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Introduction to Shop Light Reflectors

Shop light type fixtures commonly have bulbs spaced a few inches apart, which can create light "stripes" when used close to plants. The hood on a shop light helps to widen the light by reflecting it from the top of the bulb. This style of reflector ensures the light never leaves the top of the bulb and is instead reflected through the bulbs and sent out the front. Aquarium shops can attest to the effectiveness of this method.

The Foil Reflector: Bringing Bulbs Closer Together​

When you want to bring bulbs closer to one another, a foil reflector can be an excellent solution. All you need is a bulb and some 2-inch wide foil tape.

Preparing the Foil Tape​

First, cut the tape a couple of inches shorter than the bulb. This is important for two reasons:

  1. Bulbs get hottest at the ends, which can cause the glue to release and the ends of the tape to pull up.
  2. Keeping the conductive foil away from the power at the end is essential for safety.
Before applying the tape, ensure the bulb is laying with its pins horizontal to the floor. If your pins lock at an angle in the fixture, make appropriate adjustments.

Important: Make sure the tape is oriented correctly with the fluorescent pin position when installed!

Applying the Foil Tape​

Start applying the tape about an inch from one end, letting the center of the tape stick to the very top of the bulb. Keep the tape straight and slowly run it down to the end, tearing off any excess before sticking it past the last inch. Maintain tension on the tape to keep it straight, centered, and wrinkle-free.

Once the center of the tape is attached, begin at the middle of the bulb and gradually make more of the tape adhere from the center out, so it takes the shape of the bulb. Work from the middle to the end of the bulb, and don't try to get all the tape to stick in one attempt. The tape will not lift once set in place.

Note: Attempting to stretch a full length of foil tape and lay it all at once onto the bulb is challenging, as the tape sticks hard when it touches anything and tends to curl when you peel off the backing.

The Results: A Wall of Light​

A comparison of taped and untaped bulbs reveals that taped bulbs are brighter and the light is more focused downward. Side lighting is still present but noticeably reduced. Photos of a taped bulb over 30 days old show no signs of phosphorous burning, stress, or damage.

By using this technique, you can create a wall of light. While fluorescent lights are not known for their power, it is crucial to make the most of the light they produce.

Editor's Note: If your foil tape doesn't have clear adhesive, mylar can be used in its place.
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