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Old 04-04-2020, 10:18   #1
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Cheap grow lights

I've been running two indoor grow chambers for salad greens for a year or so, using hydroponics. I use Jacks purchased on Amazon for my nutrients. I've been using a round LED grow lite, with an array of red blue and white bulbs in the smaller chamber, and 2 4 bulb fluorescent fixtures... bulbs around 22" T5 in the other. I recently started some dwarf tomato plants, in the fluorescent chamber, and later moved them to the LED chamber, and was surprised to see a significant increase in growth rate.


As a result I went shopping on Amzn for inexpensive LED grow lights with the idea of gradually changing the fluorescent chamber to LED. I found some made in China fixtures with about 20W total output, for about $20. They come in two panels that are each 4" wide and 10" long (approx). Each has 96 surface mount LEDs in a mix of red, blue, and green, and they can be mounted end to end or side by side. The power supply is 24VDC. They are simple aluminum plates with some medium on which the surface mount LEDs and the traces are attached. The LEDs appear to be mounted in gangs of 6 in series, so if one burns out, you will lose 6. They are impressively bright for the low wattage.


Today I will spread the two fluorescent fixtures out, and attach the 4" wide 20" long double set between. If I'm happy with this, I'll gradually replace all my fluorescent grow lights. Short bulb life is frustrating as always with fluorescents.



At 24V, this is not an optimal voltage for on board a boat, but it is doable. I don't see a realistic way to convert it to 12 volt, as the construction seems to be simply a thin insulating layer on the aluminum, copper traces, laid into it, the LEDs soldered to it by some method, and a light layer of insulating paint over the works.
2 12 volt batteries in series could drive it...solar panels wired in series with a 24 volt charge controller. A system just as a grow system. Weight is almost nothing. Batteries would not need to be much as you really only need about 12 hrs of light in a grow chamber. Direct sun would be the best, but a grow chamber might be more convenient in a place where you can't have that.
Of course the other option that perhaps makes more sense is a solar tube grow chamber. That would make sunlight available without any worry about salt spray, and be a fundamentally simpler system.



H.W.
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Old 04-04-2020, 10:25   #2
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Re: Cheap grow lights

On Amazon there are many inexpensive 12 to 24V converters, from my experience it seems if you oversized them by at least twice the power they are advertised to make, they last much longer.
I have a very efficient native 24V fan that had a wall wart, but I run off of DC through the converter.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Old 04-04-2020, 10:38   #3
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Re: Cheap grow lights

Cool!!!

What are your thoughts on aeroponics? I was thinking if giving that a shot for weight.
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Old 04-04-2020, 15:17   #4
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Re: Cheap grow lights

Quote:
Originally Posted by owly View Post
I've been running two indoor grow chambers for salad greens for a year or so, using hydroponics. I use Jacks purchased on Amazon for my nutrients. I've been using a round LED grow lite, with an array of red blue and white bulbs in the smaller chamber, and 2 4 bulb fluorescent fixtures... bulbs around 22" T5 in the other. I recently started some dwarf tomato plants, in the fluorescent chamber, and later moved them to the LED chamber, and was surprised to see a significant increase in growth rate.


As a result I went shopping on Amzn for inexpensive LED grow lights with the idea of gradually changing the fluorescent chamber to LED. I found some made in China fixtures with about 20W total output, for about $20. They come in two panels that are each 4" wide and 10" long (approx). Each has 96 surface mount LEDs in a mix of red, blue, and green, and they can be mounted end to end or side by side. The power supply is 24VDC. They are simple aluminum plates with some medium on which the surface mount LEDs and the traces are attached. The LEDs appear to be mounted in gangs of 6 in series, so if one burns out, you will lose 6. They are impressively bright for the low wattage.


Today I will spread the two fluorescent fixtures out, and attach the 4" wide 20" long double set between. If I'm happy with this, I'll gradually replace all my fluorescent grow lights. Short bulb life is frustrating as always with fluorescents.



At 24V, this is not an optimal voltage for on board a boat, but it is doable. I don't see a realistic way to convert it to 12 volt, as the construction seems to be simply a thin insulating layer on the aluminum, copper traces, laid into it, the LEDs soldered to it by some method, and a light layer of insulating paint over the works.
2 12 volt batteries in series could drive it...solar panels wired in series with a 24 volt charge controller. A system just as a grow system. Weight is almost nothing. Batteries would not need to be much as you really only need about 12 hrs of light in a grow chamber. Direct sun would be the best, but a grow chamber might be more convenient in a place where you can't have that.
Of course the other option that perhaps makes more sense is a solar tube grow chamber. That would make sunlight available without any worry about salt spray, and be a fundamentally simpler system.



H.W.
I've been wondering about growing some food on the boat. Thanks for posting the great info.
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Old 04-04-2020, 17:44   #5
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Re: Cheap grow lights

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Originally Posted by Chotu View Post
Cool!!!

What are your thoughts on aeroponics? I was thinking if giving that a shot for weight.

I've considered aeroponics, but it requires circulation, and results in evaporation, which means that you need to monitor the concentration of your solution. Not a big deal really if you have a TDS meter. A common tank, pump, lines, and a timer..... the advantage over the Kratke method, which I use, is that there really is no issue of spillage, as there is no significant quantity of liquid retained at any of the plants. The disadvantage is that if the pump goes haywire, or the pump, or any of the plumbing, you have a potential of losing everything. The Kratke method involves a container of liquid nutrient beneath the plant. You keep it a bit below the level of the net pot so the plant can develop air roots. I only mess with mine about once every week, checking the level, and adding as needed. I use those rectangular plastic containers that construction screws come in, or any other screw top container of similar capacity... You can buy them at Wmt inexpensively. They need to be wrapped in foil to keep light out, or spray painted black. I use foil as the paint seems to degrade the plastic, and I don't get great coverage anyway. If you don't, alge will grow. Last year I grew multiple plants in totes, but I think they produce better individually. It's not a perfect method, but I get good results and never mess with the solution. Occasionally I'll see evidence of an imbalance...... or think I do. I just toss the solution and put in fresh.....a crude and simple system that just works.


I've toyed with growing things like potatoes and beets using aeroponics but never got around to it. Last summer I did most of my garden using 5 gallon buckets with net pot lids.... tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini. I planted my peas and beans and radishes in soil. I'll try the peas and beans hydroponic. My radishes really didn't bulb well, and I let most of them just go. They produced pods which were immensely better than the bulbs anyway. This summer I'll be planting "rat tail" radishes only. They are grown for the long pods, and do not bulb. Radish pods are like a green bean with a bit of that sharp radish bite...not a lot, just enough to make a wonderful salad green. One of those slightly startling things in a salad that makes it exciting! Like water cress or arugula, or mustard greens.


Try it.......... any kind of hydroponics....... Jacks is cheap. Several sellers on Ebay buy it in quantity and break it down. A little bit goes a long way. I've been happy with my yields, and the fact that I don't have to till a garden or weed.



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Old 05-04-2020, 08:53   #6
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Re: Cheap grow lights

Thanks, owly!!

This is a subject of great interest to me. Seems better than having produce always going bad.

Your post makes a lot of sense too. I would imagine with aeroponics, you need to keep an entire spare system as a backup on board a boat since it's harder to get parts and the plants could dry out do easily.

How many gallons or liters of solution do you typically have onboard to grow?

Also potatoes are huge on my list. Soil only?
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Old 05-04-2020, 10:02   #7
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Re: Cheap grow lights

By the way, the delivery date for the lights is estimated at May 26!! Slow boat?? That's OK with me, I don't need them right away. The panels came very quickly from the US.


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