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#1 Foster



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Posted 27 February 2013 - 01:32 PM

I recently did some unscientific testing on CFL lights and efficiency. I had been using CFL lights both in the vertical and horizontal positions.

The standard I had been using was the 23-26w input, 100W equiv., 1600-1700 lumen.,Soft White or Warm bulbs with a 2600k color spectrum. After seeing results from a buddies cool whites. I decided to give them a shot.

I found 4ct--13w 6500k color spectrum, 800 lumen, cool white/daylight bulbs for $1.88 a box. At $.50 cents apiece I bought several boxes. Less lumens, less wattage, but I can just add more bulbs.

I've built several types of reflectors over the yrs for horizontal bulbs but decided to try my luck with vertical reflectors since I use several vert bulbs.

Before I begin my tale, there are a few things to take note.

1. Always be safe and mindful of dangers eg.. sharp edges, breaking glass, live voltage etc..
Eye protection and nitrile gloves are recommended when working with sheet aluminum.

2. Most CFL's were not designed to work in an enclosure, hood, or reflector. This may overheat the ballast and bulb and in many cases, eventually shorten the life span or the lower the lumen output.

3. This is just one guys opinions and testing. All bulbs were brand new, straight from the box.
These are the MAX readings I got. YMMV.

First test : 26W warm cfl, vert, base up, no reflector. Cheapo light meter set @ 4" in. from bulb.

Second Test: 13W cool cfl, vert, base up, no reflector. Meter @ 4" in. from bulb.
meter reading 13W CFL VBU no coneresize4.jpg

Third Test: 13W horizontal cfl cool, no reflector. Meter @ 4" In. from bulb.
meter reading 13W CFL Horizontal no reflectorresize7.jpg

Fourth Test: 13W vert, base up, cool white cfl. Meter @ 4"in.
Meter Reading 13W CFL VBU with wide cone @ 4 in.resize9.jpg

As you can see the difference is huge using a VENTED wide cone type reflector.
I have more pics and testing and I will add some comments and a diagram/stencil of the cone I used.

The vents are absolutely essential. The cones should only be made of very thin, uninsulated aluminum. A fan is needed to help dissipate heat if several bulbs are being used.

These cones don't get hot, unlike the first two sets of 12 I designed, and cut out, and painted up nice, and set up. lol Only to realize they trap too much heat. They do make the bulbs run a bit warmer. More later... foster

Attached Thumbnails

  • 26W vertical BU SoftWarmresize1.jpg
  • 13wCFL VBU meter@4Inresize3.jpg
  • 13W CFL horizontal @ 4 in with meterresize6.jpg
  • 13W CFL VBU with wide cone and meter @ 4 in resize8.jpg

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#2 mestophilies


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Posted 27 February 2013 - 01:36 PM

Very interesting subscribed!

#3 Hash_Man


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Posted 27 February 2013 - 02:04 PM

Thanks Foster, thats interesting... Not to long ago I took a light meter and measured if more light came off the side of the bulb, or the end and I found a lot more came off the side ... thats differs from your results I'll have to try it again ...

So what is uninsulated aluminum where did you find it? Home depot has too thick of aluminum sheets

#4 Il19z8rn4li1


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Posted 27 February 2013 - 02:15 PM

CFLs FTW !!! ;)

(First started growing micro style with CFLs, 1gpw FTW lol )


Id really like to see what that meter reads with a HORIZONTAL CFL with REFLECTOR. :) PLEASE THANKS

I was always under the impression that CFLS work better when horizontal. You got the meter already ;)

#5 mestophilies


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Posted 27 February 2013 - 02:50 PM

Agreed on the side light, I am about to add some cfl's to my current setup and this is going to be very helpful!

#6 Foster



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Posted 27 February 2013 - 07:28 PM

Ya know, I always thought the same thing about horizontal being the way to go. I even remember testing both ways, and finding horizontal better.

This needs further investigation.

The thing with CFL's is, they lose light quickly as you move away from the bulb. I did testing at 2 " inch distance also, and about 1.5 ft, with 12 vert bulbs, both with and without reflectors. I also tried one of my horizontal hoods. Didn't take pics of everything and didnt keep track of results.

But I will do some more testing, results, pics etc..

As for the aluminum sheet... IF I didn't find so damn many uses for it, it wouldn't be worth my time or money to get it lol.
It comes from a printer of newspapers. They sell it. It's more expensive to buy it than it would be worth recycling it. Usually about a $1 a sheet.

It costs me $20 in gas just to go pick it up from the middleman who charges me $.10 a sheet extra.

Some of the sheets are perfect, some discolored on the shiny side. The backside has newsprint on it.

I may have some small quantities available for someone with a real light meter that reads lumens or lux to test.

#7 Foster



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Posted 27 February 2013 - 09:47 PM

Ok, well I went back and did some more testing, rechecked data, added Horizontal hood, took 1" readings etc...

But first, how I came up with the idea, was from my solar pasteurizer thread. Seeing how well it reflected the sun from all angles inward, I figured the same should be true in reverse.

I found by moving the meter around the bulb at about 1 inch, the readings were higher from more angles on the horizontal side. Makes sense, as I knew I hadn't built all those hoods horizontal for all those yrs for no reason.

I think however the design of the vented cone uses that to its advantage and reflects more total light downwards.

I'll put up more pics to verify my claims. Please feel free to prove me wrong. LOL The point here is just to get the most bang for the buck with CFL's period. If You got a better design, let me at it! I still need to cut and make a dozen more wide cones since I think I like it better than my initial double hump cone design for coverage.

First the 13W Horizontal Reflector @ 4"in.

Reading 13W horizontal hood@4 resize.jpg

Then a Re-Test of the 13W Vert Wide Cone @ 4"in.

Reading 13W 5600k Vented Wide Cone @ 4in. retest resize.jpg

This is 2-13W with and without Vert Wide Cones with meter centered between the two at 4" apart and 4" height from top of meter to level of bulb tip. So not actually 4 inches beneath either bulb.

meter readin 2 13WCFL VBU no cone center reading resize.jpg

2 13W CFL VBU wide cones with meter @4in centeredresize10.jpg Ahh sorry lost that reading pic. It was just under 8.

Then, just for perspective, so you can see the difference it makes. Here is the same bulb at 1" no reflector Vertical and Horizontal:

13W horizontal no reflector @ 1in resize.jpg

Now take a look at all the readings(except the 26w warm). Pretty Interesting in my eyes.

I think it shows I get more light using the vented wide cone. The readings with cone @ 4" compare to all the readings at 1" vertical or horizontal. To me... that says more available light. It even shows more light at 4" than the no reflector 26w bulb. Might just be onto something worthwhile here;)

Love some more comments, critiques, whatever... :)

Attached Thumbnails

  • 13W horizontal hood@ 4in. resize.jpg
  • 13W 5600k Wide Cone @ 4 in. repeat test resize.jpg
  • 13W Vert No Cone @ 1in resize.jpg
  • 2 13W CFL VBU no hoods@ 4in center meter resize .jpg

Edited by Foster, 27 February 2013 - 10:01 PM.

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#8 kcmoxtractor


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Posted 28 February 2013 - 11:56 AM

subscribed! love the tests foster, keep 'em comin!

#9 mestophilies


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Posted 28 February 2013 - 12:23 PM

I would say your definitely on to something here, you just saved me and alyce a fuck ton of trial and error on adding our cfl's to our grow. I had planned to just hang them horizontally, now though I will be going out to the shop and getting to work, soon as I get off work....damn. Oh well hard work is good, hard work is fine, just take of me head first!

#10 Phaeton


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Posted 01 March 2013 - 12:58 AM

I have a pair of red and blue color meters and want to add a note on the readings.

13w 2700K warm white CFLs put out more red than 26w 6500K cool white CFLs.

When seeds are being germinated the warm white gives more red with less heat (watts). A lot more.

Now back to regular programming, where and how much light is coming out at what angle, wish I had thought of this.
I am loving it.

#11 Foster



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Posted 01 March 2013 - 11:54 AM

Not sure what you are getting at here Phaeton.

My testing is just the opposite 13w cool- 26w warm. Mostly the 13w cool. The 26w warm was more for reference.

But yes, the warm spectrum 2700k(red) color spectrum bulbs I had been using are far more red than the 13w 6500k(blue) color temp cool/daylight bulbs I am switching to.

I haven't got an infrared heat meter to check actual bulb temps, but I would guess no matter cool or warm, the 13w puts out less heat than the 26w. Now on actual temps of bulbs or heat output, of a cool 13w vs. a warm 13w, or a cool 26w vs. a warm 26w, well... I have no idea lol.

Guess i could setup my indo-outdo Min/Max thermo at 1 inch and test all that too. Maybe i
shall lol.

As I am using this only for cuttings and veg, the added blue/cool spectrum is what I am after. The setup is 12 vert CFL's and a 150 HPS in a home made cool tube. Covering an area of 30x30 inches sq. So i got the red covered too ;)

I am working on posting the patterns i used and found most effective. Damn vista pc makes anything with pics a pita.

#12 Foster



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Posted 01 March 2013 - 01:14 PM

This is the basic pattern I used for the wide cone 13w cfl reflectors. I'm not sure I can get it actual size, but you can figure out the dimensions with what I have labeled. The pic is just a bit shy of actual size. If it doesn't come up almost dead on, right click the full size pic and select view pic. That should get it just about right. Be sure and measure to get it dead on. Always measure twice, cut once. ;)

Cut on the outside of the lines to leave a bit of extra for trimming/adjustment as needed.

Don't expect perfect, it ain't. But it does work quite well and is the easiest way to get more light projected downward I can figure. good luck!

fosters 13w cfl vented wide cone diagram with specs.jpg

Edited by Foster, 01 March 2013 - 01:24 PM.

#13 Phaeton


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Posted 01 March 2013 - 02:48 PM

I am bad with words. I meant the red light per watt is double in the warm versus cool ratings. Seedlings like red and a warm white has over twice the red as a cool white at the same wattage.
I found this out when using a 26 watt cool white because it is so much brighter than the warm whites. I was greatly surprised when the 13 watt warm white had more red than the 26 watt cool white.

I had always assumed the light was pretty similar, one was just brighter. Turned out not to be so.

No HPS so CFL has to do all the work and your reflectors make them more efficient regardless of spectrum used.

#14 Foster



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Posted 01 March 2013 - 11:28 PM

Right on I see what your saying. Yeah the 2700k is warm and has much more red, as can be seen in the orange-ish tint of the 26WCFL pic. The 6500K Cool White CFL appears much brighter to the naked eye, with a color much more in the blue spectrum and more in the visible light range of a persons sight.

I wont get into the whole "Lumens fer Humans/ Par for plants debate lol. But I will say this, you can have all the lumens you can get, but if they aren't in the usable range for plants you wont get squat for growth. That's why you don't see Super 1500W LPS bulbs being used.

Now for a bit of calculations and the diagram for the 23-26W CFL.

13W Cool CFL = 800 lumens = 61.54 Lumen:Watt

26W Warm CFL = 1650 Lumens = 63.46 L:W

Pretty close and not really that far off t-5 results

A 2 ft HO t5 - 4 Bulbs fixture @ 24w each= 8000 lumens so...

8000L/96W= 83.3 L:W for the t5 HO.

Thats about 20 lumens per watt less ratio for the CFL's. I would wager that 20 lumens is lost as heat energy. Still 20 lumens, is not really that much. Even running 10 - 13w CFL's at 130 Watts total, that's only about 34 more watts for the same 8000 lumens as a comparable 96W HO T-5.

But wait...! I am definitely not knocking the T-5. T-5's kick ass and then some. Far superior light penetration and even heat dispersal that cant be touched by CFL's. But I think with this design I am a bit closer and getting the most out of what I have on a super low budget.

26W CFL Wide Cone Diagram With Specs.jpg

Again, once you click the image and it appears almost full size, right click then click view image. Almost dead nuts on when I hold my patterns to the screen.

Edited by Foster, 01 March 2013 - 11:46 PM.

#15 mandrax



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Posted 02 March 2013 - 07:32 AM

Tuned in , interesting research .

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