Up until now, my top shelves were lit by a $40 sunlamp from Amazon. After a while, I started suspecting that the lamp wasn't providing enough light. My two phals had dark green folliage and the paph sanderianum seemed darker than when I had first purchased it. Also, the entire contraption looked (deservedly) ad hoc, and the sunlamp's base was taking up valuable shelf space which could be holding more orchids.
I wanted an upgrade, and I was ready to replace the sunlamp with a more appropriate fixture. I purchased my 2 foot T5 fluorescent fixture off Amazon, and it arrived yesterday. Over a rather frustrating couple of hours, I disassembled most of the growth shelves, and reassembled everything as in the picture above. The top lamp is held up by thick ropes, while the bottom lamp is attached to the shelf via the same 12 gauge craft wire I've been using to mount my orchids.
My challenge now, is figuring out where to place my orchids for appropriate light intensity. I really really wish I had access to a photometer, but these instruments seem to cost over a $100 at a minimum.
For example, which of my two lights is brighter? The CFL lamp at the top shelf feels brighter, but the T5 lamps are more painful to stare at directly. I may be able to find some clues online, but for now I am left with guesswork and trial&error.
My phals, which are now on the top shelf close to the CFL lamp, are likely getting more light than they should. Meanwhile, I'm not sure if the top of the plastic cabinets where the oncidium noid now rests gets enough light at all for orchids. I'm sure I'll be doing a lot of adjusting and repositioning over the next few weeks, and hopefully not end up burning any of my leaves. At least my original problem of insufficient lighting is now solved.