Indoor growers can utilize grow lights to prolong the growing season, ensuring a continuous abundance of fresh flowers, nutritious vegetables, and unique herbs throughout the year. These lights also offer the added benefit of providing a jumpstart to young seedlings before they are ready for outdoor planting. However, for inexperienced growers, so many types of grow lights can be daunting. That’s why we have created this ultimate guide to help novice growers choose the most suitable type for plant cultivation.
While incandescent grow lights are the most economical choice for indoor growing, they come with significant drawbacks. The primary concern is their high heat output, necessitating a distance of at least two feet from the plant to prevent damage. Surprisingly, only about ten percent of the energy they emit is in the form of light, with the remaining 90% wasted as heat. This excessive heat can have a detrimental effect on certain plants like tropicals, cacti, or succulents.
Additionally, since plants cannot utilize the wasted heat energy from incandescent lights, the overall cost of using such lights in the long term becomes more expensive when compared with other types of grow lights.
Most importantly, incandescent grow lights cannot provide the wavelengths needed for plant photosynthesis(400-700 nm range). Their limited light output makes them suitable only for small-scale plant cultivation, while larger gardens or plantations would benefit more from alternative grow light options.
Fluorescent grow lights emit visible light via the activation of fluorescent materials. By passing an electric current through electrodes at both ends of the bulb, the mercury inside absorbs energy and emits a short-wave light, causing the phosphor coating within the lamp to glow. They commonly feature built-in reflectors and ballasts.
Two popular types of FL utilized for indoor plants are tube-style lights and compact fluorescent lights (CFL).
1. Tube-style Fluorescent Light
Various tube-style fluorescent lights are available, including T5, T8, and T12. Among these options, the T5 is the most favored and efficient choice for indoor plant cultivation.
T5 grow lights typically consist of multiple bulbs arranged in parallel within a panel. Due to emitting lower power compared with HIDs, T5 lights generate less heat, allowing them to be positioned closer to plants without causing damage.
CFLs, also known as compact fluorescent bulbs, have become a common sight in households. They are better than traditional incandescent light bulbs due to their extended lifespan and energy-efficient characteristics. They are available in various sizes and colors, ranging from 12 watts to as high as 250 watts, suitable for both everyday activities and plant growth purposes.
CFLs are essentially a compact version of fluorescent lights, making them ideal for fitting into smaller indoor growing spaces compared with larger grow lights. Their affordability is another advantage, making them a cost-effective option. Moreover, CFLs produce relatively low heat, reducing the need for extensive ventilation in the growing area.
Fluorescent Grow Lights Tips
Fluorescent lights are not as powerful for flowering as HPS. Therefore, they are commonly employed for tasks like seed starting, rooting cuttings, and supporting early to mid-stage plant vegetative growth.
Bear in mind that handle fluorescent lights cautiously and install them securely to avoid any unintended breakage and potential release of mercury. Fluorescent grow lights contain mercury, a heavy metal known for its health risks if accidentally released into the air due to bulb breakage. Exposure to mercury can cause serious health hazards. Furthermore, the presence of mercury can adversely impact plant development.
HID, which stands for High-Intensity Discharge, is a type of bulb that conducts electricity through a gas-filled tube. Speaking of professional indoor grow rooms, HID fixtures often come to mind. These grow light types are prevalent in larger spaces because of their wider coverage area compared with many other options.
HID grow lights stand out in their ability to offer consistent and high-quality light, as well as superior penetration through the plant canopy. They ensure better distribution of light, reaching the lower leaves and stems of plants beneath the canopy effectively.
Another advantage of HIDs is their ability to maintain a relatively consistent light intensity across varying distances. Even when positioned farther away from the plants, HIDs still provide sufficient light to support their growth.
HID lighting systems produce heat as a natural byproduct due to the high temperature required to generate light from the gas inside the tube. While these lights become more efficient as they warm up, the excess heat cannot be fully utilized to improve energy efficiency. As a result, growers need to implement cooling fixtures to prevent overheating in the grow room and maintain optimal conditions.
The heat generated by HID lighting systems is directed downward toward the crop, which can induce stress and weaken the plants. This weakened state makes them more susceptible to pests and diseases, posing a risk to their health and overall growth.
Indoor growers commonly use three types of HID grow lights: High-Pressure Sodium (HPS), Metal Halide (MH), and Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH).
High-pressure sodium lamps emit an orange/red light that stimulates flowering in plants. They possess a longer lifespan when compared to metal halide lamps. However, relying solely on HPS lamps may result in plants growing slender and experiencing growth deficiencies due to the lack of blue light.
Metal halide (MH) is commonly utilized during the vegetative phase of plants because it emits a higher proportion of blue light in the spectrum.
Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) or Light Emitting Ceramic (LEC) utilizes a ceramic arc tube similar to HPS lights. You can regard it as a combination of HPS and MH. This results in a broader light spectrum range, making it a suitable single light solution for indoor growing.
Despite its improved efficiency compared with regular MH lights, CMH does not emit more red light than HPS, making it less effective during the flowering growth stage of plants compared with HPS.
CMH is yet to be conclusively proven as a more cost-efficient and higher yielding solution compared with a combination of different light sources.
HID Grow Light Tips
Indoor growers have the option to use three types of lights (HPS, MH, and CMH) throughout the entire growing phase, but it is not the most highly recommended approach. Typically, start with MH or CMH lights in the vegetative phase, then switch to HPS lights when your crops enter the flowering phase.
LED lighting technology came into the market later than other lighting types, and it initially faced skepticism from growers. However, it quickly proved its worth by demonstrating efficient performance and unique advantages that other types of grow lights lack.
Modern LED grow lights, like those equipped with COB or Quantum board technology, provide strong light intensity and penetration, making them ideal for challenging plant growth conditions. Their adaptability allows for customized adjustments, enabling the production of full-spectrum or single-spectrum light to optimize photosynthesis, light utilization, and influence flowering and fruiting processes, resulting in desired growth outcomes. In the present day, LEDs can rival, and even surpass, other types of grow lighting, including HID lights. Though they are generally more expensive, these lights will end up with significant long-term savings.
LEDs typically incorporate built-in cooling mechanisms that effectively manage heat around plants, eliminating the need for constant ventilation and regular monitoring for growers.
Due to their low heat emission, you can put LEDs in close proximity to plants, offering growers greater flexibility and adaptability in their setup.
LEDs have a significantly longer lifespan compared with traditional lights. On average, LEDs can provide up to 50,000 hours of lighting, lasting up to 15 years, while HPS lights last only about 10,000 hours.
While the initial setup cost of LEDs is high, their efficient performance makes them cost-effective in the long run.
LEDs require adequate distance from plants to avoid burning them with excessive light, despite their cool temperature.
LEDs can be vulnerable to the temperature in certain environments, particularly in places with high temperatures like processing mills. The performance of LED diodes depends on the surrounding temperature, and if it becomes too hot, the LED modules can potentially burn out.
If you have a limited budget and a small growing space, choosing CFL bulbs is a practical option. They are cost-effective, easy to set up and replace. And they still provide decent results that have been proven over time.
If you want better light penetration without breaking the bank, HID lights are a good option. However, you should change the bulb at different stages for healthy plant growth. Also, you should consider the heat generated by HPS lights and be prepared to implement proper cooling measures.
For those seeking an efficient and long-lasting grow lights solution, LEDs are an excellent choice. Despite their higher price, they offer cool operation, an extended lifespan, low electricity consumption, and most importantly, they deliver impressive yields. Investing in LEDs can prove to be highly beneficial in the long run, making the most out of your money.
Begin your purchasing journey by exploring the wide range of premium and budget-friendly LED grow light options at MokoLight to discover the perfect model that suits your needs. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to talk to our knowledgeable experts. We are more than happy to assist you and look forward to hearing from you.