs come with ballast in the light so no need to worry about purchasing one.

These bulbs are only suited for very small growing or for starting seeds. If you want anything on a large scale or want to grow any hardy plants, then these lights won’t work.

LED Lights (Light Emitting Diodes)

The new kid on the block is LEDs; these lights do not require a ballast to operate; instead, they use a driver. LEDs are space saving and run much cooler than other grow lights. They offer an excellent amount of light without using as much energy as other kinds of grow lights.

LEDs have a life expectancy of 50,000 to 100,000 hours making them the longest lasting bulbs for growing. You can switch the color of the LED lights throughout the growing stages to match what light your plants prefer in that stage of development. These lights are new to the indoor gardening world and have had some promising results for plants of any size and variety.

Different Types Of Grow Light Ballasts:

There are two distinct categories of ballasts; electric and electromagnetic. Magnetic ballasts are the original ballast, and the electronic version has been slowly taking over the market for the last decade or so. When you the term digital ballast it is referring to an electric ballasts. Many of the ballasts claiming to be digital are not. An actual digital ballast should have a microprocessor in it most do not.

Magnetic Ballasts

Magnetic ballasts use electromagnetic energy. Inside the metal or plastic housing, there is a spool of wire wrapped around steel. These ballasts have fallen out of fashion due to their bulkiness, and their tendency to create a lot of extra heat.

They also make a lot more noise than electric ballast. Although they are less popular, some people still prefer them because they will last for years and can deal with harsh weather.

Electronic Ballasts

An electronic ballast uses semiconductors and microchips to provide the high voltage required to light an HID lamp. These devices have a more modern look than the magnetic versions, and they are more energy efficient. They are smaller, lighter weight and run much cooler giving them an edge over the electromagnetic ballasts.

The biggest drawback of these ballasts is that you have to be very careful to match the voltage of the device to that of the bulb.

Final Thoughts:

The world of ballasts may seem overwhelming at times but with a little know-how, you should be able to navigate your way to a prosperous indoor growing setup.

When you’re done picking out a ballast, don’t forget to read my list of great reflector hoods, or learn how to make your own CBD oil at home!


Frequently Asked Questions about Grow Light Ballasts:

Can I put two lights on one ballast?

While technically possible it requires a real understanding of electricity and mechanics. I encourage you not to go down that path. It can be dangerous and put your equipment at risk.

Which type of HID bulb should I get?

If you’ve decided on HID versus LED, I recommend buying a High Pressure Sodium (HPS) bulb, which is the best alternative to LED.

Are LED or HPS grow lights better?

LEDs are better for most use cases as long as you use LEDs that are powerful enough. After you factor in the cost for a cooling fan, HPS is almost the same price as good LED grow lights.

References:

1. Chandra, Suman, Hemant Lata, Ikhlas Khan, and Mahmoud Elsohly. “Photosynthetic response of Cannabis sativa L. to variations in photosynthetic photon flux densities, temperature and CO2 conditions.” Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants 14.4 (2009): 299-306.

2. Backer Rachel, Schwinghamer Timothy, Rosenbaum Phillip, McCarty Vincent, Eichhorn Bilodeau Samuel, Lyu Dongmei, Ahmed Md Bulbul, Robinson George, Lefsrud Mark, Wilkins Olivia, Smith Donald L. (2019). “Plant Growth-Promoting Rhizobacteria for Cannabis Production: Yield, Cannabinoid Profile and Disease Resistance.” Frontiers in Plant Science 10. 10.3389/fpls.2019.00495

Other References:

Hydrofarm

Nick
 

My name is Nick, and I'm a home grower who spends time writing about indoor growing tools and setups. My goal is for 420ExpertGuide to be a one stop shop for indoor growers to find the information they need.