Metal HaSide Systems

The metal halide HID lamp is the most efficient source of artificial white light available to growers today. It comes in 175, 250,400, 1000, 1100, and 1500-watt sizes. They may be either clear or phosphor coated, and all require a special ballast. The smaller 175 or 250-watt halides are very popular for closet grow rooms. The 400, 1000 and 1100-watt bulbs are very popular with most indoor growers. The 1500-watt halide is avoided due to its relatively short 2000 to 3000 hour life and incredible heat output. American growers generally prefer the larger 1000-watt lamps, and Europeans almost exclusively favor 400-watt metal halide lamps.

The main metal halide manufacturers include General Electric (Multivapor), Osram/Sylvania (Metalarc) and Westinghouse (Metal Halide), Iwasaki (Eye), Venture (SunMaster), and Philips (Son Agro). Each manufacturer makes a super halide which fits and operates in standard halide ballasts and fixtures. Super metal halides produce about 15 percent more lumens than standard halides. Super halides cost a few dollars more than standards but are well worth the money.

SunMaster, a division of Venture Lighting, has developed new horticultural metal halide bulbs. The new bulbs are brighter and provide a spectrum better suited to plant growth. Growers prefer the Warm Deluxe bulbs. Check out their web site:

Clear halides are most commonly used by indoor growers. Clear super metal halides supply the bright lumens for plant growth. Clear halides work well for seedling, vegetative, and flower growth.

Phosphor coated 1000-watt halides give off a more diffused light and are easy on the eyes, emitting less ultraviolet light than the clear halides. They produce the same initial lumens and about 4000 fewer lumens than the standard halide and have a slightly different color spectrum. Phosphor-coated halides have more yellow, less blue and ultraviolet light. Phosphor-coated bulbs used to be popular among growers, but this trend has waned over the last ten years because they are not as bright as clear bulbs.

The 1000-watt super clear halides are the most common halides used to grow marijuana in North America. Compare energy distribution charts and lumen output of all lamps to decide which lamp offers the most light for your garden. Typically, a home grower starts with one super metal halide.

BC growers run flowering rooms 24 hours a day with hall as many ballasts. This box is made (or three transformers, capacitors, and starters to run six 1000-watt HP sodiums. Three lamps run for 12 hours; the other three lamps run for the next 12 hours.

Blues Brothers Cannabis
The switch on the top of this photo from Blues Brothers is running twelve 600-wcitt lamps in a zigzag pattern. A fan is trained on the ballasts and switch to keep them cool.

BC growers run flowering rooms 24 hours a day with hall as many ballasts. This box is made (or three transformers, capacitors, and starters to run six 1000-watt HP sodiums. Three lamps run for 12 hours; the other three lamps run for the next 12 hours.

High Pressure Sodium Bulbs

Construction and Operation

Metal halide lamps produce light by passing or arcing electricity through vaporized argon gas, mercury, thorium iodide, sodium iodide, and scandium ¡ode within the quartz arc tube. After they are in their proper concentrations in the arc tube, the characteristic bright white light is emitted. This process takes about three to five minutes. The metal halide arc system is very complex and requires a seasoning period of 100 hours operation for all of its components to stabilize. If a power surge occurs and the lamp goes out or is turned off, it will take five to fifteen minutes for the gases inside the arc tube to cool before restarting.

The outer bulb functions as a protective jacket that contains the arc tube and starting mechanism, keeping them in a constant environment as well as absorbing ultraviolet radiation. Protective glasses that Titer out ultraviolet rays are a good idea if you spend much time in the grow room, or if you are prone lo staring at the HID!

When the lamp is started, incredible voltage is necessary for the initial ionization process to take place. Turning the lamp on and off more than once a day causes unnecessary stress on the HID system and will shorten its life. It is best to start

Metal Halide Bulbs the lamp only once a day, and always use a timer.

The metal halides operate most efficiently in a vertical ± 15-degree position (see diagram above). When operated in positions other than ± 15-degrees of vertical, lamp wattage, lumen output, and life decrease; the arc bends, creating non-uniform heating of the arc tube wall, resulting in less efficient operation and shorter life. There are special lamps made to operate in the horizontal or any other position other than ± 15 degrees (see diagram above). These bulbs have "HOR" stamped on the crown or base which refers to horizontal.

Lumen Maintenance and Life

The average life of a halide is about 12,000 hours, almost two years of daily operation at 18 hours per day. Many will last even longer. The lamp reaches the end of its life when it fails to start or come up to full brilliance. This is usually caused by deterioration of lamp electrodes over time, loss of transmission of the arc tube from blackening or shifts in the chemical balance of the metals in the arc tube. Do not wait until the bulb is burned out before changing it. An old bulb is inefficient and costly. Replace bulbs every 10-12 months or 5000 hours. Electrode deterioration is greatest during start-up. Bulbs are cheap! Throw another one in, and you will be happy!

The halide may produce a stroboscope (flashing) effect. The light will appear bright, then dim, bright, dim, etc This flashing is the result of the arc being extinguished 120 times every second. Illumination usually remains constant, but it may pulsate a little. This is normal and nothing to worry about.

Metal Halide Ballasts

Read "About Ballasts." The ballast for a 1000-watt halide will operate standard, clear, and phosphor-coated and super, clear, and phosphor-coated halides on a 120 or 240-volt current. Different ballasts are required for each lamp wattage; 150, 250, 400, 1000, 1100, and 1500. The ballast for each wattage will operate all halides (super or standard, clear or phosphor coated) of the same wattage. Each ballast must be specifically designed for the 150, 250, 400, 1000, II00, or 1500-watt halides, because their starting and operating requirements are unique.

Metal Halide Bulbs

Universal metal halide bulbs designed to operate in any position, vertical or horizontal, supply up to ten percent less light and often have a shorter life,

SunMaster Warm Deluxe Grow Lamps emit balanced light similar to a 3000 Kelvin source. The enhanced orange-red component promotes flowering, stem elongation, and germination while a rich blue content assures healthy vegetative growth.

Venture manufactures the AgroSun lor Hydrofarm. It is an enhanced metal halide bulb with more yellow/orange in the spectrum. To find out more about this lamp, hit the site

Continue reading here: High Pressure Sodium Systems

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