I'm always looking to do things without spending a lot of money. This is how I made a seed starting/growing station in my basement with scrap lumber, bits of things I had around, and some old office lights I got off craigslist for around forty dollars.
The lights came with the pigtail in an aluminum conduit from where they had been hard wired into a building electrical circuit. A couple of them still had the diffuser panels. I left the original light bulbs in place; I know there's a lot of talk about 'cold' and 'warm' lights, and phenomenally expensive 'full spectrum grow lights', but the seedlings seem to do just fine with the regular issue light bulbs.
The first chore was to remove the aluminum conduit and wire a plug onto each light. I always have wire nuts, electrical tape, etc., in the tool box, and whenever something dies, like a vacuum cleaner or a sump pump, I cut the power cord off and save it. So I had enough cords on hand to wire all four lights with a plug without buying any parts. The wiring is pretty simple - red or black is hot, and white is neutral. One just has to be careful to keep hot to hot and neutral to neutral to avoid any potential fireworks.
I'm already repotting the first flats of tomatoes that I planted, and today I need to start with the pumpkins and squashes. Once they sprout, they really take off! In just twelve days or so they've gone from seeds to overwhelming the whole flat. So far germination has been very good; out of each flat of 72 pellets I've only had a few that didn't sprout. Several seed packets were bought new this year, and a friend sent me some squash and okra (Okra! What am I supposed to do with that??), but most of the vegetable seeds I used this year were saved from 2010 and 2011, and almost all of them are heirloom varieties obtained from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com). This is my third year using their seeds, and I've been happy with the customer service and the quality of the seeds.
So far this little growing station has worked well for me, and cost very little to set up. I don't really like using electricity and running up that bill, but I don't have an outdoor greenhouse, nor enough south facing window space, and my basement rarely gets above fifty-some degrees, so this is what it is for now. Using the timer helps to keep the bill down a little, and I am planning to change the heat source. Even using heavy gauge cords and a GFCI outlet, the electric heater makes me a little nervous. Can't argue with the results, though, and the whole apparatus is only in use for a month or so out of the year. As time goes on I hope to build an outdoor greenhouse, but that project is a ways down on the priority list.
Despite the fact that a sharply cold north wind continues to howl around the house, I believe it won't be much longer until I can start setting the seedlings out to harden off. Then it will be planting time, and hopefully a chance to make a dollar or two selling the extras.