Best HID Ballast for Plant Growing – Why You Need and How to Buy

Introduction

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HID (High Intensity Discharge) lamps have been existed for centuries and become more and more popular due to the superior performance. However, this kind of light requires a high amount of power to turn on, then quickly reduces the power needed to maintain its operation after being turned on.

Ballast is an electric device that is used to regulate the amount of power that goes to lights, especially HID lamps. For gardeners, growing indoor plants without this device might lead to one of these two issues: either the light will fail to work or it will explode. Thus, investing in the best HID ballast is the key, and this guide will help you do that.

There is a wide range of products available on the market today, and below I have reviewed 5 of the very best options.

**Below, you will find more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices and read customer reviews on Amazon.

Why Should You Use a HID Ballast?

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If you are growing indoor plants with lights, using a ballast is a must. Here are some reasons why you should use a good HID ballast for your grow lights:

Power Control

Unlike a power supply that provides a constant flow of power, a HID ballast gives the right amount of power which is enough to start the lamps/bulbs and keep them running properly. The special thing is that you can increase or decrease the power that the ballast produces to fit various kind of lamps/bulbs.

Dimming Ability

Unlike analog ballasts, digital ballasts can be equipped with dimming switches that allow you to select different levels of light’s intensity at different times. So, gardeners and farmers can adjust the light they want their plants to expose during the different plant’s growing stages and life cycles.

Energy Saving

Using digital ballasts helps you save a lot of money. That’s because the HID lamps require less power to run than other kinds of bulbs, even though they’re brighter. Moreover, in comparison with analog ballasts, digital ones use 5% less power. If your greenhouse or tent has several lights, these savings are obvious.

Bulb Life Improvement

Thanks to the EOBL (End Of Life Bulb) protection, ignition failure protection, surge protection and short-circuit protection, digital ballasts protect your bulbs/lamps and help them last as long as possible. By considering how much you spend on the lights, you’ll see how useful digital ballasts are.

How to Buy the Best HID Ballasts?

There are many factors that you should take into account when buying a ballast. Here are some major things that you will want to look at:

Analog or Digital

HID ballasts can be either analog or digital. While the analog type is more durable that can last for a long time, the digital one is more adjustable due to the higher level of modifications. Also, digital ballasts are generally cheaper, which makes them a great choice if you need many grow lights or reflectors to hook up. They’re quieter while running as well.

Voltage

Depending on where you live, the voltage that comes from the power sources or outlets at your home will be different. For example, in the USA, people use 120V/60Hz plugs, but in the UK and Australia, 230V/50Hz is the standard. Because not all ballasts accept all the voltages, it’s crucial to buy the one that fits the power sources at your home.

Wattage

If the voltage refers to the power input, wattage implies the power output and depends on the type of bulb/lamps you’re going to connect to the ballast. Luckily, one ballast can integrate two or more wattage choices, which makes them more versatile due to the capability of fitting various types of lights. However, if you plan to use multiple lights in your garden at the same time, you may need to invest in multiple ballasts to compensate for enough light needed.

Dimmable Ability

A dimmable ballast is able to regulate the amount of power it releases to change the brightness of bulbs/lamps. Dimming is essential for indoor plants since it allows you to adjust the lights based on different plant’s growing phases and different times of the day. So, you can get the control over your plants and how they grow.

Heat Release

Ballast is an electric device with the load (resistor), which means it produces a significant amount of wasted heat while running. Some models get very hot that can even burn user’s skin. So, for the best HID ballast, you should choose the one that is housed in an aluminum casing with vents and features a built-in fan to maximize the heat dissipation.

Product Reviews – The Best HID Ballast

If dimmable digital ballasts are the standard today, this ballast simply far exceeds the standard. If you’re searching for the right device that offers you the most out of the value for light growing in greenhouse, it’s exactly what you need.

Not only does it have a five-star durability, but it also provides more wattage adjustments than any competitor, which is a clear advantage when dealing with different plant growth phases. In particular, you’ll have up to 12 wattage adjustments, ranging from 400W to 1050W, to suit any bulb, HPS and MH lamp. Simply adjust the knob and make changes with small decrement/increments.

The LCD screen allows you to access all the key parameters you need. It’s large enough. It’s also simple to read and use, letting you monitor switching hassle-freely. As a useful extra feature, the LCD will flash when you’ve reached 400W (the lowest wattage setting) or 1050W (the highest wattage setting).

In spite of owning a powerful operation, this unit works silently. Besides, it integrates advanced technologies for detecting and interrupting common electric-related issues, including lamp EOBL (End of Bulb Life), overload and voltage fluctuation.


Pros

  • 12 output wattage adjustments
  • LCD for easy control
  • Silent operation
  • Various safety features
  • 30-day money back guarantee

Cons

  • It’s heavier and bulkier than other best HID ballasts.
  • It gets pretty warm at the 1000W setting.

This ballast from the iPower is one of the best-selling models on the market thanks to its very affordable price and plenty of useful features. It’s great to use for both new and experienced indoor gardeners.

The unit is equipped with an adjustable wattage output which allows three levels of voltage, including 50%, 75% and 100% lumens, to maximize the plant growing result as well as control the power consumption. In addition, it features a microprocessor that is capable of converting between HPS and MH lamps for various bulb’s types without the need of an extra ballast or a switch.

The casing made of powder coated aluminum and designed with vents maximize the heat dissipation to help the unit stay cool while operating. But this is not all because there is a built-in 40mm DC cooling fan to make sure no overheating has the chance to damage the unit. Other safety features include a short-circuit protector, EOBL protector and ignition failure protector.

Although you can mount the unit in any configuration: vertical, horizontal or hanging, I would suggest you mount it vertically. I noticed that this configuration helps the unit stay cooler than other configurations.


Pros

  • Auto conversion between HPS and MH lamps
  • High-performance built-in cooling fan
  • Easy to use and install
  • Various safety features
  • Various mounting configurations

Cons

  • It requires installation of a separate surge protector.
  • There are several reports of its short life span.

Versatility and functionality are what make this ballast worth-trying. Besides, with a three-year warranty and a fantastic customer service (said by customers), you will have a peace of mind that your device will be able to run well for prolonged periods without worrying about stupid breakdowns.

The ballast works using either a 120V or 240V AC power supply which we call the input. It provides different levels of output, including 250W, 400W and 600W. Especially, there is a mode called Super Lumens which allows the 110%-capacity for dreary climates.

Although the ballast is compatible with numerous types of lights, it works best with MH lamps and HPS lamps. In addition, it’s fitted with reflectors made of highly reflective galvanized steel and aluminum, allowing it to enhance the bulb’s performance without triggering any increase of the power consumption.

What I love most about this ballast is its 7-day dual outlet digital time which allows me to control ventilation systems and light outputs simultaneously. The benefit here is that you don’t need any extra device to maintain the quality of air circulation in your greenhouse.

Like other best HID ballasts, this one is full of safety features, including the cooling fan, short-circuit protection, EOBL protection, overheating protection and ignition failure protection.


Pros

  • Super Lumens mode allowing 110% of capacity
  • 7-day dual outlet digital time
  • 8-foot cord for easy installation
  • Various safety features
  • Fantastic customer service

Cons

  • A few customers reported that it might stop working after several months.
  • It gets relatively hot when running at 1000W.

If you’re seeking for a compact ballast with a sleek design, then this one is exactly what you desire. As being considered as one of the smallest ballasts on the market, it’s lightweight when carrying and convenient when installing.

The ballast is easily adjustable, allowing you to produce illumination at different levels depending on your lamp or bulk requirement. In particular, it can run at 100%, 75% or 50%, and it can deal with both MH lamps and HPS lamps. Besides, you can supply the ballast various levels of voltages, ranging from 110V and 120V to 220V and 240V.

What’s else? The Random Start technology turns the unit on within only 0-15 seconds. The dimming feature is automatically activated as the unit is paired with RTU for high-temperature security. Another great thing about this ballast is that it’s very energy-efficient, which reduces 30% of the electric consumption compared to a magnetic ballast.

Last but not least, the ballast runs cool thanks to a high-performance built-in fan. In comparison with a magnetic model, it’s 75% cooler when operating at 75%. It doesn’t cause a noisy sound as well! Safety features include short-circuit protection, overheat protection and lamp failure protection


Pros

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Nice design
  • Quick start
  • Electric saving
  • Various safety features

Cons

  • A little higher price than other ballasts
  • Poor customer service

This one is a high-grade model that comes with plenty of advanced features and a high price as well (the most expensive ballast in our list). As a reward, it basically gives you the most durable and reliable choice for light plant growing.

The ballast fits all wattage settings, including 600W, 660W, 750W, 825W, 1000W and even 1100W. Like other models, you can connect it to either a 120 or 240 AC power supply. In addition, thanks to the Safe-Start Technology, the unit only starts working once all the connections are secured. In other words, it will not be powered up without a complete and proper connection.

What makes this ballast special is its internal digital timer. It’s a superb useful feature that allows you to turn on/off the ballast automatically for custom grow-cycle programming without wasting time on waiting and monitoring. Also, there is another life-bulb timer that helps you keep track of how many hours your lamps/bulbs have been used.

 I read that you need a remote (sold separately) to enable/disable the timer, but actually, you can adjust it by pushing and holding the power button while the ballast is off. However, using a remote will be much easier. Also, thanks to a built-in intuitive display, using this ballast becomes really straightforward.


Pros

  • Support all wattage settings
  • Digital timer for scheduling your growing
  • Remote and LCD screen for ease of use
  • Ignition control for safe operation

Cons

  • It’s pretty noisy while operating.
  • It’s highly expensive.

Choosing the HID Ballast for Plant Growing

Now you know how to find the best HID ballast for your plant growing. Before making a purchasing decision, you should consider your demands and budget carefully.

Personally, I would suggest you pick up the Purple Reign Apollo Horticulture Digital Dimmable Light Ballast. Not only does it have a five-star durability, but it also provides up to 12 wattage adjustments, which is larger than any competitor on the market. Besides, it’s easy to operate thanks to the LCD screen and safe to use thanks to various safety features. It works coolly and silently as well.

If you have any question, please let us know by leaving your comment in the box below. Thank you for reading!

James G. Craig
 

James G. Craig is a gardening enthusiast who splits his spare time between growing vegetables, preening his flower gardens, and blogging about his experiences at the Gardener Corner.

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