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I've been hoping to find advice on the internet about what to do for my planned 6'x8' basement system. But I keep having the nagging feeling that I'm being sold a product, which makes me skittish.

My basement room has no windows, so I'm concerned about having to provide all the light and I'm concerned about getting the plants enough light without creating undue amounts of heat or consuming lots of energy.

One article I saw made a good case for metal halide, but I'm not sure how many units I'll need (currently planning to use 3 50 gallon Rubbermaid sheep tank (31"x52" oblong) as ebb and flow grow beds. Or 1 sheep tank ebb and flow with 6 floating raft systems in black plastic concrete mixing troughs (3'x2' each).

The units will be arranged in a "U" configuration, so I figure I'll need at least three light units...

Here are crude sketches of the top-down view and the side view (kind of). It's going to be a modified CHOP system, where I use staggered durso siphons to prevent the water in the fish tanks from getting too low. I know I don't need 300 gallons worth of tank/fish to nourish 150 gallons/30 ft^2 of grow bed, but I do need 350 gallons of tank so that should all power go off no water escapes the system...


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Meg, I am have a similar setup to you, a dark basement.

 

Currently, I just have a couple of cheap shop lights. I can get things to grow, but it's all kinda leggy, reaching, and a bit pale colored.

 

I was thinking of putting some t5 florescents over the flood and drain beds to replace my shop lights.

 

The spot I am struggling with is the towers I am thinking of putting along two basement walls. I will have one 3 foot wide area for a couple of towers, and a 6 foot wide area for some more towers. I am also probably going to set a tomato between each of the towers on the floor.

 

My thoughts are to hang HIDs up between the ceiling joists as high as I can get them. This is likely to trap heat, so I am going to have to make metal boxes that I can run a fan into, and blow the heat out of the fixture. I am also thinking of sitting on the reflector to egg shape it so I get more spread along the wall. I am thinking that hanging the light slightly in front of the towers instead of right over the top, and tipping it toward the towers would help get more light to the bottom of the towers.

 

I would use the HIDs to help heat the basement some in the winter. The towers would be modular and portable, so come AC season, they get pulled out of the basement and set up outside. No hot HIDs in the basement for the summer months.

 

I may run a duct from one of the HIDs down to a sump and play with heating the water, or conversely, run a leg from the water pump to the HID light and heat the water that way - I'd probably put in an electronic water valve so I can prevent the water from getting too hot. The current aquarium heaters would just be pickup heaters for at night.

 

Thoughts?

I don't have alot of money, so if Im growing something then it has to make economic sense. I have used the T5 2 bulb lights from lowes they cost me 9 buck  each and cheap to run. I got 8 of them and I can adjust them as needed. Some I put right down on the new seedlings to give them a good start other I have higher for the tall plants. It makes it nice to be able to adjust each set on the needs of the plants and much cheaper to run.
First you gotta post what plants you want to grow. Personally, I like HID so I would go with 2 x 400w or 2, 1000w MH depending on crop, temperature, and budget. Put them on a light mover (Light rail) with a double light bar and it would cover the area great. Depending on temps in your basement, you might use an inline fan to draw heat outside and control humidity.
If were talking doing this on a tight budget and you stick to leafy greens and herbs, you can just pop 4, $10 40w flourescents over each bed and keep the bulbs as close as possible(4" at least" to the plants. Cool thing about flouros is that the lettuces can gorw right up into the bulbs and it isnt hot enough to burn the leaves. Higher light plants take more intensity though.

The budget is tight, hence the current usage of a couple of shop lights & the desire to recycle as much energy as possible. The basement seems to want to run in the high 50s to mid 60s year round now that I tweaked the cold air return so the AC doesn't push it down to 48. (I just bought the house and it had stupid energy requirements, like no insulation in the attic in Chicago!)

 

I've got lettuce growing right now and a basil plant. I am wanting to expand that into fresh pot herbs. That should all be doable under Florescent in my current growbed.

 

My better half demanded tomatoes. So tomatoes it is. This is what's needing the HID in my basement I think. The light in the ceiling, the tomatoes on the floor.  I will put in towers or racks of NFT or something in a 'green wall' concept to maximize the light usage. The primary crop for the HIDs would be tomatoes though. I want to have a bit of flexibility with what I grow.

 

The HID heat would get moved around in the basement and be used to heat the house to some degree.

 

Would a 400w be enough? The grow beds would be placed & sized for the 'light cone' that the fixture creates. I don't have enough head room to put in light movers - trying to get this thing to stack up and take up only as much room as a deep bookshelf along the wall. Last time I had a HID apart, I don't remember that I could 'bend' the fixture so the ballast lays to the side rather than on top.

 

It's an old house, the breaker panel is full and of a type that I don't think I can find anymore, so I gotta make sure I don't overload the current wiring (which is also routed dumb, but that's another matter). So no new circuits and 220v isn't really an option unless I move the dryer outlet 2 rooms down. 1000w fixtures aren't really a viable option for me I don't think. Although that unused dryer outlet is looking more and more enticing the more I think of it.

Ryan said:

If were talking doing this on a tight budget and you stick to leafy greens and herbs, you can just pop 4, $10 40w flourescents over each bed and keep the bulbs as close as possible(4" at least" to the plants. Cool thing about flouros is that the lettuces can gorw right up into the bulbs and it isnt hot enough to burn the leaves. Higher light plants take more intensity though.

Hi Mike.  A 400 watt HID will cover a 4' x 4' area.  You might find this chart useful if you haven't already seen it.

OK, I see the chart, what distance will that give me? I am assuming that to read this right, I get my 400 watt fixture, and I back it off away from the plants until I have a 4 foot square 'circle of light'. This would be the correct distance from the light to the plants taking into account the amount of light that the 400 watt light produces. A higher wattage light gives me a further distance away from the plants, correct?

 

My current plans are to get a Mercury Vapor yard light / parking light. The square fixtures that are mounted on the side. The bulb is horizontal. Is this a bad style of fixture to get? It's the only one I've found that I can 'hide' in my suspended ceiling basement and not have it hang below the tiles. I will need to run a fan to cool it in that space, of course.


Sylvia Bernstein said:

Hi Mike.  A 400 watt HID will cover a 4' x 4' area.  You might find this chart useful if you haven't already seen it.

Hi Mike. Yes, that is how to read the chart. Just be sure that whatever you get can actually accept bulbs with a plant growing spectrum.  Can a yard/ parking lot light do that?  Otherwise you can have all sorts of great wattage but if it isn't the right spectrum you won't get the results you are looking for.
I think a 400w will be enough for what you are trying to do but youre not going to want to mount it in the ceiling, it will be too far away. Light decreases by something like 50% every foot you get away from the bulb (it's been a while since ive taken readings with a light meter but from memory this seems about right). If you want to do that, you would need something bigger like a 1000w. I would attach some light hangers to the ceiling and then drop the light down to be 2' off of the canopy of the plants. It would be different if you were using this as supplimental lighting say in a greenhouse but since this is the only light source, it's got to be strong enough when it reaches the plants. This is one of those times that asthetics goes against functionality.
Just thought I would chime in here really quick, I know this is an old thread but I came across it when I was searching google for something entirely different.

The coverage areas above are MAX numbers and are not suppose to represent the HID when used as a "primary" light source ... the coverage area is then about a size/color lower on the chart.

For example I have seen it suggested a for a 4x4 as primary source of light to use a 600w when growing fruiting vegetables or 400w when only growing leafy green vegetables.

Also if you go with MH you will eventually need to use a more red spectrum light if this is the only light source. HPS apparently can be used by itself if stated it has been "adjusted" to have more blue light spectrum.

Given this was originally posted in Jan 2011 what did you end up going with?

I ended up going with 216 watts in a 4-bulb T-5 system. It works OK, but I've since decided to build a small (8'x12') greenhouse in my yard.

 

My small group of tilapia (for which I needed to have an indoor system) have almost all passed - not sure of the exact cause. In the mean time, I've found that I can do bream and catfish just fine outside, so I think I'll just dismantle my indoor system over time, as I get my outdoor greenhouse up and running. I'll plan to manage stuff so I can reconstitute the indoor garden during the winter months, when I won't much care to deal with the outdoor garden on a daily basis. Even if my small 3'x5' indoor system doesn't produce much food, it's still fun having fresh leafy greens in the dead of winter - without driving to the store or having to venture outside.

 

Here's the layout I'm planning to go with [Final Greenhouse Design] and here's a post that has a link with instructions on building an outdoor system [More Greenhouse Fun].

 


Burton Rosenberger said:

Just thought I would chime in here really quick, I know this is an old thread but I came across it when I was searching google for something entirely different.

The coverage areas above are MAX numbers and are not suppose to represent the HID when used as a "primary" light source ... the coverage area is then about a size/color lower on the chart.

For example I have seen it suggested a for a 4x4 as primary source of light to use a 600w when growing fruiting vegetables or 400w when only growing leafy green vegetables.

Also if you go with MH you will eventually need to use a more red spectrum light if this is the only light source. HPS apparently can be used by itself if stated it has been "adjusted" to have more blue light spectrum.

Given this was originally posted in Jan 2011 what did you end up going with?
Nice plan for the new system.  Happy times ahead

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