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Powering your lamps

Get started with the basics

First, you need to understand that the apparent brightness of a lamp doesn't indicate how much UV it is producing. Ultraviolet lamps generally require a lamp that is run in HO mode (High Output), unlike general lighting lamps. To put it another way, your office lights are designed to run most efficiently with about 8 watts of power per foot. A 4 foot office light uses 32 watts (32 watts divided by 4 feet = 8 watts per foot).

Ultraviolet lights will operate at this wattage, but not at peak efficiency. To get the most out of curing lamps, they need to be overdriven, however, they must be designed to be overdriven or you will experience very short lamp life. A 6 foot HO curing lamp uses 100 watts, or about 17 watts per foot, around twice that of a general lighting fluorescent lamp. The same lamp (with further upgrades) can be pushed to double that, to around 34 watts PER FOOT. Of course, this means the lamp must be designed with beefier cathode and anode sets, and be running an internal gas pressure designed for this double or quadrupedal current, which is one reason why ultraviolet lights are more expensive than general purpose lighting. All fluorescent lamps are designed to operate on a narrow range of wattages. The way we design Solacure lamps, they can be operated on a much wider range, allowing them to be used in a wide variety of applications. The other reason that quality curing lamps cost more is that it requires rare earth metals to create phosphors that will generate ultraviolet, as well as special buffers to get the maximum life out of them. Even the glass we use is different than regular lamps, designed to pass more UV than if we used cheaper (but inferior) off the shelf glass. While we create lamps that are in a familiar package size, every single component is different: the ends, the glass, the phosphors, the gas pressure...all different than a general purpose light. We did this so you CAN use a regular fixture for some needs, or just upgrade that existing fixture to a hotter ballast for higher output. This saves you money.

Unlike regular incandescent lamps, fluorescent lamps are not self-regulating. They don't have resistance to limit the current, so they require an outside ballast to control the flow of electricity to them. If you connect a 200 watt fluorescent lamp to a 100 watt ballast, it will still only draw 100 watts. The ballast controls the wattage, not the lamp. The wattage rating on a fluorescent lamp just tells you what the lamp was engineered to handle. They will typically run on wattages much lower and much higher, but it will dramatically affect performance and lamp life. As such, you should always match your UV curing lamps with a ballast designed for the proper wattage of that lamp.

Our FR32T8 UV curing / grow lamps will run on as little as 32 watts, or as much as 60 watts (they will actually fire as low as ~22w but produce almost no UV at that low power, just visible light.). This will allow you to use them in a standard 4 foot light fixture in standard mode (with significantly reduced output) or to be powered properly with a Workhorse ballast system (with optimal output). Both wattages are useful to hobbyists and hard core users alike: Not everyone needs maximum power. Some want to slow cure, or just aren't in a hurry and a few extra minutes are fine. Growers who are looking for UVB production will probably stay with 32w as it is simple, cheap, makes the lamps last longer, and it isn't a problem to run the lights for a few hours a day. Of course, you can always use the same fixture and just upgrade the ballast inside later, which is typically pretty easy. Our FR71 UV curing / growing bulbs (such as the SG-1) should only be powered using an appropriate 100W or equivalent ballast system, as the output will be unacceptably low otherwise. There is a lot of volume inside those lamps compared to a 4 foot bulb, and the design dictates it be run in HO mode.

Sunhorse ballasts for uv curing and growing lights for plants100 watt lamps (F71/FR71 or similar)

To power standard curing lamps in 6 foot size, ie: F71/F72/F73 etc., the best and most affordable ballast is the Sunhorse. It costs around $80 and will power 4 lamps at maximum output. We've measured the output and found it to be higher than the older style electronics, and it seems to be easier on the lamps themselves, so you end up with longer lamp life as well. They are also very easy to wire, having about half the wires of the older magnetic and electronic ballasts. Almost all of our testing with the 6 foot UV cure lamps is done exclusively with this ballast. They measure about 18.75" long, by 1 inch tall, by 4 inches wide. They get warm in operation, but never hot. They come with long enough wire leads if you mount them close to the center of the lamp area, without requiring any extra length. We have done extensive cycle testing here at Solacure, with samples hitting 10,000 times being turned on and off without a single failure. You can get them in 120V (recommended) or 230V. The performance of both are identical, so there is no advantage to getting the 230V unless you need a lower amp draw, or to tie into existing equipment. For UV curing of long items, this is the best pick. This includes surfboards (put two sets end to end to have 12 foot of exposure area), guitars curing boxes, or assembly line curing. For example, many guitar curing boxes use 4 of these and 16 FR71 lamps (ie: the SG-1), surrounding the guitar in a 5/3/5/3 configuration, with cure times measured in just a few minutes. As you can see, they scale easily, so you can run 4, 8, 12, 16, etc lamp rigs with this ballast. Buy the ballasts here.

Workhorse 8 ballasts for uv curing and T8 grow lampsSmaller lamps
The Workhorse 8 is a very versatile ballast, and can power a number of different lamp configurations. Technically, you can power up to 6 F71 curing lamps, but the amount of ultraviolet you will create is almost negligible. There are some special wiring diagrams to get them to overdrive two F71 lamps in a quazi-VHO mode, and other diagrams to power three F71 lamps in reduced output mode, but for the purpose of UV curing, I don't recommend it. I have personally tested F14s, F32s, F40s, F71s, F71VHOR and likely more oddball configurations than you can imagine, plus we have manufactured with them for years for different applications. We even use them around the office to replace the 4xF32 ballasts that fail in the office lights (they are much brighter than using the original ballasts). Suffice it to say, it is a great little ballast to power the shorter T8 lamps, and reasonably priced as well. you can run between 2 and 6 of the upcoming Curall FR32T8 lamps with them and get similar performance (per inch) to the standard F71HO lamps we use in tanning beds, which is fairly impressive. The cost just under $50, which is good for a ballast that powers 6 lamps, and have endured our 10,000 cycle on/off test as well. They come in 120V versions only. You can buy them here.

Cousin to the Workhorse 8 is the Workhorse 7. It looks identical, but is a 4 lead lamp that will push four of the FR32T8 lamps at perfect power, around 44-45 watts. The lamps can take more power (up to 60 watts), but this is a happy medium for people looking to balance lamp life and UV output. While this will cut the life short by a couple hundred hours, our tests show more than 60% increase in UV output when compared to a stock ballast, and 50% higher than the Workhorse 8 powering 6 lamps. It is around $10 more than the Workhorse 8, but for fast curing in a compact space, it is pretty hard to beat the WH7 ballast. It also scales very well. We have several customers that use several of these ballasts powering 4 foot lamps over an assembly line, to cure as the items move down the line.

Workhorse 8 ballasts for uv curing and T8 grow lampsLamp holders
Honestly, the amp draw is low enough that virtually any lamp holder that will work for T8 and T12 lamps will be just fine. The real difference is in the quality of the lamp holder itself, how durable it is, how reliable it is. We have recently changed over to a new Leviton model for all our our UV kits for a couple of reasons: They are super durable and solid plastic instead of hollow, plus they have no rotating parts to break. They also can be slot mounted or surface mounted with a flat bottom screw, making them much easier to work with. Additionally, they are internally shunted (the two pins are connected to each other) which makes wiring with the Sunhorse/Workhorse ballasts really easy, just stab it with one wire and you are done. We are about $1 cheaper than other sites on them, at $2.99 each. This is about the same price as the lighter duty lamp holders I've found at Lowes / Home Depot, so I'm fairly confident in saying you are better off buying them from us. Remember, you need two of these per lamp. It isn't necessary to buy extras since they aren't likely to break under normal use, but it isn't a bad idea to have one or two extra in case you really go crazy and accidentally brake one. These work with either T12 (1.5" diameter) or T8 (1" diameter) lamps, up to 200 watts or more each. You can buy them here.

Solacure Means Quality

Solacure ultraviolet lamps aren't just good, we guarantee they are the best. We don't use stock parts anywhere in our products. Our glass is a special blend, and more transparent to UVA and UVB. Our 32 watt lamps use 60 watt rated cathodes and are tested at almost 70 watts of power. Almost all our lamps have built in reflectors. All are designed to be overdriven to extra high wattages. We test, and test, and test our lamps.

We stand behind everything we sell and guarantee each will perform exactly to specification, or we will replace them. We don't want your business this week, we want it every week, and we are willing to earn it. There really is a difference in quality when it comes to ultraviolet bulbs, and Solacure tops the list.

Buy with confidence: We like what we do, and we've been doing it for over 30 years.
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