There are a lot of lighting options you can choose for your garden, and at Hydrobuilder we offer five lighting options that allow growers to choose their preferred setup. Each lighting type is unique and comes with their own set of pros and cons.
Fluorescent lights are often used by beginners due to their low price, low heat output, and the familiarity that comes with them. Household CFLs (compact fluorescent) fall under this category along with fluorescent tubes like T5 bulbs, which are popular with growers on a budget or who only want to grow 1-2 plants at a time. Most of our fluorescent options run on 120 volts and can be plugged into a standard home outlet.
- Very affordable startup cost
- Low heat output
- Great for growers whose grow space is short on height – these lights need to be very close to plants
- These lights are simply not as intense as other options
HID grow lights have been the golden standard of the grow light world for decades, and their watt to lumen ratio and light spectrum have many professional growers won over. They do however require three crucial components (bulb, ballast, and reflector) to work which adds to both the initial cost and complexity. There are two main types of HID lights: MH (Metal Halide) and HPS (High Pressure Sodium). MH’s bluish light is great for the vegetative period, while HPS’ reddish-yellow light offers a near perfect light spectrum for flowering.
The majority of the ballasts we sell can be plugged into a standard 120V or 240V outlet. Without a reflector, HID lights have too large of a light footprint and need to be reduced. Different size reflectors allow you to customize your light footprint.
- High intensity light
- Relatively inexpensive despite multiple components – can be purchased as a kit
- Favorite light among professionals
- Dimmable ballasts allow you to change wattage giving you control over footprint, power usage, and reduces the strain young plants may feel with higher wattage
- These bulbs need a special hood and ballast before they can be plugged into a regular light socket
- High heat output – will need to be removed from the room
- High height requirement – depending on wattage these lights will need to be around 1-2 feet away from plants
- Bulbs will need to be replaced every 1-2 years, but they are inexpensive
Double Ended HID grow lights improve on the quality and quantity of light compared to single ended HID grow lights. Double Ended HID lights commonly offer growers a 10-30% increase in both light intensity and PAR output. DE globes are also more durable and last longer than traditional SE (single ended) globes.
- All the great benefits that single ended HID grow lights have, but with the added benefits of bigger yields, less energy use, and lower heat output
- While more affordable in the long run compared to SE setups, they have a high initial cost
Ceramic Metal Halide or Light Emitting Ceramic grow lights operate similar to HID lights, but instead of using quartz it uses a ceramic arc tube. Many CMH lights are “plug-and-play” which means they have a ballast and reflector included, and can usually be plugged right into a standard house outlet (120V) or a 240V outlet.
- High lumen and Par output
- Low heat output and energy efficient
- Bulbs last longer and keep their brightness longer than traditional HID grow lights
- Offer a natural light spectrum i.e when the lights are on they don’t “color” your plants purple like LED lights or yellow like HPS, and this make spotting plant issues very easy
- Smaller light footprint than their HID counterparts
- Not as common and as such they are more expensive.
LED grow lights are often called the lights of the future, but that future is just about here. They have been rapidly coming down in price and are usually sold as a complete unit – meaning you can plug most of them straight into a regular 120V home outlet. Soon they will rival HID lights in professional growing operations, and many home growers are already switching over. LEDs have a much smaller light footprint compared to HID lights and do not require a reflector.
- Extremely low heat output
- High intensity light with some models having adjustable spectrums for vegetative and bloom.
- Very affordable in the long run – the lights have an incredibly long lifespan and they are extremely energy efficient
- High initial cost
- Lots of confusion regarding best light spectrum and diode color ratio.
- High height requirement – Often these lights need to be at least 24” away from plants
You’re thinking of going into soil or hydroponics farming and probably have no shortage of questions about exactly what to expect. A lot of those questions undoubtedly have to do with grow lights or how use them.
Hydroponics is a growing industry because as the world’s population continues to grow we’re all faced with the issue of how to feed them. As a result, hydroponic farming has become an important player in the global food chain.
We want to see everyone succeed in hydroponic growing and decided to take a moment to address some of the frequently asked questions new growers and those transitioning to professional have about grow lights.
Here are some of the most common and important concerns.
What type of grow light should I go with?
This is definitely a reasonable question because it can really get confusing with all the different types of grow lights that are available today.
What type you should go with comes down to first, what classification of a grower you are planning to be and secondly, what type of facilities you are planning on using.
For the weekend hobbyist who is planning on converting a room in the basement or perhaps building a small greenhouse, fluorescent would be the route to go. Inexpensive fluorescent lamps are available at any hardware store and require a minimal investment.
There is no need for the hobbyist to invest in expensive LED, complicated HID or HM lighting. fluorescent will adequately serve your needs while you’re learning the ropes. You can always update later as your interest and facilities grow.
As a professional we suggest the best and therefore, go with the latest LED technology. The savings and yield increase bot add up to only more money in your pocket which will easily and quickly offset the initial investment.
Do I really need reflectors?
If you’re only a hobbyist, no, you really don’t but if you’re growing into a serious, full-time hydroponic farm then we would advise using them.
When you’re transitioning from a hobbyist to a professional grower you should start off on the right foot on the right path. This would include the use of reflectors because there are so many advantages.
A reflector or hood provides far more control over where and how you direct your lighting source. A good reflector unit will prevent undesired outward light bending by concentrating it where you need it most-on the plants.
A reflector will also increase the light intensity and spectrum which will lead to healthier plants and ultimately, a higher yield in shorter period of time. All this increases profits, lowers cost and increases the productivity of the grow.
For between $50-$100.00 a grow light reflector is well worth the initial investment you’re going to pay out.
Are grow light movers really worth the extra cost?
If you’re a small grower or weekender there is no need to fork out the cash on grow light movers. In a limited space facility or grow room you’re not even going to use them anyway and you’re throwing good money over bad as they say.
However, this all changes when you transition to the a grow room 4ftx8ft and higher. You’re going to be grateful even if you’re a professional grower who has them in a larger facility.
There is also a good chance when in a larger grow room or greenhouse that you could forget which lights you’ve rotated and which ones you didn’t. The bottom line on this, is no professional grower should be without a mover.
It will save you a lot of time and a lot of headaches and in the end, will only improve your grow’s yield and productivity.
What hangers should I go with?
This one is easy to answer.
You want the hangers that provide the most flexibility and ease in moving up or down. Simple is always best and you certainly don’t want a complicated hanging system that ties you up all day trying to move up and down.
The hobbyist can probably get away with a simple loose chain hanger because they only have a few simple grow lights to move. It is a different story for the professional who has fifty lights or more to move.
In this case you would want to go with a commercial hanger with a push button release and lock that enables a light to be raised and lowered in seconds.
What about an external ballast?
If you’re a professional grower using fluorescent there is no other route to go. Investment in a high quality external ballast will add the savings through increased bulb life, consistent voltage and a long-life span.
There are things a person can scrimp on and things they don’t. A cheap ballast is going to produce cheap results and are you really willing to take that chance?