Saturday, January 3, 2009

Indoor Growing Setup - My Old System

Yesterday I promised Liisa In Vermont that I would talk about my indoor growing system. I'm actually going to talk about two. My old one that got trashed two years ago and my new one that is coming online this year.

My last growing system was a pretty basic one for growing seedlings. I had a shelving unit that I made from plywood and 2x4s. It was two feet wide by four feet long and 6' tall. It had three shelves plus a top. Underneath the top two shelves I put two 4' fluorescent lights each (I didn't use daylight, just normal bulbs). Each light had two 40 watt bulbs. They lights were hung on chains so I could raise them or lower them and they were all plugged into a timer. The bottom shelf was just for storage.

Start up costs for this are pretty cheap. One sheet of 4'x8' plywood and I think 9 pieces of 8 foot long 2x4. Some screws. Four cheap fluorescent light fixtures. Some chain and hooks. Eight 40 watt fluorescent light bulbs and a timer. It is not a bad way to go, and as long as you have your flats running in pairs, it cost 40 watts of power per flat. And you can do up to 8 flats - 12 if you don't want storage.

Well it turns out I never used the middle shelf more than a couple of years, only the first years in this house when I was growing all my perennials from seed too. Most of the time I used just two flats, sometimes three. And the thing was huge and heavy. Over time some of the ballasts started going. The bulbs, which do fade over time, needed to be replaced. It blocked the light in my laundry room where it was set up. My husband wanted it gone. So away it went. Doesn't my laundry room look pretty again (it was set up right in front of the windows so the top shelf would get daylight too)?

I do think the fluorescent system is a decent one. It is cheap to set up and has an operating cost of costs 40 watts/flat (plus the timer, but I'm ignoring it since I don't know how much it draws, but it can't be a lot). NSTAR, my electric company, says that the electricity rate is 12.7 cents/kWh. If I keep it on for 14 hours, it uses .56 kWh/day or 16.8kWh/month. The running cost per month is about $2.13.

And since this is getting long. I'll write my next post about my new system.


  1. Wow Daphne, I'm so impressed that you made your own grow-light setup instead of paying bazillion dollars for a commercial one. Way to go!!! (I'm also awed by all the windows in your laundry room, but that's another matter. I have one in mine and it's packed with plants!) Can't wait to see the next instalment.

  2. Daphne,
    That sounds like a great option. And very economical, too. I am looking forward to your next post so I can add even more options to my already increasing list and confuse myself even further... : )

  3. OFB: The most impressive item that I've made is my folding table for craft fairs. It is a beautiful table; the top separates from the bottom and the bottom folds up, making it is easy to carry. The top has mitered corners, done with a regular hand saw. It was a challenge. I would have just bought one, but never saw a nice one to buy. Sometimes you just have to make your own.

    I had a really good dad for that. He taught me how to do many things as a child. He always believed in doing it yourself.

    Liisa: Yup it is very cheap worked well for years. My next one is going to be both better and worse. So I'm sure to confuse you some more :>

  4. I'd like to see your setup, also. Don't know if you visit my blog, but I have a chamber that I built, that is thermostatically controlled, and everything. It looks pretty weird, but works great! Can't wait for your next post.


  5. Hi Daphe, this is very interesting to me, I am using lights for the first time this year for seed starting and growing on until planted outside. I bought a light fixture, holds four 24 inch bulbs and my son built a table for it high enough so I don't have to bend way over to look and water the trays. Already, I wish for more lights, so I can't wait to see your new set up.