Electronic vs Magnetic Ballasts
In order to run a high intensity discharge bulb (HID), you will need a Ballast. A complete light system is made of three main components: ballasts, bulbs, and reflectors. Our goal here is to highlight the major differences between the ballast types which are either "magnetic" or "electronic ballasts".
Magnetic ballasts have been around for many years. They can be made specifically to handle either metal halide (MH) or high pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs, or they are also available with a built-in option that allows a single ballast to run either a MH bulb for your vegetative growth, or flip the switch and change to an HPS bulb for fruiting/flowering.
Green Gear offers a switchable type of magnetic ballasts, bulbs, and reflectors so you can run your garden with the highest standards and performance.
Electronic ballasts alter the flow of electricity in the light bulb by using a series of induction coils that are separated from one another. They also change the frequency of the electrical current without changing the voltage. While magnetic ballasts in fluorescent lamps work at a frequency of 60hz, electronic ballasts greatly increase that frequency to 20,000hz.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF MAGNETIC (MB) AND ELECTRONIC BALLASTS (EB)
Magnetic Ballasts - MBs
There are a few things against using Magnetic ballasts for indoor gardening, and these are the real reasons that 'electronic ballasts' have become the norm for most indoor gardeners.
- First, MB are very heavy and cumbersome in comparison to an electronic ballast.
- MBs are wattage specific, meaning you need a 1000 watt ballast to run a 1000 watt bulb, and you can't run any other wattage bulb with that 1000 watt ballast.
- MBs producse a lot of heat from both the ballast and the bulb (much more than electronic ballast does).
- Magnetic ballasts can't light bulbs to the same level of intensity as an electronic ballast - but the bulbs tend to last longer before burning out
- Magnetic ballasts also have a hum, or buzz when they're running. This is a deal-breaker for some people.
- MBs don't have any complex built- in circuitry like the electronic ballasts do.
- MBs are built very simple, with fewer components, and they work in a very straightforward manner.
- MBs will work with pretty much any HID bulb from the cheapest bulbs to the most expensive ones (as long as it's the correct wattage).
- MBs can support any power supply, so, no matter what it will light the bulb.
- MBs can be repaired by anyone with some basic electronic handyman skills.
- MB’s simplicity allows them to not have the dreaded "RFI" output. "RFI" stands for "radio frequency interference"
- MBs are highly dependable and will last for many years without any issues
- Electronic ballasts can be used in lamps that are in parallel and series mode. This means that if one of the lamps goes out, this will not affect the other lamps even though all the lamps are using the same ballast.
Electronic Ballasts - EBs
There are only a few cons, but they are probably worth considering!
- First, the built-in protective circuitry that all e-ballasts have can be super sensitive
- E-ballasts can be kind of flaky with their bulbs. Sometimes a perfectly good bulb will simply stop working-
- And if the bulb hasn't actually failed, it can't be covered under warranty! This is very frustrating for everyone involved!
- E-ballasts have a tendency to be very picky about the brands of bulbs they run. If you have the same bran for all your equipment, the better for you.
- The RFI that I mentioned above was a big deal for years for electronic ballasts, but the manufacturers have gotten much better at shielding the ballast components that can cause these interference problems.
We still advise that you do your homework on this one before you make your decision. (Our Green Gear ballasts have the lowest RFI output in the industry!)
- Nearly all e-ballasts have a considerably higher output than the comparable wattage magnetic ballasts do, sometimes putting out as much as 30% more light. More light intensity means increased yield from your garden!
- E-ballasts run cooler, and they put out cleaner power to the bulb, so bulbs burn with better spectral output.
- E-ballasts are almost completely silent, and most of them have adjustable wattage, so you can increase or decrease the output of your bulb depending on the particular stage of growth your plants are at.
- You can also adjust the output to a different wattage. For example- turn a 1000 watt ballast down to 600 watts, and put in a 600 watt bulb, and it will work just fine as a 600 watt fixture.
- E-ballasts will also run either MH or HPS, your choice - and they adjust their output accordingly to match the bulb type.
- Last thing, all of that annoying protective circuitry does serve a purpose - it will shut off the ballast if it senses any problems with your wiring or anything else relating to the ballast.
The pros for e-ballasts by far outweigh the cons, but there are many points to consider before making your decision.