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Tips for Buying Grow Lights for Your Seedlings

successful shopping for fluorescent grow lights

successful shopping for fluorescent grow lights

I have just experienced that fact that when you have to use the information that you have just learned in a meaningful way, it sticks in your mind better.  You see, up until today, my engineer did the shopping for the grow lights with me.  Today, I needed to get it done when he was not available.  I had to write down details, ask questions, and make purchases.  Now, for the first time, I feel prepared for long term maintenance of my grow light systems.

Do you realize how many different characteristics of light are listed on the packages?  There is

  • wattage (energy usage),
  • lumens (brightness),
  • color rendering index or CRI (percent of color reflection compared to natural sunlight),
  • how the light is generated (i.e. LED, fluorescent, incandescent), and
  • temperature (tells about the color of the light, from which prominent wavelengths may be inferred).

Then, there are the more simple things like

  • how long the bulb is,
  • how it attaches to the light fixture, and
  • how long they think it will last.

I’m sure I left out something.

For my grow lights, I was shopping (due to burn outs and having more seedlings than lights at the moment) for T8 fluorescent bulbs of 32 watts, 48 inches long, some in the warm temperature and some in the cool range.  Incandescent bulbs would use much more energy for the same effect, thus costing a lot to run.  LED lights would be very difficult to find for the common fixtures and would cost significantly more to get started.

I had visited Walmart and D&B Supply previously with my engineer.  Then, today I shopped at Home Depot and Grover’s Pay & Pack.  I ended up buying at Grover’s.  This is how it worked out:

  1. Walmart only had cool bulbs, which were more expensive than we had remembered anyway.
  2. D&B Supply was selling for almost half the Walmart price, but also only had cool bulbs.
  3. Home Depot had a wide variety of bulbs.  Almost too many.  The information was presented in ways that confused me and no one wandered up to help me.  Usually they are very helpful there, but I didn’t want to chase someone down.  Plus, I doubted they would be knowledgeable about grow lights.  Their prices were about the same as Walmart’s, too.
  4. Grover’s Pay & Pack was the best of everything.  The bulbs were even a little less expensive than D&B Supply.  They had an easy to understand display and easy to understand signs on all the sections with helpful details.  A lighting person walked up to me and it ended up she had gone to a class to be able to understand how to use the bulbs for grow lights!  She also told me of their natural sunlight bulbs, but those were almost 3 times the price, so I’m going to continue using the combination of warm and cool

I bought warm color, 3000K bulbs and cool color 5000K bulbs, both with color rendering of 85%.  It seems backwards that the cool colors have the higher temperature, but my engineer explained it to me.  The lights are only called cool or warm according to the hue of their light because that is how most people think of those colors.  Blue is associated with being cool. Yellow or red make people feel warm.  The fact is that blue is the hottest flame.   🙂

The packaging on the bulbs at Grover’s was more minimalist, so I had to make sure I knew how to tell the bulbs apart when I got home, without having to plug them all in.  The friendly person at Grover’s kept checking on me and made sure I had all my questions answered.  I am now a much more proficient light bulb package reader thanks to both Grover’s and my engineer.

the number ending /850 under the bar code means it holds a 5000K bulb

the number ending /850 under the bar code means it holds a 5000K bulb

the same coded information is printed on the bulb

the same coded information is printed on the bulb

F – Fluorescent

32 – watts

T8 – “the number of eights of an inch in the diameter”  I know, they let the wrong person find the wording for that parameter!

850 – don’t know what the “8” stands for yet, but the 50 refers to the 5000K, which is the color of a standardized substance at that temperature.  The bulbs themselves don’t get that hot.

RoHs – means the bulb doesn’t have more than a certain percentage of toxic materials in it

Hg – stands for mercury, which is in the bulb

So, now you know at least as much as I do!  I suggest you write it down and apply the knowledge soon by buying your own grow lights.  There is still plenty of time to start some seeds for your garden this year.  🙂



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