As a new grower, it can be really difficult to understand the complex world of grow lights and decide which one is good for your indoor plants. Not all grow lights available in the market are alike. Each one has a specific purpose and they come with their pros and cons. In this article we will tell you about the different types of grow lights available in the market.
Before that, let’s briefly discuss what grow lights are and what they are used for. We know that sunlight is an essential component for plant growth. The sun light helps in photosynthesis and the same action is induced with the help of grow lights.
Although any artificial light can stimulate growth, the household lamps and fixtures are not designed in a way to promote plant growth. As a result we need special grow lights to stimulate the photosynthesis process in plants.
T5 Fluorescent Grow Lights
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The fluorescent grow lights run cooler and they are one of the popular types of grow lights. However, these fluorescent lights are different from those used in household. These tubes are generally measured by the diameter and the ‘T’ stands for 1/8th of an inch. So, T5 means 5/8th of an inch measured in diameter. The T5 Fluorescent grow lights are cool hence they work best in the propagation stage of plants.
- Emits light that covers a larger area
- Less expensive than other grow lights
- Have a useful and longer life span
- Not useful in flowering and vegetative stages of growth
High Intensity Discharge (HID) Grow Lights
The high intensity discharge lights or HIDs are huge bulb systems wherein light is created by igniting light within the bulb. The HIDs are basically available in three different types – High pressure sodium (HPS) and Metal halides (MH). The third variety is the hybrid between the two.
The HID grow lights have two tungsten (W) electrodes and they work by arcing the electric current between these electrodes. It then ignites gas in each bulb. The HID systems comprise of a bulb, a ballast, and a reflective cover to maximize the amount of light provided to the plants.
- Lights can be dimmed to customize the amount of light made available to the plants
- They produce more lights than the fluorescent lights
- HID bulbs can be used without changing ballast
- If not monitored or controlled properly, HID bulbs may produce heat enough to burn plants
- Effectiveness of each bulb decreases over time so it’s important to replace them on time
- They need extra hardware such as a reflector and ballast to operate
The Double-ended (DE) lighting is a new type of high pressure sodium (HPS) light. Instead of screwing into one ballast port, it connects at the two different ends of ballast. It is very much like a traditional fluorescent tube. Double-ended lightings have a lot of advantage over the single ended lighting types. A single ended light loses a considerable amount of efficiency after reaching 10,000-hours, but a double-ended light is 90 percent efficient after reaching the same milestone.
Furthermore, the double-ended lights are thinner than the single ended ones. So with double ended, more lights can reach the plants than a single-ended bulb kept at the same height.
- More efficient than other types of grow lights
- Thinner than the single ended lights
- It may cause foliage burn if not monitored closely
- Contact with nitrogen reduces the efficiency
Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) or Light Emitting Ceramics (LEC)
Both CMH and LEC fall under the single-ended light family. These are mainly used interchangeably with each other as they belong to the same family. The light bulbs operates in an almost similar fashion like the metal halide cousin, but they come with a ceramic arc just like HPS bulbs
As the LECs constitute of ceramic element, they burn with a higher intensity than metal halides. Thus they are capable of producing light that is similar to natural sunlight. The presence of insulating value ensures that they have a lower heat output so there’s no chance of burning leaves. The best thing about the LEC lights is that they are capable of producing light spectrum which is enough to support both the vegetative and flowering stage of plants.
- Lasts longer than MH or HPS bulbs
- Produces light similar to natural sunlight
- Supports different stages of plant growth
- Only magnetic ballasts can be used
- Expensive, as this is still a new technology
- Growers are exposed to high amounts of ultra violet rays
LED Grow Lights
The Light emitting diode (LED) grow lights have been recently introduced in the world of artificial grow lights. There are numerous benefits of using LEDs however not many growers are able to take advantage of that due to high initial cost. As LED lights continue to be used for artificial cultivation, we hope that the cost of these lights will drop significantly in the years to come.
The LEDs are capable of producing more light per watt than any other traditional type of grow lights. They save a lot of energy hence these bulbs are energy efficient too. LEDs run at cooler temperature so the chance of burning plants is pretty slim.
- Energy efficient lights
- Most inexpensive source of artificial light
- Pays in the long run as bulbs have a longer life span
- Produces more light per watt then the fluorescents or HIDs
- Wide range of range of color spectra
- Customizable light based on the different stages of plant growth
- Easy to use artificial grow lights
- Initial cost is higher than other options
- Not the best source for flowering stage
- Reflectors may be needed
As a new grower, we would suggest that you take time to learn and understand the specific requirements of your plants and choose an artificial light accordingly. Not all grow lights are treated the same and there’s nothing called the ‘ideal’ grow light for all different stages of plantation. When you know the weed requirements and budget clearly, it becomes easier to make a suitable choice that gives you good value for your money.