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    Shadbot 4.20 Shadimar's Avatar

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    Question Dimmable ballast with lower wattage bulb?

    Hello guys,

    I have a 400w bulb right now in a veg section, I'd like to toss the old refurbished warehouse light ballast in favor of a modern digital ballast.. however given that the ballasts are quite similar in cost it has also occurred to me that a 600w dimable ballast at the 75% setting will hit a lamp with 450w.

    I've got plenty of 400s laying around so I'm not concerned if it would reduce the life by a small amount, I'm just planning ahead and thinking that I might one day want a 600w lamp filling that function and with an extra 50 watts I would imagine this would be similar to the supercharge setting on some ballasts.

    I'm quite happy with the digi I bought 5 years ago so the issue here is using a 400w bulb getting 450w from a 600w digi ballast at 75% power.

    What do you guys think about it?
    Last edited by Shadimar; 08-02-2012 at 06:44 PM.
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    Shadinated skunk-mad's Avatar

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    I think you would have no problems, if I recall the extra boost lumens switch gives a 10% boost so pushing a 600w to give out 660w so running it at the 75% mark should work fine with a 400w bulb. I've been looking at digital.s for awhile & will be my next upgrade after tomorrow when I add a Sputnik2 cooled reflector.

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    Shadbot 4.20 Shadimar's Avatar

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    That's what I'm thinking, too.

    Thanks for chiming in
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  4. #4
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    let me know if heat is lowered along with the watts,we use dimmers all over the house,and I can tell in the summer when they are at full light by how much heat is in that room,so sounds right to me also,keep us informed,you may be on to something cool,lol,pun intended,peace

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    Shadbot 4.20 Shadimar's Avatar

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    I think I'm going to go ahead and buy the 600w dimmable digi.

    First I'll try it out at 75% with a 400w bulb (and resist any temptation to crank it up to full "just for a sec") and then it will replace my old 600w magnetic ballast.

    If it performs well with the 400 then I'll buy another digi for it a little later down the road.

    Thanks for the opinions, guys
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    Shadinated skunk-mad's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadimar View Post
    I think I'm going to go ahead and buy the 600w dimmable digi.

    First I'll try it out at 75% with a 400w bulb (and resist any temptation to crank it up to full "just for a sec") and then it will replace my old 600w magnetic ballast.

    If it performs well with the 400 then I'll buy another digi for it a little later down the road.

    Thanks for the opinions, guys
    Let me know which you go with but i think i have only seen lumatek digi ballast,s with the dimmable feature. this will be my next purchase so i,ll be interested in how they perform and more importantly if there is a reduced running cost?

    Best of luck

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    Shadbot 4.20 Shadimar's Avatar

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    Well one thing to remember if you plan to use a 600w in a dimmable ballast is that as you turn it down the output is going to change and your lamp will be emitting a different spectrum of light than it would at full power.

    In this case I want to use a 400w bulb and just hit it harder than normal so I don't expect any giant changes.

    The digital ballast I plan on is made by Digital Greenhouse. This is the same brand I bought 5 years ago however I'm betting that the model with the dimmer has had other improvements making it the better option in a similar way that a computer today is going to be better that a typical computer from the 1990s

    They do put out much much less sound, all you hear is the little fan whirring away. And although I know it does put out heat, you'll never feel it get hot and the air it blows out feels barely above room temp.

    Not to mention it doesn't have a huge hunk of metal inside so the weight reduction is almost dramatic

    Quote Originally Posted by skunk-mad
    Best of luck
    Thanks
    Last edited by Shadimar; 08-04-2012 at 06:41 PM.
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    The spectral shift vs output works both ways. There's also the shift with lifespan, which you'll be ramming it towards the end in a hurry by overdriving it.

    Votlage requirements for HPS increase as it ages and there's a specific window within which they're rated to operate. If you're using an old bulb already, that naturally has a higher voltage requirement, and trying to drive 10% harder still.... who knows. A decent ballast design should never let you do that, as it risks a runaway mode of operation whereby the amalgum is fully evaporated, with the risk of catastrophic failure.

    I would not screw this, especially with old bulbs, as a 600W ballast will be designed to drive a 600W bulb and therefor its control and built in protection that it must have in order to avoid a fire or having it blow up in your face will be far exceeded for a 400W bulb and effectively bypassed.

    Bluntly, it's a stupid move.

    Apart from that, you're whipping an old horse harder trying to get more out of it, when what it will do instead is lay down and die. If it doesn't blow up, you're apt to get less output instead of more.

    As per the "digital" ballasts improving over the years in the same way computers have? Not really. The electronic components that it's comprised of will have improved over the years of course, but they will still be designed to the final penny, and run to the ragged edge.

    Were that not the case and it were built robust with room to spare, you'd likely not find it all that affordable.

    But if you're just talking yourself into a purchase.... have at er.

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    Shadbot 4.20 Shadimar's Avatar

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    So then you think the extra 50w will be excessive then?

    It has a 300w setting as well.
    Last edited by Shadimar; 08-05-2012 at 04:17 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadimar View Post
    So then you think the extra 50w will be excessive then?

    It has a 300w setting as well.
    I think it has the potential to be extremely dangerous since voltage requirements for the bulbs are variable, proportional to their rated life/health, and designed to remain within a specific window for the duration of its lifespan, steadily increasing as it ages towards its max designed limit. It's only up to the ballast to know to limit it safely.

    Configured for a 600W bulb, it is defeating any inbuilt protection and control limits that is specifically intended to prevent a catastrophic bulb failure, by giving it a much wider window than the bulb is designed to tolerate, because obviously 600W>400W.

    It would be a bit like defeating the pressure relief valve on a hot water heater while driving more power to the elements, as the bottom is rusting out. It might work for a little while, but you are going to regret it in a big way at some point very soon.

    It's a recipe for a sure disaster. We absolutely do not know enough about the ballast design to be able to make an educated guess as to whether or not this is an acceptable risk, but the fact that it's not rated for say 300W "to" 600W, or automatic load detecting, should tell you something; it's not designed to be used that way and isn't smart enough to cope with it safely. You give those cheap chinese electronics far too much credit where your life is at risk.

    Furthermore we really can't know how well the ballast is actually designed, and the safe bet is to assume not very at all. How gracefully, or catastrophically it would handle such a bulb failure. Even if it is protected against it, can the protection actually be relied on? It's really not uncommon for protection circuitry to be unreliable, particularly beyond a one time application. If they think they can save 10 cents in that area because they, perhaps wrongly, assume you will use it within specification, it's not their family that burns. When it comes to such protection there's also a saying to never underestimate the ingenuity of user stupidity. However it usually is the case to overlook such things because it's unreasonable to attempt to guard against everything and ultimately, you never can, while attempting to would jack the cost unreasonably.

    In fact I could even find you the benchmark review for the smps in my computer that describes a potential catastrophic failure mode due to faulty overcurrent protection. I took an educated risk that it will never ever be overloaded that way and so it will never be called upon. I use just a small fraction of it's actual potential. Mind you, that's not to say that nothing will ever short out on it. BTW, that is a very high quality, and otherwise very well designed supply.

    That's all besides the point though because with a catastrophic bulb failure you've got problems enough already! The last thing you want are glowing shards sucked through a carbon filter.

    This is really very deadly territory in my opinion because you might try it and it will in fact most likely work at first. Failure won't be immediate and you might be inclined to think it's okay. It isn't. It might take an hour, or maybe ten or a hundred, but it will fail in a nasty way, and then we'll be hearing about yet another grow op fire that placed children and communities at risk... ya kno?

    It's our responsibility to use our well maintained equipment within rated specification, as intended, in order to prevent this type of situation that makes us all look bad. It's an extreme risk with no benefit.

    BTW, there are other unaccounted factors as well. With these BS cheap chinese electronics it's very unlikely to produce a proper user specification that would even allow you to make an educated guess if you knew what to look for. We don't know what the line regulation is like for example. Will a 10% increase in mains potential directly translate to a 10% output increase? or 0.1%.. for what range of frequencies does that hold true, etc. It's important to realize that even if they did produce such specifications to guide ourselves by, their design, manufacturing and quality control are of such questionable nature that they can't be at all relied upon. We're talking bottom of the barrel stuff here and that's what you can reasonably expect from it.

    That 10% "boost" farce is a bit of a joke because it's just going to reduce the life of the bulb while likely driving the output down. All it's likely to boost is the power usage and operating cost. It's only likely to survive it with a proper cut off at a specific voltage for that power rating which it's designed for, so it's not an apples vs apples situation at all. If it provides any actual output "boost" at all in terms of light output, it would only be for a new bulb and for a short time.

    If your plants are that hart up for such a fractional and fleeting improvement in lighting then there really needs to be a more intelligent way of going about it and with better results. That is not a proper solution, but a sales gimmick that is a good unique sales feature, until everyone else copies it and the next thing you know everybody wants it because they don't understand what it's actually doing and for no other reason than they offer it.

    So my recommendation would be absolutely do not try what you were thinking of, and if you get a ballast that's rated for 300W and 600W lamps, use the appropriate bulb for those settings. At least then if it fails horribly, we know exactly who to blame.

  11. #11
    Shadbot 4.20 Shadimar's Avatar

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    Alright then, considering you took the time to type all that I won't try it.
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    Chillzpls is right Shad, I run accross papers I got with my lumatek 600 and right under the big red letters that says important! it says "ensure you use the proper wattage lamp, A 400 watt halide lamp should not be used in a 600 watt ballast"
    keep smilin

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    OK guys, I ordered it last night.

    Regular digi ballast, no dial.
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    Shadbot 4.20 Shadimar's Avatar

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    I'm curious now,

    The required voltage increases as the lamp ages, correct?

    So we should be able to gauge the voltage being used via the magnetic field generated and thus determine the bulb's lifespan unless I'm mistaken.

    It seems to me that if it works then someone else should have thought of it by now so don't be afraid to tell me why it doesn't work if that is the case

    Any comments by an electrician? Already got one from a plumber
    Last edited by Shadimar; 08-09-2012 at 06:14 PM.
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    What'd the plumber tell you

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    Shadbot 4.20 Shadimar's Avatar

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    The plumber is T&G, he didn't comment on the electromagnetic reading.
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    Plumber says he knows shit about electrical lol in trade school we were taught that homotrons were the ones that blew the fuses

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    If you want voltage it would be a far more direct method to measure the electrical field, whereas to indirectly derive it via magnetic field readings would be far more problematic, requiring knowledge of other parameters that you're not going to have.

    You should not even think about attempting to measure the voltage yourself because doing so safely and accurately requires controlled lab conditions, equipment and skills. Without that the best you can hope for is a reading of little to no significance.

    It's also too dangerous to be fumbling with. For example, the ignitor pulse transients, of thousands of volts and very short duration will fry any meter you throw at it and if your hands are holding the probes when it happens might take your heart with it.


    But ANSI defines the end of life voltage for HPS bulbs that ballasts must comply to. If your ballast complies with the ANSI standard, which it must, then you'll know it has reached end of life voltage once it starts cycling the bulb constantly.

    At that point it will be down to about 80% to 85% output. You might like to replace it before then, say at about 3/4 the rated hours, where the output will still be around 85 to 90%. You might like to replace it at half the rated hours.

    It should be said that a "smart" "digital" ballast worth its price should have no issue monitoring bulb health accurately and optimizing for it. This is obviously desirable information and operation modes for grow lights. But it would increase the cost and they would charge you above and beyond what its worth just for the luxury aspect of the feature.

    The reality is that the market is more drawn toward super turbo boost kill bulb blinky light shiny thing with dimmer feature, that's as competitively priced as every other piece of junk, vs say having to pay 50% more for a smart ballast that monitors the life and condition of the bulb so that you know your setup is optimal and you're getting what you expect out of it.

    Alternatively, buy or make yourself a light meter that will allow you to monitor bulb health over time yourself, and be of far more use in optimizing your grow space, without any risk of heart fibrillation.

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    Shadbot 4.20 Shadimar's Avatar

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    Umm yeah, needless to say no one suggested poking a fork in the toaster.

    Hence the use of the generated magnetic field as guidepost.
    Last edited by Shadimar; 08-10-2012 at 10:15 PM.
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    Were it needless to say I'd not have bothered. You realized that, but you don't realize what bright ideas others reading this might get.

    You can measure current that way, but not voltage.

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    Shadbot 4.20 Shadimar's Avatar

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    Well then I'll just buy the clamp meter and see what it reads from ballast to ballast and bulb to bulb in order to gauge the feasibility of determining bulb life.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadimar View Post
    Hello guys,

    I have a 400w bulb right now in a veg section, I'd like to toss the old refurbished warehouse light ballast in favor of a modern digital ballast.. however given that the ballasts are quite similar in cost it has also occurred to me that a 600w dimable ballast at the 75% setting will hit a lamp with 450w.

    I've got plenty of 400s laying around so I'm not concerned if it would reduce the life by a small amount, I'm just planning ahead and thinking that I might one day want a 600w lamp filling that function and with an extra 50 watts I would imagine this would be similar to the supercharge setting on some ballasts.

    I'm quite happy with the digi I bought 5 years ago so the issue here is using a 400w bulb getting 450w from a 600w digi ballast at 75% power.

    What do you guys think about it?
    I think stick with the 400. If you increase to 600 you'll increase consumption. That said, a more productive veg cycle is required for a good bloom, but I use 350 LED in veg, 600 seems pretty humungous. Also, dialing down the light to a 450 won't necessarily lead to longer or even equal bulb life. I have a digital ballast, but I've stopped dialing up or down. I play it safe and cheap and put it on the required standard setting, 400, or 600, no Super Lumens or any crap. That way, everything works to spec and things are more predictable. I'm presuming if things are set to spec, then fire marshals will be pleased, the engineers who made the bulb are happy, and I have peace of mind.

    If you want more productivity, but roughly same electricity, you could use 600 in veg, but go on a 12-1 schedule rather than an 18-6 or 24-0, whatever. The 12-1 and 600 watts MH if there is such a thing in MH, would make them explode in rich thick vegetation, I am guessing. But the 600 IS hot so beware.
    Last edited by Rickkus; 02-06-2013 at 01:57 AM.

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    Hi, Rick

    I ended up ordering a non-dimmable 400w digi, and the day it arrived the old warehouse ballast burned out. What timing, eh?

    I switched the hood that came with it for one in flower and put that one over the veg area running 12/0 with a CFL and part of the time shoplights running 24/0 to prevent flowering while using less energy to grow.

    I've melted skin on both arms via an uncooled 400 MH, offhand I think they have to get much hotter than sodium to funtion. As I said, the skin wasn't burned so much as it was just instantly melted like weak plastic.

    You may notice earlier in this thread Chillzpls posted several long pieces of information telling me not to do it, and with that much effort going into to I presumed he wasn't just screwing around with me, and so I took his advice and did nothing unusual.

    Thanks, Rick

    -Shad
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    hmm that shoots that idea in the foot!

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    theres that and the manufacturer's instructions state "only use a 600wt bulb in a 600wt balast"....
    hope this sheds some light on the topic... sorry I just had to say that

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