Using Grow Lights with Light Rails

by Kev

How would you use a light rail? My concerns are- would you jockey extra lights along the length of the rail (my preference) or at right-angles to the rail (which is the kit light rail companies provide). It seems to me safer to put all that load under the central line of gravity, plus less bending as the load is spread under the light rail itself.

Given light strengths of 400, 600 & 1000 watts , what would your light rail lengths be? And what spacing would you have for the extra lights/jockeys? How long would you hold the light at each end of the run? How would you go about building a homemade light rail? Cheers! Kev

Answer: Kev- here is a good example of how I would use a light rail with grow lights: If I had a 4' x 8' garden to light, but I only had one 1000 watt light, I would use a light mover to periodically switch the light from one side of the garden to the other. The 1000 watt light by itself covers everything beneath it in a 4' x 4' pattern very well (when mounted in a stationary position). However, it is capable of effectively lighting a larger area.

For example, let's say 40 watts/sq.ft. is "effective" lighting for the garden. Simply divide the wattage of your light (1000) by the desired watts/sq.ft. (40) and you get the square footage of your garden (in this case, 25 sq.ft.). If you make the garden 4 feet wide and 6 feet long, you will have a garden of 24 square feet (just less than the maximum size we calculated). Your 1000 watt light will illuminate a 4' x 4' section of the garden nicely, but that leaves a 2' x 4' strip along the edge of the garden that is not lit as well.

Simply hang your light mover to move your light from the center of the RIGHT side of the garden to the center of the LEFT side of the garden. The movement may only be 20 or 24 inches back and forth, but the result is a garden more evenly lit by 41.7 watts/sq.ft.. The center of the garden will receive more light than the perimeter of the garden. To even things out, let the light pause at each end of the light mover for two or three minutes.

So you see, how long your light rail should be is determined by the size of your light(s), the square footage of the garden you are trying to light, and how strong you are trying to illuminate the garden. Likewise, how long you let the light pause is just a matter of understanding how the light is falling on your garden and trying to make the effect more even.

Whether you hang your lights along the length of your light rail or perpendicular to it, the main thing is DO NOT GO OVER the recommended weight limit for the light rail (and make sure it is properly installed into some solid wood). The second most important thing is that your lights are lighting everything evenly in the garden.

Focus on keeping your garden lit evenly at 40 watts/sq.ft. and the rest of your lighting design will fall into place!

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Jan 16, 2010
Easy Light Rail
by: Anonymous

to the OP:

If you want a sturdy light rail that is infinitely adjustable (to a point) then use a 2x4 cut to desired length. Attach eye hooks to ends. And a "swing" style hook in the middle. Now above your garden area

Now use a steel cable run thru the swing hook and secure the end. Run the other end up thru the pulley and back down to you. Now you can cut away the majority of the excess cable. Take two equal pieces of cable and secure to the ends thru the eye hooks on the end of the stud. Connect both new ends onto the ceiling cable forming a pyramid. You should be about 45 degrees on the angle. These will support the stud.

Now lift your lights using the cable coming down from the pulley. Check for balance and adjust til level. Easy, cheap way to raise and lower lights. Use some rope to keep the swaying to a minimum but i think it makes the plants happy.

Don't forget to secure your so your lights don't drop. Your anti-sway rope can be your fail safe as long as it is secure. For my cable I use 300lb test. I plan on using spare aluminum pipe for mine, but a 2x4 should be sufficient.

Jan 14, 2010
Thanks, Light-rail motor query
by: Kev

Thanks, Jason, I appreciate how concise you are in your writing and explanations.

Would it be okay to ask if people here have made a light-rail? My main concern is choosing a motor that runs slowly enough and has enough torque for the job.

Thanks again, for a fantastic site.


Kev- I have no problem with you posting a question to the visitors here for light rail info. I meant to mention in my response....I HAVE seen people rig up their own light movers, but for the cost of a new one (and considering the cost of the equipment they carry), it is my opinion you might be better off just paying the hundred bucks for one. Either way, good luck!

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