Pulse Start LightingJust like so much of the more advanced lighting technologies that are now available for today's indoor grower, Pulse Start HID lighting lighting has been around for quite a while now. If not in the actual lights themselves, at least in theory.
What's changed in recent years to bring it into the spotlight though, is indoor growing. A new and expanding market niche that's been the impetus for manufacturers to develop and produce lights containing this newer technology on a larger scale.
What you need to understand from the start however, is that pulse start lights are no major breakthrough. Yes they carry some benefits for the indoor grower but they aren't earthshaking. Also another thing to consider here is cost. This is because you are going to pay more for pulse start lights than you will for a standard HID light.
Still another thing worth noting here is that not all pulse start lights are the same. Some are simply better quality than others and then there are also a few companies now that have developed pulse start lights with advanced features targeted specifically for indoor growers.
So to begin with, the first thing you'll notice about pulse start lights is that they look quite the same as standard HIDs and there's a reason for this. That is that they function in the same basic way as an HID lamp. You see, it's the ignition system in the gas tube that makes the big difference that separates the two.
So without getting into too much technical detail, pulse start lamps have two electrical contacts integrated into the igniter that's located inside the gas tube. Standard HID lamps on the other hand are referred to as probe start and use three electrical contacts to ignite the gas contained in the tube.
Now this might seem like a relatively insignificant difference but in actuality what might seem as a minor difference in how the gas in the tube is ignited has some noteworthy effects for today's grower. But like I mentioned above they aren't earthshaking but nonetheless are measurable.
For example one of the most noteworthy of them is that as a result of how the gas inside the tube is ignited there is lessening of an unwanted chemical reaction between an element contained in the gas and the interior of the glass tube. What this means is the bubbling and discoloration that you normally get on a standard HID lights gas tube is minimize substantially.
Anyone who has actually grown indoors knows that HID lamps die a slow lingering death. That is if they don't burn out in one 'big proof' like a standard incandescent bulb does, and it's this gradual 'bubbling and discoloring' of the gas tube that's the hallmark of an HID light using up its service life, discoloration that has most growers tossing their bulbs out long before their service life has been used up.
Now this might seem like a minor issue on the surface but what you have to understand here is that pretty much every other benefit that's credited to pulse start lighting is tied to this effect. That is that it's a clearer, more translucent gas tube over the service life of the bulb that leads to all the other benefits listed below.
So as stated above you get a longer bulb life because it's the level of corrosion on the glass in the gas tube that determines the lifespan of a bulb. Current figures put the number at about 30% more service life.
You will also see more stability in terms of light spectrum color rendering as well as lumen output as your lamp ages, and this is really what counts the most in an indoor bulb above everything else.
You'll also see quicker start-up times which is really not a huge deal, but nonetheless it is a 'plus' worth mentioning. Quicker start-up time means more efficient use of power as well as increased accuracy in light timing.
The Bottom Line
Pulse start lamps are an easy and affordable way to take a 'step up' from standard HID lighting, with your existing ballast. No it's not a giant leap up, but a step up nonetheless. Be aware however, that it does come at a cost, with the more advanced pulse start bulbs that are designed specifically for indoor growers costing quite a bit more than standard bulbs.
Do the math before you make the switch because all things considered, everything that pulse start has to offer can be had by simply adding more HID lighting. Also be aware that pulse start lamps don't use less electricity, rather over the lifetime of the bulb they put out 'more light' for the electricity that they consume.