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Which lights for growing seedlings indoors?

 
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I have metal shelving which is 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep.  Is this not an ideal size for shelving?   If the shelving is good, which lights would you get for each shelf?   I suppose i would put three 10" x 20" seedling trays per shelf.  

I got a 10" x 20" heating pad to grow some chilli peppers and would like to get them going.

Should I get compact flourescent or LED?

So many options, I have absolutely NO CLUE what to buy! LOL.
 
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One of my revenue streams is growing microgreens and I use regular fluorescent lights in a shoplight fixture like the one shown in this link:
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Lithonia-Lighting-1233-Linear-Shop-Light-Common-4-ft-Actual-5-5-in-48-in/1000410165

I put a warm and a cool light in each fixture so that the plants get as much of the spectrum as possible. I also like this set-up because Habitat for Humanity Restore usually carries the fluorescent bulbs so I get to participate in recycling, which is an activity that sits close to my heart. The only problem is that your shelves are only 3 feet wide and these are 4 feet, but you could just have it stick out on the sides. For my shelves it's a perfect set-up because they are about 24" deep and 52" long. So I have four 1020 trays sitting next to each other on each tier with 2 shoplight fixtures hanging from each shelf. All of the plants thrive.
 
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Annie Collins wrote:I put a warm and a cool light in each fixture so that the plants get as much of the spectrum as possible. [...] with 2 shoplight fixtures hanging from each shelf. All of the plants thrive.



We have used this exact method. It works quite well.
 
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I have a similar setup. 2 shelves are florescent but my third is LED. I got the LED to replace a old and dim florescent bulb because I noticed the seedlings on that shelf were struggling to grow. It is my understanding that lights loose their "punch" after a while and need to be replaced. I like that the LED uses a lot less electricity and lasts longer. Plus the price has gone down a lot recently. Finally, they are not made of glass which is a real plus with a toddler running around the house!
 
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If I were to replace my lights, I’d go with LEDs.  I’ve been using 4 foot shop light fixtures with regular tubes for several years.  I just change out the bulbs every other year.  Of course I only use the lights for a month or two in the spring. If I were to grow under them year-round, I’d definitely go for something with a wider spectrum.

As far as the shelving goes, as long as you have the space for the lights to protrude from each side it shouldn’t be a problem.  No need buying something new when you can utilize something you already have.  The most important advice I can offer is to keep the light as close to the seedlings as possible without them actually touching.  When I used a PVC stand to hold my lights and trays I used a smaller chain than what came with the lights originally.  I’m currently using a temporary setup on my kitchen counter and using wire to adjust my lights.
 
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Annie Collins wrote:One of my revenue streams is growing microgreens and I use regular fluorescent lights in a shoplight fixture like the one shown in this link:
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Lithonia-Lighting-1233-Linear-Shop-Light-Common-4-ft-Actual-5-5-in-48-in/1000410165

I put a warm and a cool light in each fixture so that the plants get as much of the spectrum as possible. I also like this set-up because Habitat for Humanity Restore usually carries the fluorescent bulbs so I get to participate in recycling, which is an activity that sits close to my heart. The only problem is that your shelves are only 3 feet wide and these are 4 feet, but you could just have it stick out on the sides. For my shelves it's a perfect set-up because they are about 24" deep and 52" long. So I have four 1020 trays sitting next to each other on each tier with 2 shoplight fixtures hanging from each shelf. All of the plants thrive.



I find this very interesting -- thanks for sharing.  I am just curious how growing microgreens is feasible, as it would require a lot of seed.  Do you do cut and come again with them?  What kind of microgreens do you grow and where do you get your seed?  I've never grown them, but am interested in it.

What is the color spectrum of each bulb you get?  Like 6500K and 5000K?  Do you buy the bulbs at the hardware store?  Any particular brand you buy?

I am going to buy a 2 foot deep 50" wide or so shelf like you have.  I can put all these other shelves in the shed to use for storage.   Right now I have a 4 foot long workshop light with 2 daylight tubes in it, sitting on the the 3 foot shelf, hanging over each end a bit.  Propped up with a stack of 2" x 4" lumber .. no chains yet.   I got the heating mat going and attempting to germinate some thai chile and carolina repaer pepper plants.
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Michelle Heath wrote:If I were to replace my lights, I’d go with LEDs.  I’ve been using 4 foot shop light fixtures with regular tubes for several years.  I just change out the bulbs every other year.  Of course I only use the lights for a month or two in the spring. If I were to grow under them year-round, I’d definitely go for something with a wider spectrum.

As far as the shelving goes, as long as you have the space for the lights to protrude from each side it shouldn’t be a problem.  No need buying something new when you can utilize something you already have.  The most important advice I can offer is to keep the light as close to the seedlings as possible without them actually touching.  When I used a PVC stand to hold my lights and trays I used a smaller chain than what came with the lights originally.  I’m currently using a temporary setup on my kitchen counter and using wire to adjust my lights.



Just curious which LED you would go with.  Would you use the LED tubes that are compatible with the flourescent tube ballasts or somethign else entirely different?   What color spectrums would you get?
 
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Chris Emerson wrote:I have a similar setup. 2 shelves are florescent but my third is LED. I got the LED to replace a old and dim florescent bulb because I noticed the seedlings on that shelf were struggling to grow. It is my understanding that lights loose their "punch" after a while and need to be replaced. I like that the LED uses a lot less electricity and lasts longer. Plus the price has gone down a lot recently. Finally, they are not made of glass which is a real plus with a toddler running around the house!



Which LED did you end up going with?
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Btw, when growing the seedlings, should I just leave the light on 24 / 7?   Or put it on a timer with like an 8 hour break or so?
 
Michelle Heath
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These are what I'd probably go with.  Haven't seen them in person, but reviews are good and price is decent.

Grow lights

Right now I'm operating my lights with approximately 8 hours off.  
 
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I have a "farm+" model aerogarden. It's meant for a whole hydroponic setup, which I use it as intended for winter lettuces, but then for seed starts I disconnect the hydro components and just use seed trays and cram pots all around it to use the LED light panels.

This was a gift to us, and I liked the setup enough I wanted to get another one, but realised the price was ridiculous, so for future expansions I would buy just another LED growing panel. They don't get hot, they don't use nearly as much electric as the fluorescent lights, and are very lightweight to use. A botanist friend of ours recently setup a new growing box in their basement to start all their fancy flowers, and after examining the LED panels on my aerogarden, she decided to get LED panels for her use, and is pleased with them.
 
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Michelle Heath wrote:These are what I'd probably go with.  Haven't seen them in person, but reviews are good and price is decent.

Grow lights

Right now I'm operating my lights with approximately 8 hours off.  



I see these lights are "full spectrum".  I am just learning but I recently heard that 5k to 6500k lights are good for "vegging" seedlings and that the other light frequencies aren't needed since they aren't flowering?   Aren't the full spectrum lights more for flowering plants?
 
Annie Collins
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Jennifer Lowery wrote: Btw, when growing the seedlings, should I just leave the light on 24 / 7?   Or put it on a timer with like an 8 hour break or so?



Plants are living beings and need to rest. So yes, at least 8 hours/day with lights off so they can sleep. I usually keep the lights off for about 9 hours/day.
 
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Jennifer Lowery wrote:

Michelle Heath wrote:These are what I'd probably go with.  Haven't seen them in person, but reviews are good and price is decent.

Grow lights

Right now I'm operating my lights with approximately 8 hours off.  



I see these lights are "full spectrum".  I am just learning but I recently heard that 5k to 6500k lights are good for "vegging" seedlings and that the other light frequencies aren't needed since they aren't flowering?   Aren't the full spectrum lights more for flowering plants?



I use cool 6000 and cool 4000 tubes but I find that the plants all lean towards the 6000's so I do wonder if I could get rid of the warm tubes. I should try at some point.
I've looked at LED's but I cannot find any that use very little power, they are all 700W plus and only cover an area of 2 or 3 sqr foot, whereas 4 tubes covers much more than that and uses 190W... I don't need the extra intensity the LED's offer for seedlings
 
Michelle Heath
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Jennifer Lowery wrote:

Michelle Heath wrote:These are what I'd probably go with.  Haven't seen them in person, but reviews are good and price is decent.

Grow lights

Right now I'm operating my lights with approximately 8 hours off.  



I see these lights are "full spectrum".  I am just learning but I recently heard that 5k to 6500k lights are good for "vegging" seedlings and that the other light frequencies aren't needed since they aren't flowering?   Aren't the full spectrum lights more for flowering plants?



Honestly I don't know. I would definitely research them more before I made the purchase.  I've read of others using these in a hydroponic setup with good results.  
 
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What do ya all think of this set of lights on Amazon for $44?  It's six 2200 lumen 6500k LED bulbs, linkable with cords.   I was thinking all 6 for one 2' x 4' shelf?   Or is that too much?  I figure maybe I wouldn't have to lower them down if I had that much power on each shelf?   Could I grow lettuce under this? I was thinking it'd be nice to grow lettuce and arugula under these lights during the summer months so i can still have fresh salad with my garden tomatoes.

https://www.amazon.com/Barrina-Integrated-Fixture-Utility-Electric/dp/B01HBT3BVM
 
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I'm using a regular T5 fluorescent setup, much like this one. It use it for both seedling starts and for growing microgreens/shoots, and it works brilliantly. The fixture was recycled from an old reef tank setup. I've been keeping my eyes open for another fixture, since we love growing the shoots so much. Pea shoots in the middle of winter are a real treat.

In my case, I actually want the heat from the fluorescents since my setup is in my barely heated garage. I keep a thermometer on the rack with my plants, and it gets between 72 and 76 degrees placed six to eight inches from the plants. I turn mine on in the mornings when I get up and off at night before I go to bed; it's part of my garden and household routine.
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:...but I cannot find any that use very little power, they are all 700W plus and only cover an area of 2 or 3 sqr foot, whereas 4 tubes covers much more than that and uses 190W... I don't need the extra intensity the LED's offer for seedlings



Skandi, I would make sure you read the specs carefully.  For instance I was just looking at a "3000 watt LED" on Amazon, but the 3000 watt is some equivalent rating to old lights that they use.  The light actually uses 480 watts and it covers a growing area of 8.5 feet x 6.5 feet, so more than 55 sq ft.  It would take a really enormous LED to use 700W.
 
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Annie Collins wrote:One of my revenue streams is growing microgreens and I use regular fluorescent lights in a shoplight fixture like the one shown in this link:
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Lithonia-Lighting-1233-Linear-Shop-Light-Common-4-ft-Actual-5-5-in-48-in/1000410165

I put a warm and a cool light in each fixture so that the plants get as much of the spectrum as possible. I also like this set-up because Habitat for Humanity Restore usually carries the fluorescent bulbs so I get to participate in recycling, which is an activity that sits close to my heart. The only problem is that your shelves are only 3 feet wide and these are 4 feet, but you could just have it stick out on the sides. For my shelves it's a perfect set-up because they are about 24" deep and 52" long. So I have four 1020 trays sitting next to each other on each tier with 2 shoplight fixtures hanging from each shelf. All of the plants thrive.



Do you use T8 or T12 bulbs?
 
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Any light works for starting and microgreens.  After a week or two, most plants need enough light to or they get leggy and spindly and weak.  LEDs like the barrina in the first link focus all their power on the specific colors of light plants need to grow. Only the pro leds have the extra light frequencies for blooming.  The key for healthy growth is enough light intensity, you have to get the lights a few inches away from the leaves-basically the plants are almost starting to touch them.

I use whatever I have available for starting and microgreens-leds if they aren't needed for older plants or fluorescent if that's what's left.  I use the two pro leds I have for blooming plants indoors and helping my wife's potted plants survive the winter. I supplement with full spectrum florescent (one warm and one cool per fixture)

Four foot lights on three foot shelves is good, the outside couple inches of the lights don't have full intensity and don't grow as nice of greens if you push it.

 
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L Allen wrote:I'm using a regular T5 fluorescent setup, much like this one. It use it for both seedling starts and for growing microgreens/shoots, and it works brilliantly. The fixture was recycled from an old reef tank setup. I've been keeping my eyes open for another fixture, since we love growing the shoots so much. Pea shoots in the middle of winter are a real treat.



Agreed .Good ol' 432w T5 can sprout a lot of seeds and fast. The generate enough heat to usually warrant not needing a seed pad, though my nights don't drop below 40. One caveat of LED is less heat... now if you don't need heat, well then, less footprint.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Skandi Rogers wrote:...but I cannot find any that use very little power, they are all 700W plus and only cover an area of 2 or 3 sqr foot, whereas 4 tubes covers much more than that and uses 190W... I don't need the extra intensity the LED's offer for seedlings



Skandi, I would make sure you read the specs carefully.  For instance I was just looking at a "3000 watt LED" on Amazon, but the 3000 watt is some equivalent rating to old lights that they use.  The light actually uses 480 watts and it covers a growing area of 8.5 feet x 6.5 feet, so more than 55 sq ft.  It would take a really enormous LED to use 700W.



Part of the problem working with german amazon is that I don't speak german and sometimes the translation is a little.. odd.
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Annie Collins wrote:One of my revenue streams is growing microgreens and I use regular fluorescent lights in a shoplight fixture like the one shown in this link:
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Lithonia-Lighting-1233-Linear-Shop-Light-Common-4-ft-Actual-5-5-in-48-in/1000410165

I put a warm and a cool light in each fixture so that the plants get as much of the spectrum as possible. I also like this set-up because Habitat for Humanity Restore usually carries the fluorescent bulbs so I get to participate in recycling, which is an activity that sits close to my heart. The only problem is that your shelves are only 3 feet wide and these are 4 feet, but you could just have it stick out on the sides. For my shelves it's a perfect set-up because they are about 24" deep and 52" long. So I have four 1020 trays sitting next to each other on each tier with 2 shoplight fixtures hanging from each shelf. All of the plants thrive.



So I got these two shop lights you mention above.  I got them in T8.  I got 5K bulb and 6.5K bulb for each fixture.  Hope I did okay.  Got a 4' wide (2' deep) wire rack shelf now.   I guess it's about 12K lumens per shelf.
IMG_4952.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_4952.jpg]
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Eight $1 ceramic tiles ($8 per shelf) seems to be a great way to get a solid rugged waterproof surface over the wire rack:

IMG_4954.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_4954.jpg]
 
Trace Oswald
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Jennifer Lowery wrote:

Annie Collins wrote:One of my revenue streams is growing microgreens and I use regular fluorescent lights in a shoplight fixture like the one shown in this link:
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Lithonia-Lighting-1233-Linear-Shop-Light-Common-4-ft-Actual-5-5-in-48-in/1000410165

I put a warm and a cool light in each fixture so that the plants get as much of the spectrum as possible. I also like this set-up because Habitat for Humanity Restore usually carries the fluorescent bulbs so I get to participate in recycling, which is an activity that sits close to my heart. The only problem is that your shelves are only 3 feet wide and these are 4 feet, but you could just have it stick out on the sides. For my shelves it's a perfect set-up because they are about 24" deep and 52" long. So I have four 1020 trays sitting next to each other on each tier with 2 shoplight fixtures hanging from each shelf. All of the plants thrive.



So I got these two shop lights you mention above.  I got them in T8.  I got 5K bulb and 6.5K bulb for each fixture.  Hope I did okay.  Got a 4' wide (2' deep) wire rack shelf now.   I guess it's about 12K lumens per shelf.



You will know quickly enough.  If your plants get tall and leggy but tip over easily, they aren't getting enough light.  A small oscillating fan that gives them just enough breeze to wiggle them around a little helps strengthen them too.  It's a very nice setup you made.
 
Jennifer Lowery
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Trace Oswald wrote:
You will know quickly enough.  If your plants get tall and leggy but tip over easily, they aren't getting enough light.  A small oscillating fan that gives them just enough breeze to wiggle them around a little helps strengthen them too.  It's a very nice setup you made.



Thanks Trace.  Would you mind sharing which small oscillating fan you'd purchase?  Like an amazon link?  Should I get a small clip on one, to clip onto the shelving?
 
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Thinking about actuallly adding 1 more shop light for 6 bulbs per shelf.  $90 in fixtures/tubes.  180W per shelf.  18,000 lumens.  Is this too much?  Just thinking I'd get more even coverage.
 
Trace Oswald
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Jennifer Lowery wrote:

Trace Oswald wrote:
You will know quickly enough.  If your plants get tall and leggy but tip over easily, they aren't getting enough light.  A small oscillating fan that gives them just enough breeze to wiggle them around a little helps strengthen them too.  It's a very nice setup you made.



Thanks Trace.  Would you mind sharing which small oscillating fan you'd purchase?  Like an amazon link?  Should I get a small clip on one, to clip onto the shelving?



Mine is actually like this one on Amazon:  Fan  but it wouldn't need to be that large.  It's just the fan I already had.  I put it fairly far away from my plants, but any small fan should work fine for this.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Jennifer Lowery wrote:Thinking about actuallly adding 1 more shop light for 6 bulbs per shelf.  $90 in fixtures/tubes.  180W per shelf.  18,000 lumens.  Is this too much?  Just thinking I'd get more even coverage.



I'm running 4 per shelf (144W) and it seems to work fine EXCEPT where the 4000K is on the outside and then the plants lean inwards, though they don't get leggy so it must be just on the limit. I don't think another light would hurt.


there's a very poorly taken shot of my setup, basically what you have done.

And here's some tomato seedlings that have been under those lights all their life. I don't use a fan or anything and I don't find any issues with legginess.


and as a final bit of fun... the chaos in my plant room and why those tomatoes are still in that little tray.. I've run out of room!
 
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Very nice setup Skandi!  Thank you for sharing!

I was thinking of trying out growing some microgreens.  Was thinking about starting with pea shoots/tendrils.  What do you think?   Can I just buy a bag of dried peas from grocery store, soak them and then sow them densely in a microgreen tray?  Bottom water under flourescent?
 
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This fixture on ebay is looking mighty nice.  T8 x 6 bulb high bay fixture.  48" wide and near 20" deep.   Perfect for 4 seedling trays.   $100 and comes with six 5000k LED bulbs.   I can replace 3 of these LED bulbs with 3 of the 6500K LED bulbs and save the other 3 as spares.   I'd have to wire in a power cord, but that's easy enough.   Also have to buy some chain and hooks.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/T8-LED-High-Bay-Light-Fixtures-with-5000K-LED-Bulbs-Included/381842140542

I can get 24 watt 3000 lumen T8 LED replacement bulbs for like $8 a piece off Amazon in bulk.   So six of them would be 18000 lumens at 144 watts.  And allegedly the LED bulbs last 2-3 times longer than flourescent.
Screen-Shot-2020-05-14-at-6.40.31-AM.png
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I went the ultra-cheap route for grow lights this year. The lights were standard bright white LEDs that my local big box store was basically giving away last year, the fixtures were $2/each outdoor floodlight fixtures, and the frame for the lights was made from scrap lumber. I had the electrical cord/connections left over from previous projects, so the only new stuff were the light fixtures and a timer.

So far, it seems to be working quite well, although I might add a few more lights for next year.

 
Jennifer Lowery
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Thanks for all the help.  Really enjoying my lights.  (Lowe's Flourescent workshop light with 5K and 6.5K GE Bulbs).   Plants seem to be enjoying the light:
(Also loving this 10 pack of green Bootstrap Farmer 1020 no hole trays.). Heavy duty 1020 mesh inserts were free from local nursery.. they had in their recycling bin which they allow customers to dig through.  I like the mesh inserts since it allows me to pull the entire set of plants out of the tray afer bottom watering or to move outside for hardening off.  I imagine if I am really careful the thin plastic 6 pack trays should last several seasons.
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I use LEDs.   I find the plants seem to grow faster with them than with florescent.
 
Jennifer Lowery
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John F Dean wrote:I use LEDs.   I find the plants seem to grow faster with them than with florescent.



Which ones do you use John?  What color temp and lumens?  Any particular brand?  I want to get LED next and then I can do a comparison grow.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Jennifer,

I just checked, there are no ,markings on them.  I got them off Amazon.  I will do a little more research.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Jennifer

Hytekgro 45 watt. I got them on Amazon. I am planning on getting 2 more.
 
Jennifer Lowery
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These ones right? https://www.amazon.com/Hytekgro-Lights-Growing-Seedling-Vegetable/dp/B07GWQW8GM
 
Jennifer Lowery
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John, do you have any photos you can share of them running?  Just curious to see what you have growing underneath them and at what distance.  Someone said in a comment htey only draw 15 watts is this true?  If so that's only 30 watts of led compared to typical 100-120 watts per 2' x 4' shelf led/flourescent.

Would two of these led lights you have be sufficient for a 2' x 4' grow shelf?  If so at what distance above?
 
John F Dean
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Hi Jennifer,

Yes, those are the ones.  I have no plants under them now.  I have 4 units and am planning on getting 2 more.  I have a set of shelves that is essentially enclosed by a space blanket.  I also keep a hot pad in the tent in case I want to raise the temp.  I have had zero success at posting pictures on this site, but I will give it another try.
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