The Encyclopedia Hydroponica

Your Hydroponics Compendium

Short HID Update 19 December, 2008

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 5:52 am
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Well I got the replacement fixture last Friday and it worked perfectly. I modified it to a remote ballast configuration and have been running it this week for my tomatoes. It seems to be doing great.

I read that this particular model draws a lot of current because it lacks the typical capacitor of most ballast configurations, so I ordered a capacitor that ought to do the job and bring it up to a nice high efficiency. That arrived today and, thanks to the difficulty of determining size in an online picture, is much larger than I’d anticipated (about the size of a juice can). I’m not entirely sure how well that will work with my current rig, but I’ll figure something out.

Once I do I’ll whip up a complete “How To DIY” based on this fixture, including where I got all my stuff. HPS on a budget.


HID Problem 10 December, 2008

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 4:07 pm
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Okay, so I get my new HPS fixture and lamp yesterday and I’m excited. Because I’m the frugal type (if you haven’t noticed from all the DIY here) I didn’t get one of those expensive grow lights, I got an el cheapo security light that I could modify for my needs.

I drag the boxes inside (it’s a heavy beast) and unpack it. Then I leave it sitting in the office for an hour or so until it’s warm enough to handle without the liquid nitrogen protective gear. (The backs of UPS trucks are not remotely heated. In fact, I think this one had additional refrigeration gear installed.)

I start tearing the thing down, wire it up, put it back together and hesitantly, tentatively plug it in. (Half expecting that despite the fact that I know what I’m doing, I’m about to black-out the neighborhood.) Nada.

“Double-ya tee eff?” I say, literally.

Have I mentioned I spend too much time on computers? Well I do.

So I take it all apart, recheck the wiring, and find what might have been a bad connection. I fix that, put it all back together and again, plug it in using that wincing, cringing expression as I turn away (never look directly at a light source you don’t know the intensity of, or anything that might remotely explode when plugged in. Lesson previously learned, method: “hard way”.) In a somewhat unrelated topic, applying 120v directly to the coils of a broken blender is not a wise thing, and does not in point of fact make a “bitchin’ fast RC car”.

It does, however, make a lot of heat, a blinding flash of light, and trips every breaker in the box. Oh, and it ticks off your mom. It may also electrocute you if you don’t get lucky. Learn this lesson the easy way – by not doing what I did.

So, back to the HID story. I went over and over this thing. I even checked the factory wiring job, it was correct. I had my wife plug it in while I fiddled with the connections. (Again, this falls very solidly on the “do not try this at home” side of the line. I actually do know what I’m doing when I play with electricity and previous sundry personal electrocutions to the contrary, the 120v in the wall socket is enough to kill anyone including myself. I use safety equipment but that doesn’t make it safe.)

In frustration I gave up and called the toll-free number on the paltry instructions only to hear a recording about office hours. Grrr. Irked, I push all the stuff into a pile in the corner and pointedly ignore it. Like the “I’m not paying attention to you” game cats play.

So just a little bit ago I’m puttering around the house waiting for one of our two “duelling exterminators” to arrive and resume the ongoing cockroach genocide that passes for recreation around here. I finish up some dishes and I think to myself, “Self, why don’t you call that company you bought the light from and see what they want to do about it?”

So I do. I often take my own advice because I’ve found it to be vastly superior to most sources of advice, with the obvious exception of my wife. Even in the rare instances where she’s wrong, I’ve found it still vastly more wise to follow her advice. But I digress.

I call the company, explain the problem, and get transferred to someone else – I forget whether it was returns or tech support or something like that. Basically it was “the people who can get a new light sent to you”. So while I’m on hold I’m thinking about the whole return process, and how I really don’t want to mess with this hassle.

I decide that regardless of what they say, I’m not paying the return shipping up front. I mean this thing weighs quite a bit for its size. It’s about the size of a football and probably over 20 lbs. Certainly not the sort of thing you need a spotter to lift, but you really wouldn’t want someone to toss it to you. No, I decide that if they want to do a return they’re going to have to mail me the sticker for the box to have it sent. I’m going to take the hard line and drive a hard bargain. I’m steeled and ready!

So when the lady picks up the call and confirms all the information I gave the first lady (and subsequently figures that it’s probably a bad ignitor) she, kind of thinking out loud, runs through the available options. For some of their fixtures they’d just send me out a new ignitor or ballast, but no, this fixture they don’t have extra parts for. So the only option is to replace the whole fixture. “Here it comes,” I’m thinking, flexing my mental muscles.

“You can just throw the one you’ve got away or keep it for more parts, whatever you want to do. The new one will ship today and should arrive Friday or Monday.”

Huh? Wait, what? They’re going to ship me a new, complete light fixture without first making sure I’m not pulling their leg about this one being broken?

Stay tuned, I’ll be doing the DIY of the conversion from this thing’s intended use to a grow light as soon as I get a working unit, and I’ll reveal all the specifics about the light and where I got it from at that time. I don’t want to pass judgment, positive or negative, until the jury is in.

But it looks like this just might be another case of “above and beyond” customer service.


Snow, Car Buying, Car Selling, and Holidays 9 December, 2008

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 7:27 pm
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Well the new place is starting to feel like “ours”, and it only cost a small fortune to get there.  I exaggerate a bit, but when the wife and I zip out to Walmart to get “a couple things” if we get out for less than $100 we feel like we won.

Mayonnaise, curtains, a popcorn popper… these are just a few of the things we didn’t have when we moved because they belonged to someone else at the old place.  And of course the whole nesting thing costs money (and it doesn’t help when one of you is a tech-a-holic.)  Yes, I do need to be able to hook the laptop up to the new 32″ HDTV.  For, uh, research purposes.

I have not forgotten how far behind I’ve gotten with the hydroponic/indoor garden updates.  I went through the pictures the other day and they weren’t as complete as I’d remembered, but there’s still a heck of a lot more than I could cram into even a few posts so it will be a good “What I’ve Been Slacking On” update.

At the moment I’ve just got two soil-growing tomatoes in the closet with some respectably CFL output, but they’re not as healthy as I’d like.  I have a small HPS on the way so I hope to do a DIY post MacGyvering that thing into use.  (It’s not a plant growing design, so it’ll need adapted.)

I think I mentioned a few month back that I’d bought this natty pickup to help with the move and picking up garden supplies and so forth.  Well we’re into the snowy season here and without any cold frames, hoop covers or (*drool*) greenhouses that means I’ve got no outdoor growing and thus the truck has reached the end of its usefulness until spring, except as basic transportation.

To make a long story slightly less long, we’re now selling the truck and looking for a car that’s better suited to winter driving than our beloved Honda, in the “we drive it in winter because morons who can’t drive in snow might hit it and we’d cry if the Honda got bent” sense.  I’m paranoid enough about our Honda I’m tempted to get a car cover for it to protect against the elements, but I’m concerned people might think it’s valuable if it’s covered up and mess with it.  Kind of a gamble either way.

And of course all this is set with the double-edged backdrop of the holidays.  I like the holidays, don’t get me wrong.  I like the family get-togethers and that stuff, but the whole commercial, crowded, panicked last-minute freak-out aspect of the holidays makes me want to start waving a claw hammer at every idiot that gets near me.

Christmas is December 25th, every year, like clockwork.  It only sneaks up on people bad at math.  If you forgot to get a widget for your cousin Ernie, hauling your ‘tocks down the road at 20+ over the speed limit in your be-wreathed Combat-Shopper edition SUV while texting on your ridiculous phone is not the best way to solve that problem.

Some of us are just not in that big a hurry and would instead prefer to get to the mall alive.  And you know what else?  You may not notice from the cockpit of your assault vehicle but you don’t get there any quicker than I do with my 75hp and 30+ mpg.  They’re called traffic lights and they’re timed to keep us from going too fast.

Just freakin’ relax a bit.

Try enjoying the holidays instead of turning them into a competition.

Just one thing.  Can we please have legislation banning Christmas music on the Musak system until at least the 15th?  I mean honestly, we really don’t need that many renditions of “Little Drummer Boy” and I think more than a little of the holiday tension comes from the fact that the people working in those stores are pushed to the breaking point by hearing the same seven Christmas songs over and over.

Sorry, rant over.

Merry Christmas!  ;p