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ballasts - convince me.

Hello -

About a month ago, when I was laying plans for my aquarium hood, I went to Home 
Depot to price parts.  It soon became quite expensive, mainly because of the 
ballasts.  They ranged from $30-40, and I would need two of them to power four 
40 watt flourescents, plus wire, endcaps, bulbs, wood, glue, stain, etc. etc.

I asked 4 people who worked in the electrical department what benefit I would 
get from an expensive ballast, and none of them could tell me.  I wound up 
buying two $8 shop lights, some Phillips F40DX and GE Sun bulbs, and went home.  
I painted them black and fashioned a little brace to hold them together in a 
triangle pattern (so they'd fit over my tank) and I'm done.  

I have read the APD archives about ballasts, and I'm still not convinced.  OK, 
so the little cheap ballasts in the shop lights may fizzle sooner; so what, the 
whole light cost $8.  So the bulbs may not last as long; so what, they cost less 
than $5.  So they cheap ballasts may not drive the $30 Actinic bulbs from the 
LFS; so what, the common wisdom semms to be that you don't need them, they may 
actually be detrimental to plant growth, and there are cheap alternatives with 
nearly the same spectrum, for 'aesthetic appeal'.

I can replace parts in my current setup for YEARS before it would cost me as 
much as one electronic ballast, and other saving me an occasional trip to the 
hardware store, I get no benefit for the extra money spent.

So am I a fool, or a beacon of common sense?  I stand by to be flamed :)

 - Anthony