Author: Aqua Gardening

The Differences Between Digital Ballasts and Magnetic Ballasts

Electronic ballasts have a number of advantages of magnetic ballasts, and are the ballast of choice for commercial growers.

People have always been looking for ways around natural obstacles to grow food. If the sunlight is weak, we can't grow certain fruits, vegetables, and flowers successfully. For commercial growers, the sun can be a very unpredictable way to earn a living.

Hydroponic grow lamps replace sunlight. Plants capture this artificial light energy and turn it into plant growth through photosynthesis. The lamps are known as HID lights, or High Density Discharge lights.

A HID lighting system is made up of bulbs, reflectors & ballasts.

400W Magnetic Ballast

Magnetic ballasts have been around for years and can be considered old technology. They can handle the high pressure sodium bulbs or the metal halide bulbs individually. Aqua Gardening sells ballasts that can power both MH and HPS bulbs. As you might already know, MH bulbs are great for vegetable growth while the HPS bulbs are good for flowering or fruit growing. Take a look at the advantages of magnetic ballasts:

  • They are simple to install and use
  • They have a lower intensity output, which can extend the life of the bulbs
  • They will also power all kinds of HID bulbs as long as they're of the same wattage
  • Moreover, the magnetic ballasts don't produce any radio frequency interference, which can disrupt radio and TV reception
  • They are also very affordable in comparison to electronic ballasts

As we mentioned above, magnetic ballasts are an old technology and therefore have some disadvantages that you need to consider.

  • They are heavy and large, taking up valuable space
  • They will only support bulbs of a specific wattage; so if the ballast is of 600 watts, it will only support a 600 watt bulb
  • They're not as energy-efficient and their heat output is high


Digital Ballasts or Electronic Ballasts

Electronic ballasts are preferred by commercial growers. There's a long list of pros that make this ballast a worthwhile investment. These advantages are:

  • Digital ballasts have higher output and will give almost 30% more light.
  • They are cooler and provide better spectral output.
  • They have adjustable wattage, which allows you to use power your grow lamp at different wattages.

While digital ballasts are a better idea, there is one cons you should consider before buying them. Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) can be a real problem, especially if there's a TV nearby. The RFI will interrupt the signal. Digital ballasts made from higher quality components are less likely to cause RFI. Aqua Gardening only stocks good quality digital ballasts that create very low or no RFI at all. Brands like Lumatek, HiPar, Powerplant and SolisTek are the names to look for.

In conclusion, electronic ballasts are a better option for higher yield and more efficiency, but magnetic ballasts are a cheaper alternative that are a great way to get started for those on a budget.