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There is tremendous variability in the cost of T5 HO light bulbs. I have found bulbs online for as little as about $2.75 and as much as $28 dollars.

For people with knowledge in this area - how much difference is there between bulbs? Assuming I get bulbs with the same color spectrum I want, does the total number of lumens vary that much between a cheap bulb and an expensive one? Are there other factors (besides longevity, I suppose, I could see that varying a lot) that are important to consider?

Talking about bulbs here, not fixtures. Thanks for the input.
The quality of the glass and phosphors that goes into making a bulb can vary.
An example is that I have just replaced some BlueMax full spectrum bulbs (expensive) that were only 6 mo. old. I was very disapointed because they did not hold their color spectrum well at all... great at first... but cheap(?) phosphor degraded quickly and they soon "yellowed" out.:confused:
I know reef folks are familiar with this problem and many re-lamp every 8-12 month to counter the phosphor breakdown and loss of the spectrum that the bulbs had when they were "fresh".
BTW..I like zoo med Ultra Sun for a T-5, they seem to hold up well and have pleasing crisp daylight color. They are made in Germany.
That factors into the cost as we all know, since they are not coming from a
3rd world country somewhere made by kids getting 20 cents an hour if they are lucky.
And when it comes to UV producing Bulbs, the quality and composition of the glass is critical so that harmful low low wave UV B <390 and UV C gets filtered out and does not penetrate the glass to reach the animals.
Hope this helps. Todd
 
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