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Grow Lighting Buying Guide

There are many grow lighting options available on Hydrobuilder.com and each offers unique benefits that can help you achieve your goals. This guide will help you find the right lighting solution for your garden.

Grow Lighting Buying Guide


There are many grow lighting options available and each offers unique benefits that can help you achieve your goals. Some factors that differ between the various types are: cost, total lumen output, PAR output, heat output, energy use, bulb or lamp life, and the recommended height the light should be placed away from the plant canopy. Every light has different pros and cons that need to be taken into consideration when choosing for your grow, read on to understand which is best for you.

HID Grow Lights

Best For:

  • The average grower with a typical grow room setup
  • Grow rooms that can properly ventilate the heat produced

Pros:

  • High intensity light
  • Great watt-to-lumen output ratio
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • High heat output
  • Bulbs must be replaced routinely

 

 

HID, or High-Intensity-Discharge grow lighting, has been the standard for decades in the growing industry. Pumping out tremendously intense light the watt to lumen ratio for HID lighting is among the highest for all types of lighting. HID lights also pump out lots of heat and may need to be cooled for some gardens. Because of the heat and light intensity the lights must be kept at a sufficient distance from the plant canopy to avoid burning the plants and leaves. Bulbs must be replaced often to ensure optimal spectrums are maintained, typically bulbs last 1 - 2 years.

HID lighting comes in many different wattages to accommodate different garden needs. The total wattage of a HID lighting system determines it's intensity and the number and quality of the plants that it can grow. The more watts, the more intense the light. At Hydrobuilder.com we offer HID lighting from 250 Watts all the way up to 1000 Watt lights. 

HID lighting requires three components, all of which can affect the light output and performance of the lighting so it is crucial to understand how each part works together to achieve optimal lighting. 

HID Ballasts

HID lighting utilizes ballasts to amplify and regulate the frequency of the energy used to power the bulb. Typically these ballasts are a separate unit from the bulb socket and hood. There are two main types of HID ballasts, magnetic and digital. Magnetic ballasts are less expensive but can run hotter, are heavier, and must be paired to the type of bulb you plan to use (though switchable magnetic ballasts are available. Digital HID ballasts are preferred for their smaller size and lower weight, their energy efficiency, lower heat output and durability. Dimmable digital ballasts are also available allowing you to use one ballast for a number of bulb wattages. Some ballasts also offer remote control and can be chained together for better control of an entire room full of lights.

HID Bulbs

There are three main types of bulbs used in HID lighting: High-Pressure-Sodium or "HPS,"Metal-Halide or "MH," and Double-Ended High-Pressure-Sodium or "DE." There are also"conversion" bulbs that allow you to use a HPS bulb with a MH ballast, or visa versa. "Dual Arc" bulbs contain both HPS and MH arc tubes offering a broader spectrum.

MH bulbs produce light with more wavelengths in the blue part of the visible light spectrum and are typically used for vegetative growth. HPS bulbs produce more red light and are optimal for the flowering period of the growth cycle. Double-Ended HPS bulbsrequire compatible ballasts and reflectors but produce more intense light and run more efficiently.

HID Reflectors

There are many shapes and sizes of HID light reflectors available and each produces a different light footprint and other benefits. "Air-Cooled" and "Cool Tube" reflectors allow you to run ducting and pump air over the bulb to help with the removal of heat from your grow room and are typically sealed with glass. "Open" reflectors come in various shapes such as "wing," parabolic, and rectangular. Double-Ended HID Lights require compatible reflectors. HID lighting can also be run without a reflector by mounting the bulb and socket directly from the ceiling of a grow room, or hanging them.

 

LED Grow Lights

Best For:

  • The average grower with a typical grow room setup
  • Grow rooms in high-heat environments

Pros:

  • High intensity light, adjustable spectrums on some models
  • Extremely energy efficient
  • Long life - no need to replace bulbs

Cons:

  • High initial cost

 

 

LED grow lights have recently made tremendous progress in the past few years making them a great option for most growers. Though expensive, the cost benefit from the energy savings quickly outweighs this increase in initial cost. Utilizing high-quality light-emitting diodes, today's LED grow lights are durable and produce broader and more adjustable light spectrums more optimized for plant growth. Producing very little heat, LED lights are a great option for grow tents and smaller grow rooms where heat and ventilation is a concern. They are also great for large operations as well. Because LED lights are one-piece units, they are very easy to setup and hang. At Hydrobuilder.com we highly recommend LED lighting for most growers.

 

Fluorescent Grow Lights

Best For:

  • Vegetative growth, young plants, and mother plants
  • Grow rooms in high-heat environments
  • Growers on a budget

Pros:

  • Energy efficient
  • Inexpensive
  • Very low heat output - can place close to plants

Cons:

  • Not as intense as other options

 

 

Fluorescent lighting is a popular option for many growers due to it's low price, energy efficiency and low heat output. There are many sizes available that utilize different size fluorescent tubes. Typically growers use T5 or T8 bulbs, which come in various lengths. "CFL" or compact fluorescent bulbs are also available and are even more efficient than standard fluorescent tubes. Because of the low heat and lower intensity, fluorescent lights can be placed extremely close to plants and are a great option for young plants that benefit from the less intense light. Fluorescent tubes come in various spectrums allowing you to select the optimal spectrum for various stages of growth. If you are growing mothers or clones fluorescent lighting is a great option. Many growers do choose to use fluorescent lights for the entire growth cycle as well with great results.

 

LEC (Light Emitting Ceramic) Grow Lights

Best For:

  • Experienced growers with typical grow room setups
  • Commercial grow operations
  • Grow rooms in high-heat environments

Pros:

  • High Lumen and PAR output
  • Energy efficient
  • Very low heat output - can place close to plants
  • Long bulb life

Cons:

  • More focused light - smaller light footprint

 

 

"LEC" or light emitting ceramic grow lights produce very little heat but tons of usable light. Because the light spectrum is broader than typical HID lights they produce more optimal light that plants can utilize throughout the various stages of plant growth. Though typically more expensive than HID lighting, LEC lights quickly pay for themselves in the long run with the energy savings and the rate at which plants grow with them. Long bulb life also saves you time and money. We recommend LEC lights for small to large grow rooms or as supplemental lighting paired with HID. Because the light is more focused supplemental lighting is suggested.

 

LEP (Light Emitting Plasma) Grow Lights 

Best For:

  • Commercial grow operations
  • Grow rooms in high-heat environments

Pros:

  • Energy efficient
  • Low heat output
  • Long bulb life

Cons:

  • More focused light - smaller light footprint
  • May cause electromagnetic interference (wifi, etc.)

 

 

"LEP" or light emitting plasma grow lights are long lasting and produce intense focused light. The low heat output help keep the grow room cooler and the efficient use of energy helps keep power bills lower. Because of the design, LEP lights can cause radio frequency interference which may cause problems for home growers.

 

Induction Grow Lights

Best For:

  • Average to commercial grow operations
  • Grow rooms with limited access to lights
  • Grow rooms in high-heat environments

Pros:

  • Energy efficient
  • Low heat output
  • Extremely Long bulb life and intensity retention

Cons:

  • Similar intensity to fluorescent lighting

 

 

Magnetic induction grow lighting units are a type of fluorescent lighting that utilizes two electronic igniters. This increases the life span of the bulb tremendously (up to 100,000 hours for some units) making them a great choice for operations where changing bulbs frequently would not be preferred. Similar to typical fluorescent lights there are lamps with various spectrums available. They also run very cool and can be placed close to the plant canopy.

 

We recommend LED and HID lighting for most growers due to the many options available and their ease of use.

Questions? Call at 888-815-9763 or email support@hydrobuilder.com!