Indoor Gardening

American marijuana cultivators are the most sophisticated, scientific farmers in the world. In just a few years they have mastered the techniques of breeding, hybridization, sinsemilla cultivation, and curing. They have doubled and redoubled the yield and potency of their crops.

Although the media usually concentrate on outdoor “farmers,” most outdoor growers these days raise only their own stash, or operate in a limited area using a controlled environment — i.e., a grow room. The high cost of marijuana and the risk involved in its cultivation have constantly challenged the cultivator to develop techniques that use space most efficiently. The potential for a high profit has also given growers the incentive and ability to experiment, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the indoor garden.

I have seen the super grow rooms (SGRs), and I believe. These growers have succeeded. SGRs are based on the idea of limiting factors. The plant’s rate of metabolism — and subsequently its growth rate, maturation time and yield — are governed by environmental conditions that are linked together in a chain. Metabolism can proceed no faster than permitted by the five limiting factors: light, heat, water, nutrients, and carbon dioxide.

Super grow rooms meet these necessities, automatically or semiautomatically, by using timers that regulate irrigation, lighting, and CO2 enrichment. Recently I had the pleasure of seeing two automated grow rooms. The first was lit naturally, with supplemental lighting from metal halides. The corrugated sheet-steel roof had been replaced with Filon, a transparent corrugated plastic sheet made especially for greenhouses.

Exec, as he wishes to be called, grows uniform commercial crops which vary according to the season. He has two growing areas: a starting room and a main growing area. His spacious starting room is divided into a germination section, lit by fluorescents, and a seedling section lit by two halides. Seeds are germinated in 4” pots and transplanted 10 days after germination into a 2½ quart container

Exec has designed a planting schedule that matches each plant varieties’ seasonal habits with day length. Here is his planting and control schedule:
In November, Exec starts equatorial seeds. He prefers a Nigerian-Santa Marta hybrid. He repots 10 days after germination, keeping the germination room lit 24 hours a day. The plants are removed to the large growing area about 3 ½ weeks after germination. This area is completely roofed with Filon, and has 10 halides for supplementary light. Total area is 1,000 square feet.

When plants are moved to the large growing area, they are repotted again, this time into 2-gallon containers. The lighting is set at 12 hours, to coincide with natural light. These lights burn only when the sun is out, so that suspicion is not aroused by the lit Filon roof.

To control the flowering period, Exec has strung rows of removable incandescents, each 100-watt light bulb illuminating about 9 square feet. For the next three weeks he turns these lights on for 1 minute (the minimum time on his short-range timer) every 90 minutes. This prevents the plants from starting to flower. Around the middle of January, he turns off the incandescents. A week later he turns the halides down to 10 hours, where they remain until the end of flowering. Exec claims to have had varieties that would not ripen until the light was down to 8 hours.

Around March 1 the new crop is planted. This time he uses either a Southern African-Afghani or Mexican hybrid. These plants are replanted around March 15 and then, around April Fool’s Day, they replace the earlier crop, which is now ready to be harvested. Exec cuts the plants up and hangs them to dry in his starting room, which he now keeps entirely dark. He manicures them only after they are dry. Exec has a busy schedule transplanting the new residents of the growing area into 2-gallon pots. He keeps the halides on for 13-14 hours and then once again he uses his incandescents nightly, this time for two weeks, until about April 15, when he turns the halides down to 11 hours and covers the roof with long shades made from agricultural shading material. He manually opens and shuts the shades, closing them at dusk, as the lights go off, and opening them late in the morning as the lights come on. In late spring he sometimes uses only sunlight during the brightest part of the day.

On May 15 Exec plants another new crop. This time it is definitely an Afghani-Southern African, which flowers at 14-16 hours of light. By June 15 the Southern African-Mexican hybrid is ready, and the Afghani-Southern African plants are placed in the main garden. They are given only a natural-light cycle, and the halides supplement the natural light only on cloudy days. On July 15 they are shaded, to put them into harvest cycle, receiving no more than 14 hours of light. The plants are ready by August 30, and Exec replaces them with a Northern Mexican-Kush cultivar, or sometimes an Afghani-Kush hybrid that he’s planted a month earlier. He uses flashing incandescents until September 30, when he lets the light cycle drop back to day length. The plants are ripe by December 15, a nice bit of Christmas cheer.

Exec gets four crops a year, uses a minimum of electric light, and is able to grow in a large area, arousing few suspicions regarding spinning electric meters.

He uses a propane heater during the cool months. This enriches the air with CO2 while providing heat. At other times he uses CO2 from a tank. During the hot months he uses a ceiling fan and several high-powered window fans, but even so, at times the room gets a little too warm for optimal growth. Cannabis grows fastest when the temperature ranges between the 60s and the 80s. If the temperature gets higher, photosynthesis stops; if it is lower, photosynthesis slows down.

With about 500 plants per crop, Exec has no time to water them. Instead, he has a drip emitter attached to each container, and each day he waters his plants by turning on a valve for a few minutes. First he determines how much water the average plant needs. Then, using a simple formula — amount required ÷ flow per hour x 60 — he arrives at the number of minutes needed for watering. His emitters flow at the rate of one gallon per hour (gph). If the plants require 8 ounces, 8 ± 128 x 60 3.7 minutes. When he is not around to take care of things manually, he estimates the plants’ needs and then sets his short-term timer, which regulates a solenoid valve.
He adds soluble hydroponic nutrients and other fertilizers and minerals to the water solution several times a month.

These plants are only a month old. They are thriving in a near perfect environment, nutrient, water, and CO2.

The second garden I visited, administered by Elf, was lit entirely by halides and sodium vapor lamps. Elf’s area totals about 225 square feet, of which 175 constitute growing space. He cultivates about 80 plants per crop and claims that he can grow five to six crops per year, but works at a more leisurely pace.

Elf too has a separate starting area. He can start a crop every two months, using the germination area for about one month before setting the plants in the main garden. Plants are started in 2½ quart containers; when they’re moved, he transplants them to 1½ gallon containers.

Sometimes he starts from clones, which takes longer than starting from seeds, but is ultimately less effort since there are no males to deal with. Three weeks after the plants enter the main growing area, its light cycle is reduced to 13 or 14 hours from constant light. Six weeks later, the plants are ready to harvest.

Equatorial varieties take longer to mature, but Elf prefers them to the stuff he sells, so he has a growing room for his own stash. It is stocked with exotics.

Elf ventilates his area with two duct fans and open windows (which are covered to seal in light). CO2 is injected into all three rooms from a CO2 tank with a timer.

Elf waters his plants by hand, using a 5-gallon container and a ½ gallon pitcher. This takes less than an hour. At maturity the plants require about 1/2 gallon of water every four to seven days, depending on temperature. This saturates the container and partially fills the tray underneath it. Each container holds a mixture of vermiculite, perlite, Styrofoam, and foam rubber. Plants that are bigger than most receive extra water between irrigations. Smaller plants receive less water. He uses a combination of soluble fertilizers, and contends that his own urine, either fresh or fermented, is the best source of nutrients available. His plants were healthy and had no nutrient deficiencies. But the taste…

Artificial Light

 

Features
 
 
Florescent light is the most effective and efficient source of artificial light readily available to the home grower. Florescent lamps are the long tubes typical of institutional lighting. They require a fixture which contains the lamp sockets and a ballast (transformer) which works on ordinary house current.

 

Tubes and their fixtures come in length from four inches to 12 feet. The most common and suitable are four- and eight-foot lengths. Smaller tubes emit too little light for vigorous growth; longer tubes are unwieldy and hard to find. The growing area must be large enough to accommodate one or more of these fixtures through a height of at least six feet as the plants grow. Fixtures may hold from one to six tubes and may include a reflector, used for directing more light to the plants. Some fixtures are built with holes in the reflectors in order for heat to escape. They are helpful in areas where heat builds up quickly. You can make reflectors with household materials for fixtures not equipped with reflectors. Try to get fixtures that have tubes spaced apart rather than close together. See 5.5 for further suggestions.

The tubes and their appropriate fixtures are available at several different wattage or outputs. Standard or regular output tubes use about 10 watts for each foot of their length – a four-foot tube has about 40 watts and an eight-foot tube about 80 watts.

High Output (HO) tubes use about 50 percent more watts per length than regular output tubes and emit about 40 percent more light. An eight-foot (HO) runs on 112 to 118 watts. Very High Output (VHO) or Super High Output (SHO) tubes emit about two-and-a-half times the light and use nearly three times the electricity (212 to 218 watts per eight-foot tube).

The amount of light you supply and the length of the tube determine the size of the garden. Marijuana will grow with as little as 10 watts per square foot of growing area, but the more light you give the plants, the faster and larger they will grow. We recommend at least 20 watts per square foot. The minimum-size garden contains a four-foot fixture with two 40-watt tubes, which use a total of 80 watts. Dividing total watts by 20 (watts per square foot) gives 80w divided by 20w/sq. ft=four sq.ft. (an area one by four feet). A four-tube (80 watts each) eight-foot fixture would give: 320w divided by 20w/sq. ft. = 16 sq. ft. or an area the length of the tube and about two feet wide.

VHO and HO tubes in practice don't illuminate as wide an area when the plants are young, because the light source is one or two tubes rather than a bank. Once the plants are growing well and the light system is raised higher, they will illuminate a wider area. Figure about 25 w/(ft*ft) for HO and 35 w/(ft*ft (or foot squared)) for VHO to determine garden size. A two-tube, eight-foot VHO fixture will light an area the length of the tube and one-and-a-half feet wide.

The more light you give the plants, the faster they will grow. Near 50w/sq. ft. a point of diminishing returns is reached, and the yield of the garden is then limited by the space the plants have to grow. For maximum use of electricity and space, about 40w/sq. ft. is the highest advisable. Under this much light the growth rate is incredible. More than one grower has said they can hear the plants growing – the leaves rustle as growth changes their position. In our experience, standard-output tubes can work as well as or better than VHO's if four or more eight-food tubes are used in the garden.

The yield of the garden is difficult to compute because of all the variable that determine growth rate. A conservative estimate for a well-run garden is one ounce of grass (pure smoking material) per square foot of garden every six months.

In commercial grass, the seeds and stems actually make up more of the bulk weight than the useable marijuana.

The grass will be of several grades depending on when and what plant part you harvest. The rough breakdown might be 1/3 equal to Mexican regular, 1/3 considered real good smoke, and the rest prime quality. With good technique, the overall yield and the yield of prime quality can be increased several fold.

Sources

When sunlight is refracted by raindrops, the light is separated according to wavelengths with the characteristic colours forming a rainbow. Similarly, the white light of electric lights consists of all the colours of the visible spectrum. Electric lights differ in the amount of light they generate in each of the colour bands. This gives them their characteristic colour tone or degree of whiteness.

Plants appear green because they absorb more light near the ends of the visible spectrum (red and blue) and reflect and transmit more light in the middle of the spectrum (green and yellow). The light energy absorbed is used to fuel photosynthesis. Almost any electric light will produce some growth, but for normal development the plants require a combination of red and blue light.

Sunlight has such a high intensity that it can saturate the plants in the blue and red bands, though most of the sun's energy is in the middle of the spectrum. Artificial lights operate at lower intensities; so the best lights for plant growth emit much of their light in the blue and red bands.

Fluorescent Tubes

Several lighting manufacturers make tubes (gro-tubes) the produce much of their light in the critical red and blue bans. (Plant-gro (GE), Gro-Lux (Sylvania), Agro-Lite (Westinghouse), and gro-lum (Norelco) are examples, and they look purple or pink. Vita-lite and Optima (Duro-test) produce a white light with a natural spectrum very similar to daylight. Duro-test blubs are more expensive than other tubes but they last twice as long. {See spectrum for "The action spectra of chlorosynthesis and photosynthesis compared to that of human vision. Adapted from IES Lighting Handbook237"}

Theoretically, these tubes should work better for growing plants than standard lighting tubes. However, some standard or regular fluorescent tubes used for lighting actually work better for growing plants than more expensive natural-spectrum tubes and gro-tubes specifically manufactured for plant growth. The reason is that regular fluorescent produce more light (lumens), and overall lumen output is more important for growth rate than a specific light spectrum. To compensate for their spectrums, use them in combinations of one "blue" fluorescent to each one or two "red" fluorescent (Box B).

Manufacturers use standardised names such as Daylight and Sofwhite to designate a tube that has a certain degree of whiteness. Each name corresponds to a tube that emits light in a particular combination of colour bands. For example, Cool White emits more blue light than other colours and appears blue-white. By combining tubes that emit more blue light with tubes that emit more red light, the tubes complement each other and produce a more natural spectrum for healthy plant growth. More "red light" than "blue light" sources are needed to foster healthy growth, so use two red tubes to each blue tube.

The best combinations are either Warm White or Soft White (red) tubes used with either Cool White or Daylight (blue) tubes. These four tube types are common, much cheaper, and when used in combination, will give you a better return than any of the more expensive gro-tubes or natural-spectrum tubes. Any hardware store carries these common lighting tubes, and the cost may be less than a dollar each.

Do not use tubes with "deluxe" in their designation. They have a more natural spectrum but emit considerably less light. Preferably, buy "Cool White" since it emits 50 percent more light than "Cool White Deluxe."

Incandescents and Flood Lights

The common screw-in incandescent bulb produces light mainly in the longer wavelengths: far-red, red, orange, and yellow. Higher-wattage bulbs produce a broader spectrum of light than lower-wattage bulbs. Incandescents can be used alone to grow marijuana, but the plants will grow slowly and look scraggly and yellow. Incandescents combined with fluorescent work well, but fluorescent are a better source of red light. Fluorescent tubes generate slightly less heat per watt. With incandescents, heat is concentrated in the small bulb area, rather than the length of the tube, and can burn the plants. In addition, incandescents have less than one-third the efficiency of fluorescent in terms of electricity used. If you decide to use incandescents in combination with fluorescent, use two times the wattage of incandescents to blue source fluorescent, that is, two 40-watt Daylight tubes to about three 60-watt incandescents, evenly spacing the red and blu sources.

The common floodlight has a spectrum similar to but somewhat broader than incandescents. Because they cast their light in one direction and operate at higher intensities, these lights work better than incandescents, both as a single source and to supplement natural or fluorescent light. {Figure 33. Supplement natural light with floodlights. Use foil curtains for reflectors.}

The best application for floodlights and incandescents is to supplement natural and fluorescent light, especially when the plants get larger and during flowering. Incandescents and floodlights require no special fixtures, although reflectors increase the amount of light the plants receive. These lights are easy to hang or place around the sides of any light system, and their strong red band promotes more growth and good flower development. Some of their energy is in the far-red band. Most purple gro-tubes and white fluorescent are deficient in this band, and addition of a few incandescents make them more effective. Agro-lite and W/S Gro-Lux emit adequate far-red light and need no addition of incandescents.

Several companies make screw-in spotlights specifically for plant growth. Two brand names are Duro-Test and Gro n'Sho. Although they are an improvement over incandescents as a single source, these lights don't perform nearly as well as fluorescent. A 150-watt bulb would grow one plant perhaps four feet tall. Two eight-foot fluorescent tubes (160 watts) will easily grow eight six-foot plants. For supplemental lighting, the incandescents and floodlight work as well and are cheaper.

HID Lamps. Metal Halide (MH) and Sodium-Vapour Lamps (HPS)

HID's (High-Intensity-Discharge) are the lamps of choice for serious indoor gardeners. HID lamps commonly illuminate streets, parking lots, and sports stadiums, and they emit very intense light and produce more light, more efficiently than fluorescent. All HID's require specific ballasts and fixtures to operate, so purchase complete systems (fixture, ballast, reflector) along with the lamp. High Times and Sinsemilla Tips magazines (p. 332) feature numerous ads by retailers of horticultural HID systems. Contact the advertisers, and they'll send you brochures with enough information to make an informed choice.

Ordinary metal-halides (MH's and HP's) may emit dangerous UV and particle radiation of the bulb envelop breaks, cracks, or develops a small hole. Broken MH bulbs may continue to operate apparently normally, and exposure may cause serious eye or skin injury. Make sure to purchase MH bulbs designed with a safety feature (such as GE Sat-T-Gard or Sylvania Safeline) that causes the bulb to burn out immediately if the outer envelope ruptures. OR purchase fixtures that shield the bulb in protective tempered glass.

HID's come in many sizes, but generally, use only 400 and 1,000 watt sized lamps. The largest size (1,500 watts) is not recommended because of its relatively short bulb life. Sizes less than 400 watts do not return as much marijuana considering set-up costs and ease of operation. The only exceptions are certain "self-contained" mini-units of 150 and 175 watts (see 4.1). These mini-self-contained units have a horizontal fixture and built-in ballast, which is easy to set up. The horizontal fixture directs up to 45 percent more light to the plants than conventional, vertically positioned lamps with reflectors. The intense light encourages excellent growth and bud formation with modest electrical consumption. They are the best overall light system for small, personal gardens such as closet set-ups.

Position 400 watt HID lamps 18 to 30 inches above plant tops, and 1,000 watt lamps 30 to 42 inches above the tops. During flowering, flowers may "run" rather than form in compact buds if lamps are positioned too close to the plant tops, particularly when using HPS's.

Heat is the main problem with HID's, and the room must be well-ventilated. Use exhaust fans to draw heat out of the room. The fan doesn't need to be large, just active enough to create a strong, ventilating draft.

Light Balancers

Sophisticated gardeners use light balancers which employ a small motor to move reflectors and HID lamps held on tracks or mechanical arms slowly across a garden in either a linear or circular pattern {(see p. 88 Figure 38b)}. Light balances save considerable power and bulb costs because they dramatically increase the effectively illuminated garden size, while using less the 24 watts per balancer. With the lights moving on a balancer, all of the garden becomes equally illuminated for modest running costs. Instead of adding another 1,000 watt HID, a light balancer increases the garden size without measurably increasing power consumption, an important consideration when electricity consumption or costs are of concern.

With multi-bulb HID gardens, use one MH to each HPS lamp on a light balancer, and hang the lamps about one foot closer to the plant tops than usual. MH's favour blue light, and HPS's produce more orange-red light. By combining the two, the spectrum is more balanced, and you'll get a better return of well-formed buds.

Low Cost HID Systems

By far, the most efficient and effective set-up for a modest artificial light garden is to use fluorescent lamps set on a long photoperiod for germination, growing seedlings or to raise clones; use another room,, or part of the room separated by a light-tight curtain or barrier, for flowering with (HPS) lamps in horizontal reflectors kept on a short photoperiod to induce and promote flowering.

For example, separate and average sized room into two growing areas by hanging an opaque curtain to block light between the two sections. In the smaller area, grow seedling or clones (see 18.5) for two to six weeks under fluorescent set on a constant light. In the larger section, keep HPS lamp(s) on a 12-hour light cycle for flowering. Move larger seedlings under the HPS lamp(s) for about 9 to 15 weeks to initiate and complete flowering. Meanwhile, start more seedling under fluorescent. It's easy to maintain both sections of the room be constantly replenishing either area with new plants. This setup is very productive for a modest investment in both costs and labour – no time or costly light and electricity is wasted on empty space, and you'll find yourself continuously harvesting mature buds.

{A no frills setup with an HID. Notice that the ballast is insulated from the floor with pieces of wood; the fixture is supported by rope and not the electric cord; plastic protects the floor; there is a timer, a reflector, and fan.} {Figure 34 and 35 for light-output from two and four 40 watt white fluorescent and comparing effectiveness in footcandles.} Using this setup, the initial long photoperiod and small area necessary for seedlings or clones is illuminated cheaply by fluorescent. Seedlings grow, and cuttings root, better under fluorescent than HPS's. The larger, more costly flowering section is kept under a short photoperiod of 12 hours of daily light and the strong red light is necessary for good flowering.

For example, the whole operation could draw less then 650 watts: 160 watts by four, four-foot fluorescent set on constant light to start the seedlings; one 400 watt HPS set on 12 hours daily light for flowering; two timers and a venting fan for automating the lights and controlling heat. It's possible to harvest four to six, fully mature crops each year, or continuously harvest. (See Mel Frank's new Marijuana Grower's Insider Guide by RED EYE PRESS for much more information on efficient, low cost, indoor systems and greenhouse gardening.)

Setting up the Garden

Under artificial light, marijuana grows from three to sic feet in three months, so the height of the light must be easy to adjust. Fixtures can be hung from the ceiling, shelves, walls, or from a simple frame constructed for the purpose. If you are hanging the lights from the walls or ceiling, screw hooks directly into a stud. Studs are located in every room corner and are spaced 16, 18 or 24 inches apart. Light can be supported from lathing using wingbolts, but plaster is too weak to hold a fixture unless a wooden strip held by several wingbolts is attached to the walls or ceiling first to distribute the pressure. Then hang the fixture from a hook in the strip. Closets have hooks and shelves or clothes rungs that are usually sturdy enough to support the fixture. People have gardens under loft beds.

Chains are the easiest means of raising and lowering fixtures. Two chains can be suspended from a solid support from above, and attached to an "S" hook at each end of the fixture. Raise the fixture by inching the hooks to higher links on the chain. Or tie rope to the fixture, pass through an eye hook or pulley in the ceiling or frame, and tie-off at a hook or boat cleat anchored in the wall or frame.

You can also hang the lights permanently and lower plants on a shelf or plywood. The shelf could be suspended or lowered by supporting the shelf with progressively smaller block. This arrangement is often used in "growing factories" where plants are rotated to larger gardens and grow for only a few weeks in each space. One garden may have fluorescent for starting plants and another garden for maturing plants under HID's. With HID's and skylights, lowering the plants may be your best option. Use lightweight soil components or hydroponics rather than heavier soil, and the operation is easier.

If you plan to use six or more fluorescent, remove end sockets and ballasts from fixtures. Mount end sockets and tubes on a frame of one-by-twos or plywood. Space sockets so tubes cover the garden evenly (see Figure 37 and 38). This arrangement illuminates the garden more evenly and drastically reduces the suspended weight since ballasts make up most of a fixture's weight. Keep ballasts off floors and away from water. Mount the ballasts on a nearby wall or on a wooden box. Wet ballasts could actually explode, and at best, are electrically dangerous when wet.

Always buy fixtures with reflectors. For HID's, companies make their own reflectors, but the best reflectors are for horizontally positioned lights no matter which company. Horizontal reflectors focus much more useable light than either parabolic or cone reflectors. HPS's can work in any position, but MH lamps are made to work in either a horizontal or vertical position, and you must buy bulbs that correspond with the fixtures.

For fluorescents, you can make an overhead reflector from the cardboard cartons in which tubes and fixtures are packaged. Cut off the end flaps and form the cardboard into a "U". Face inner side with aluminium foil or paint them white. Leave enough space so the foil or cardboard does not contact end sockets. Staple or tape the reflector behind the tubes to the fixture or from to reflect light toward the plants.

Surround all garden with reflective surfaces, but not so tightly that air can't freely circulate. Even in window gardens, reflective sheets set adjacent to the plants make a marked difference in growth. When artificial lights are high, reflectors from the floor on up keep lower branches actively growing. Mylar, with its mirror-finish, is popular for facing walls. A flat white paint (super or decorator white) reflects better than glossy white or aluminium foil. Flat white has about three percent more reflecting capacity than aluminium foil, and reflects light more uniformly. The difference is slight, so use whatever means is most convenient. Paint walls that border the garden a flat white or cover them with aluminium, mylar, or white plasterboard. {Figure 36. Reflectors can be made from sturdy paper faced with aluminium foil. Make them with staples, tape, or tacks. Figure 37.}

Natural-light gardens also benefit from reflectors. Make them out of cardboard painted white or faced with aluminium foil. Once the plants are past the seedling stage, surround them with reflectors; otherwise only one side of the plants will be fully illuminated.

Covering the floor with a plastic dropcloth (about $1 at any hardware store) will protect your flor and your neighbour's ceiling from possible water damage.

Marijuana grows well in a dry atmosphere, but heated or air-conditioned homes are sometimes too dry during germination and early growth. Enclosing the garden in reflectors will contain some of the moisture and insure a healthy humidity. White sheet plastic is available to enclose open gardens. Do not completely enclose the garden. Leave some open spaces at the bottom, top and ends of the garden to allow air to circulate. Air circulation will become more important as the plants grow larger.

Don't rely on training your pets to stay out of the garden. The garden will attract them, and they can easily destroy young plants by chewing on leaves and stems. Soil is more natural to their instincts than the sidewalk or kitty litter. Protect the garden from pets and toddlers; surround it with white plastic or chicken wire. Large plants are more sturdy and animals can do them little harm. The jungle ambience and an occasional leaf are irresistible to most cats, and they'll spend hours in the garden.

Electricity

For most growers, the amount of electricity used is of little concern. A four-tube, regular-output, eight-foot fixture draws about 320 watts per hour or about the same as a colour TV. The cost increase to your electric bill will be about two to six dollars a month, depending on local rates.

Farmers who devote entire basements or attics to their gardens are sometime restricted by the amount of current they can draw. Older homes or apartments may have only one 15-ampere circuit but more often have two, for 30 amperes total. Newer homes have either 60 or 100 amperes available through four to six circuits. One 15-ampere circuit can safely accommodate three, two-tube VHO fixtures or six tubes for 1,290 watts, or 16 regular-output, eight-foot tubes for about 1,280 watts total. This allows for a 20 percent safety margin of circuit capacity, which is necessary considering heat loss, starting voltages, etc.

In kitchen and basements the circuits may be rated higher, at either 20 or 30 amperes. You can find out the amperage of the circuit by looking at the fuse rating on the face of the fuse. Determine what room or rooms each circuit is feeding by removing the fuse and seeing which outlets are not working. The wattage capacity of any circuit is found by multiplying volts time amps. Standard United States voltage is 110 to 120 volts.

Fluorescent light fixtures are sometimes sold unwired or without a line cord, and the job is left to you. Follow the diagram on the ballast which shows the wires marked by their colour. Simply attach the wires to the sockets as diagrammed. New sockets have small holes which automatically make contact when the bare end of the wire is pushed into them. Older fixtures have sockets with conventional screw terminals.

Indoor gardens may have aluminium foil, chains, reflectors, and wet floors, all of which are good electrical conductors. Coupled with hanging lights, these conditions could lead to dangerous electrical shocks. Never touch a reflector, fixture, or ballast while watering or standing on a damp floor. Eliminate the chance of serious shocks altogether by turning off the lights whenever you work in the garden. An HID ballast on a damp floor is very dangerous. Raise HID ballasts on wood blocks off the floor.

Reduce the risk of dangerous shocks by using fixtures grounded to the power source. A fixture with a three-pronged plug connected to a three-wire outlet is grounded in a properly wired house. You can also ground a fixture by connecting a #12 or #14 gauge wire to any bare metal screw (not an electric terminal) on the fixture housing to the screw that holds the cover plate on the electrical outlet your using.

{With two prong outlets, connect an adaptor plug with a terminal (top left) or third wire (top right) from the plug to the screw that holds the cover plate. This converts two-wire outlets to three wire grounded systems when a three-wire electric cord is used, an important electrical safeguard which grounds the light system.}

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