I'm often awed by the fantastic seed starting areas that some of you have, with the large banks of grow lights and the massive shelf area below. Mine is just a rigged bunch of odds and ends. Plants start on a Kane heating mat that was stolen from the outdoor dog. Light comes via 6-8 clip on reflector lamps with 23 watt CF bulbs. Doesn't look very impressive, and is not very effective on a wide scale. Thing is, here in central South Carolina, I just need to start the plants, and then they are usually moved outside in the direct sunlight in the cold frame at least 3-4 days per week in January and February. At that point, the lights just supplement in the early mornings and evenings to give the plants 14-16 hours of light per day. By February the plants are usually staying outside in the cold frame over night, except for the occasional time that the temperatures dip much below 40 degrees. So like most everything else, each person's needs are very individual depending upon location and other factors. Here in our moderate zone 8 location, the cold frame is a much more important tool than having a really great light set up. Zone six and colder, I bet the situation would be just the reverse.
Don't laugh at this setup. Well, if you must!
This is my second round of tomato starts. They are planted in small community pots. Those in the foreground were just transplanted today.