Been a fun and busy week. I aged down a couple of guitar, including a cheap Rogue and an Epiphone 339, their take on the parent company’s (Gibson) mid-sized, old school favorite. I was very pleased with the results. I just did a couple of days worth of UV, just enough to make the grain come through and add some warmth to the guitar. Much more pleasing to the eye. See the pictures and read more at http://www.solacure.com/epiphone339.html
One of the disadvantages of owning your own business is that you never have enough time to do everything you want to. This includes writing on the blog.
A lot has happened in the last six months. We have a new dealer in the UK, and Dave will be taking care of all our European sales. (more on that later, we just shipped him lamps). We will still handle Canadian orders by phone of course. Things are going well, and I’m grateful.
We came out with a new lamp, the Super B, which bridges the gap between the mild but safe Universal UV and the most powerful UVB lamp on the planet, the Flower Power. We are getting a lot of those out in the field right now and have some interesting preliminary results. One customer compared them to the Hortilux UVB lamp and his equipment showed the Super B put out 5x more UVB while using 40% less electricity. I would like to think we make good products, and efficiency is part of it. Considering they are designed to only run 4 hours or so per day, that means we are in the neighborhood of being 10 to 20 times more energy efficient. I’m sure their lamp is a find product, but they make lots of fine products. We only make UV products and have for decades. No one can touch our power, efficiency or results.
We are about to order some 2 foot Flower Power bulbs, mainly for OEM uses. Many LED builders need something that will run with a 600w equivalent light, and two of the 24″ Flower Power bulbs are more than up for the task. More on that once we get the prototypes and test them.
Had a lamp that got smacked into a post here, broke, so I thought I would take advantage of the misfortune by showing you the parts we use. This belongs to a Flower Power FR40T12 but it is the same lamp end we use on all T12 lamps. Extremely beefy parts that allow us to take a lamp designed for 40 watts, and push it all the way to 100 watts if you want. The part itself is actually a stolen design from my days in the tanning industry: essentially the same part we used on high end 120 watt tanning lamps. It is obviously a bit more expensive than using generic F40 ends, but it means the lamp won’t die prematurely and can operate on a wider range of wattages: Use them as you like, they can take it.
Here you can see the beefy posts and the heavy heat shield. This protects the glass, makes them less likely to get black ends (killing phosphor) and extends the life, particularly if you overdrive them.
Another angle shows the coil. We actually use a preheat coil for compatibility. This means it will work with any ballast: old choke or magnetic ballasts, or new program start, instant start or high frequency electronics.
The short of it is that we use the beefiest, sturdiest parts that money can buy when building our lamps. They won’t die early or fade out when you need them most.
Been a while since I’ve written, but I get a lot of questions about lamp life as it applies to lamps for cannabis, and felt an article might clear up a few misconceptions. It is different than how you figure lamp life for other UV uses, like curing violins or aging materials.
First of all, if you are a serious cannabis grower with at least 8 hoods, you need to invest in a UVB meter. Solarmeter makes a great one for around $250, you can find it on Amazon. You can’t really compare one lamp to a different model lamp (trust me, it has to do with spectral weighting, but they don’t compare cleanly). You can measure your new lights, then measure once a month so you know when you should change bulbs. I recommend changing once the UVB reaching 70% or of the original output.
To get a first reading, you should age the lamp for at least 10 hours by simply running it. then hold the meter to the lamp, at the glass, in the middle, and the highest possible reading you can. Do this for each of your lamps, and average your results. This is your reference reading. Once the lamps are down to 70% of this reading, when measured the same way, then it is time to swap lamps. If you are using pulse lamps (like the Flower Power) you can cheat a little and squeeze some extra life by simply increasing the time exposure per day, to maybe buy you another month or so. But this method will prevent you from buying new lamps too early, or too late, and it pays for itself in a year.
Now to the main topic, which is lamp life. Lamp life is determined solely by the UVB output of the lamp, it isn’t about about the lamp burning out. A typical UVB lamp will give 1000 hours of usable life, yet continue to burn for up to 3000 hours. It simply gets weaker and weaker until it is useless as a UV lamp once you get past 1000 hours. But lamps do not die an “even” death. As they age and get to their expected life, the spectrum of the lamp changes dramatically.
In order to produce UVA and UVB, you have to make a glass tube with at least two different phosphors in it. One for the UVA, one for the UVB. Our lamps typically use several phosphors, including some for buffering, to prolong the life. Each phosphor is a chemical that will produce a particular set of frequencies (the primary frequency and often, harmonics of that frequency). The glass tube is actually clear, the white stuff you see is the phosphors. So the difference in your average office light and a UVB light is mainly decided by the different chemicals we put in the tube. One phosphor might make the color “red” at 633nm, another phosphor might make the color “ultraviolet” at 365nm. All Solacure lamps (curing and horticulture) are 100% UV phosphor. We don’t use any visible spectrum phosphors. The visible light you see is a combination of harmonics and the fact that you are running plasma inside a tube, which always makes visible light. This is why they look dimmer than a regular light as well. All the real energy is in the UV band, where you can’t see it.
The problem with UV phosphors is they break down. Well, really, all phosphors can break down, but it takes a lot more energy to make a photon of UV light, which puts a strain on the phosphors. So UVB phosphors break down quickest, then UVA phosphors break down moderately fast, and visible spectrum phosphors break down slowly because they are lower energy.
When we rate the life of a lamp, we are really only rating the life of the UVB, because we know the UVA will still be fine. An an imaginary example, lets say you start with a 10% UVB / 90% UVA lamp. By the time you to 70% of the original power, it is likely a 7% UVB and 93% UVA lamp. We have shifted the spectrum towards UVA simply because the UVB is wearing out. if you keep going for 2000 hours, eventually you get a lamp that has 1% UVB, 99% UVA *but* the overall UV output is less than half.
These percentages do NOT tell you total power, they just tell you ratios. Just like how you can take two glass that are half filled, but if one is a 4 oz. glass and the other is a 8 oz. glass, they aren’t equal. They are both 50% full, but the total mass isn’t the same: One glass has 2 oz. of milk, the other has 4 oz. of milk. I say this because it is easy to get tripped up on percentage ratings of lamps. You can take two 20% UVB lamps, and find that one is actually twice as strong. Just like the glasses above, the ratio can be misleading. Ratios are handy for measuring the difference between otherwise identical lamps, like two lamps from the same manufacturer, but it isn’t for comparing two different brands of lamps.
So to recap, when we rate lamp lamp, we are rating how fast the UVB phosphors will break down. Using them past 70% of the original life can be done, but it is a problem because you have less output and a very different spectrum, so the results won’t be the same. This holds true for all UV lamps, regardless of brand.
I finally had to change out a set of lamps in my primary rig, which uses the 4 foot long, Solacure SG-1-40. Most of the time, I run it at 32 watts, but also run it at 60w at times, and I choke the air flow, so it is a bit rough on the lamps. I rate the SG-1-40 lamps at 1600 hours at 40-50w, but I managed to get 2200 hours out of them this time. Keep in mind, I don’t cycle the lamps on and off a lot, which is what kills lamp life. Instead they run for days or weeks at a time, which is what builds up a lot of heat.
Your mileage will vary of course, but this just further demonstrates that you should get a minimum of what rate the lamps at, and how cost effective they are.