Learn to make your own homemade hydroponics system to grow virtually any plant, vegetable and fruit without soil.
Hydroponic systems and components come in a varied price range and it's often hard to choose the right balance between cost and quality. But if you're on the budget, cost probably comes first and you'll want to ask yourself: are cheap hydroponics worth it?
The quality versus price issue that is present in every possible marketable field couldn't avoid hydroponics either. You have cheap hydroponics components that sell for peanuts but aren't really all that powerful or long-lasting and you have your top-of-their-class components that can give you incredible performance, but only do so at a good chunk of your pocket.
Obviously, many newcomers to homemade hydroponics don't want to start out with something that's too expensive, because they don't know if they can get it assembled right, or if they can ever get their money's worth out of such an expensive system. So they have to go with the cheap hydroponics systems, which raise one question: are they worth it?
First off, let me say that you will have to compare the prices of components and systems that are in the same category if you want to determine what cheap hydroponics means in relation to that particular category of products. You can't compare a 400W High Intensity Discharge metal halide lamp with a 650W one, because the extra power obviously makes the price go higher.
Even in the same category, cheaper products might be cheaper not because they're of poorer quality, but because they're lacking a certain feature. For example, two equally large containers may differ in price because one comes with a pH meter while the other lacks it. So determining exactly WHY the product is cheap is just as important as choosing whether or not you're going to buy it.
Price is often determined by branding and of course, there's a good chance that a component coming from a well-known brand will have a higher quality. But that doesn't go around the same way, because not all cheap hydroponics brands are poor. The price might be lower because their brand is not known well enough to allow them to sell stuff at high prices, but that doesn't mean they're not putting the best of efforts in creating quality components and systems.
In the end, I guess it's just a matter of risk: if you want lower risks, you'll go for the high priced stuff. If you're willing to take a roll of the dice, cheap hydroponics are worth a try.
Personally, cheap hydroponics don't necessarily strike me as trustworthy, hence I try to avoid them. There's a saying that stuck to my mind for years and I go by it every time I buy something, although I can't really place its author: "I'm not rich enough to buy something cheap". Its meaning is that, in the long-run, something cheap, but lacking quality, will be more costly than something that's more expensive, but has the right quality to last you longer.
So to answer the question in the title, cheap hydroponics are not worth it in the long run, but if you've just started out and want to get some experience into building homemade hydroponics systems, or if you're just doing this for a hobby, then indeed, cheap hydroponic systems and components might be the way to go until you decide you're ready to get more involved.