Horticulture & Hydroponics FAQs

Q: Why do I need a Control Unit

A control unit in its simplest form is a device for switching high inductive loads, such as those found with High Intensity Discharge (HID) lighting. Usually the control unit is combined with a timer unit (either internally or remotely) to manage the cycles required to turn the lighting on\off. When using HID lighting you should use a control unit to manage your lighting on\off cycles as a domestic timer unit cannot withstand the high inductive loads. Plugging HID lighting directly into a domestic timer unit will cause the timer to prematurely fail and could lead to a potential electrical hazard. This will also eventually result in your lights being fused in the on or off state. Maxiswitch Control Units are designed and assembled to the highest standards with these safety reasons solely in mind.

Q: Are Digital Ballasts More Efficient?

Yes, but only very slightly. Currently, the horticultural industry is swamped by claims from digital ballast manufactures that their ballasts are significantly more efficient than conventional magnetic core and coil ballasts. In real terms, currently there is no digital ballast on the planet that is more than 3% more efficient than a good quality traditional magnetic type. What we have found is digital ballast manufactures are using cheap Chinese ballasts as their bench mark. Its worth noting that some well known brand names in the UK use cheap ballasts inside the box, so beware. Obviously, if you compare a digital ballast to a poor quality magnetic one, you will be able to produce fantastic efficiency claims. The simple message from Maxigrow is this: some digital ballasts (true high frequency ballasts) have some clear advantages over magnetic ones. These main advantage of digital over conventional ballasts is the lamp soft start features found on most good quality models. Over running capabilities and lamp lumen maintenance are other amiable features but both of these are at the expense of more power consumption. The thing to remember is, in terms of efficiency, what you put in, you pretty much get out and vice versa.

For the technically minded, these links are also worth reading regarding efficiency of lighting: The truth about Digital Ballasts, Wikipedia’s Lighting Efficiency, Wikipedia’s Energy Conversion Efficiency.

CFL Lumens

Q: What is the lumen output of a Maxibright Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL)?

  • 125W – 5500L
  • 200W – 9500L
  • 250W – 12500L
  • 300W – 14000L

Please note that these values are only approximate.

Q: How many ballasts can I run on my Maxiswitch?

This all depends on how many amps (A) your ballasts consume. Here is a list of common ballast wattages and the running amps they consume:

  • Maxibright iPac 250W – 1.32A, 400W – 2.13A, 600W – 2.89A, 1000W – 5.00A
  • Maxibright Compact 250W – 1.25A, 400W – 2.00A, 600W – 3.00A, 1000W – 5.00A

The simple way to check that you are not going to overload the unit is to add up the running amps of your ballasts from the list above and make sure that this total doesn’t exceed the rating of your control unit. e.g. If you were running a 3 x Maxibright Compact 600W and 1 x Maxibright iPac 400W, that’s (3 x 3A) + (1 x 2.13A) = 11.13A so we would recommend you round this value up to the nearest rated Maxiswitch, which in this case could be the Maxiswitch 13A 4Way IT.

Alternativly, if you want to know how many ballasts of a certain type you can run on a given control unit, just divide the control unit’s rated amp capacity by the ballast’s running amps. e.g. If you had a Maxibright Maxiswitch 13A 4Way Contactor and you want to know how many 1000W iPacs it can handle, thats 13A / 5 = 2.6, so we would round this down to 2.