Supplemental Lighting Advice Needed
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Old 03-06-2014, 04:47 PM
jocierk jocierk is offline

Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Missouri
Posts: 87
Supplemental Lighting Advice Needed
Default Supplemental Lighting Advice Needed

Right now my plant shelf (metal storage shelf) sits in front of a south facing window. I am not 100% sure they are getting enough light to bloom but they arnt dying so for now I am not super worried.

However, toward the end of July we are moving into a new unit and the only decent window (sliding glass door) is north facing. My collection consists of phals, catts, and oncidiums. I know this won't be enough light for the latter two and I am skeptical that it will be enough for the phals. I am planning on putting the oncidiums and catts outside during the summer to get some good light during the day, but on nasty days I don't want them to suffer.

I have done some research and I have narrowed it down to either T8 or T5 lights. T5's make me a little nervous because of the heat they put out, I am gone M-F 7:30am to 6pm and I am afraid of the chance of catching my house on fire. I know that any lights pose some risk but for some reason the T5s scare me a little more. The lights will need to hang above the shelf and I would like if I didn't have to mount any to the second shelf down. The shelves are adjustable but they are limited by the height of the plants. I was thinking that the phals could go on the second shelf because they need less light and the catts and oncidiums would sit on the top, closer to the bulbs. How far from the bulbs do the plants needs to sit to get enough light from both T8 and T5? The second shelf down will have to sit quite low to accommodate the phals spikes so I don't know if they will be close enough to use the light. The shelves are 14 inches deep, how many bulbs should I have? I was thinking two (one daylight and one that is more toward the warm end of the spectrum).

The difference in cost between the two systems is not a huge deal because I have a pretty small collection and won't have to buy a ton of either fixture. Where are good places to look to buy lights? The shelves are 36 inches wide btw.

Am I at all on the right track here? Any advice and experience with either lighting system is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 03-06-2014, 07:05 PM
jeremyinsf jeremyinsf is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Zone: 10b
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 836
Supplemental Lighting Advice Needed Male

There are several threads about T5's in the "growing under lights" section here. Suggest you read up on that.

You can get a small 2 foot 2 bulb fixture and hang it... the heat from such a small thing isn't going to be that big of a deal - they are made so they don't spontaneously catch on fire!

You can check this one out as an example, $87 shipping included:

I have several of these in the four foot four bulb configuration. I also have others but all mine are four foot, as that's how wide all my shelves are.

I have left mine for a week alone (on a timer) without worrying about fire or heat. In fact, the heat is actually a good thing when managed properly, as it creates a 'swing' in temperature, which many orchids enjoy.

Feel free to ask anything else specific, but do read the other threads as it might help get you on the right track for you!
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Old 03-06-2014, 08:22 PM
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MrHappyRotter MrHappyRotter is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2013
Zone: 7b
Location: Raleigh, NC
Posts: 1,197
Supplemental Lighting Advice Needed Male

My focus is primarily slippers (paphs & phrags), but I have a number of phals and oncidium alliance plants. Not to mention a significant number of non-orchid plants ranging from cacti & succulents, to ferns, cycads, and bromeliads.

I grow most everything indoors year round on metal shelves. I do get some light from a small, obstructed north east facing window, but the primary light source is from T8 shop lights. I have two 4 foot, 2 bulb fixtures per shelf (though I've removed 1 bulb from each fixture on one of the shelves to reduce light levels a bit).

In general, I keep low light plants 18 inches (or more) from the bulbs. Most plants are somewhere between 4 - 8 inches from the bulbs. High light plants are grown almost touching the bulbs.

For my growing conditions and for my taste in plants, T8s work very well. I don't think the cost / benefit ratio of T5s compared to T8s is quite where it needs to be to make T5s an attractive option for me. Plus, I like the fact that I can go to the local home improvement store for replacement fixtures and bulbs (which isn't an option for T5s, yet).

I'm very certain that T8s would be sufficient for your phals and oncidiums. I have to keep moving my phals further and further away from the bulbs since they were starting to show signs of too much light. The oncidium alliance is a large and variable group, but most of them will do well under T8s. In general the larger ones that grow upright might be a little tricky because the leaves are held vertically, meaning it's harder for them to make efficient use of non-directional overhead light sources.

I can't really speak to the cattleya alliance plants because I don't really grow any of them. But I suspect if you're growing them outdoors in the warmer months, then T8s will be fine to get them through the cooler months.
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Old 03-07-2014, 09:58 AM
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Ray Ray is offline
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Join Date: May 2005
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Location: Oak Island NC
Posts: 14,621
Supplemental Lighting Advice Needed Male

Yes, T5 lamps generate more heat, but not enough to spontaneously cause a fire. On the plus side, you get a lot more light out of a T5 than a T8, meaning that you can increase the distance to the plants, giving you more room for taller leaves and spikes.

You might also consider LED lighting.

As far as "where to get" stuff, I am a discount reseller of Hydrofarm products, and if you look at their "Enviro-Gro" lights, you might see something that works for you, so drop me a line. They drop-ship from their nearest warehouse, to save on shipping costs. I also have LEDs that might work for you.
Ray Barkalow, Orchid Iconoclast
Try Kelpak - you won't be sorry!
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