I'm new here and thought this would be a good thread to start since hydroponics can be as cheap or expensive as you choose. Ultimately we want the best system regardless of our garden size.
So, I thought we could all contribute effective but non industry marketed products we've incorporated into our systems.
I'll start with my ballast/reflector.
My ballast/reflector is a cheap, plastic tub from Walmart. About 4-5 bucks.
I bought 4, screw bulb socket shop lights made from heavy ceramic capable of running 120-240 voltages and able to withstand lots of heat.
Then from the Dollar Tree, I bought Voila brand chrome tissue paper which of course, costs 1 dollar and is 4 sheets of 18 x 30 per package.
I cut holes in the the top of the tub making a 4 point square so the light is centered and focused. I then spray glued the sheets cut to measure through the entire tub. Inserted the sockets by unscrewing the cap housing, removing the wires then screwing the cap back to the housing once it was inserted through the holes and reattached the wires.
The final addition was Chroma orange, gel paper for stage lighting which produces "true" sunlight for when the plants reach the flowering stage. This is simply taped to a piece of plexiglass I cut on my table saw and can insert in the ballast/reflector system when needed.
The bulbs are simply the fluorescent twists drawing 26 watts each. It's VERY bright although I have but one complaint.
The bulbs have that white softener pasted inside them. Would be great if the manufacturers would offer them without it as we would get easily 2-3 times the output from them.
I think the overall cost was about $40 and it definitely competes with the lower priced HPS and MH lights I've seen over the years while drawing 1/4 or less of the energy.