If you have decided to grow your plants indoors, you are probably already familiar with the importance of grow lights. Some of you may opt for buying supermarket grow lights, while some of you maybe decide to DIY your own grow lights.
Whichever the case is, you are for sure asking yourself what kind of grow lights you should choose for your plant? Stay with me and you will find out:
- Are there different types of growing lights?
- Fluorescent lights
- HID lights
- LED lights
- Which types of grow lights are the best?
Are There Different Types of Growing Lights?
Nowadays when you google the term “grow lights”, many different types of grow lights will come up.
This may look a bit confusing and make your process of choosing adequate grow lights way harder than it is supposed to be.
There are 3 main types of grow lights that I will try to present to you in the easiest way possible. We have 3 different types of grow lights:
- Fluorescent lights
- HID lights
- LED lights
These 3 grow light types are different in many aspects, from efficiency to price, so it is really important to make sure you’ve chosen the lights that will be adequate for your indoor plants. Let’s dig into these differences.
Fluorescent lights are widely used across the world and are one of the oldest types of grow lights. They are cheaper than most other lights and are pretty easy to use.
They are usually used for growing different kinds of vegetables, plants, and herbs. They perform best when they are used for the growth of seedlings.
There are 2 different groups of fluorescent bulbs – fluorescent tubes and CFLs, commonly known as compact fluorescent lights.
1. Fluorescent Tubes
Fluorescent tubes come in many different intensities and you can find tubes with marking like T8, T5, or T12.
One of their biggest advantages is the fact that they are really thin and can fit into even some of the smallest spaces.
The bigger the number after the T, the less efficient the fluorescent tube is, so don’t be fooled by big numbers when choosing them.
The T5 tube is the most popular among gardeners and is thought to be the most efficient, especially for growing vegetables.
They also emit much less heat and power than other lights, so they are the perfect choice if you need to keep the lights close to your plant.
T5 tubes usually come in packs with 6 to 10 of them, placed on a panel parallel to each other, like this one.
2. Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)
Compact fluorescent lights are the type of lights that can be found in almost every home. They are really short and its bulbs are twisted.
These lights were made in order to replace simple incandescent lights because it was thought they will have a much longer life span and be more efficient.
In the meantime, they also became very popular in gardening, especially among gardeners who made their grow lights themselves.
They are quite similar to fluorescent tubes and they don’t produce much heat, which makes them a good choice if you need the lights close to your plant.
They are much shorter, but thicker than them so they can fit into even the smallest growing spaces.
The closer they are to your plant, the faster and better its growth will be.
You can use compact fluorescent lights of all kinds to grow your plants, from those with 20 watts to those up to 200 watts. All of them can also be used for the rest of your house too.
One of the CFL lights’ biggest advantages is the fact that all of the types can be found in every bigger supermarket or hardware store and they are really cheap.
This is one of my favorite CFLs that I use both for my plants and the rest of my home. They are also the cheapest option out of all 3 types of grow lights.
When it comes to beginners, I would recommend using any kind of fluorescent lights, whether it be tubes or CFLs.
They are a great option for young plants since they emit lights of a much lesser frequency than LED or HPS, whose lights tend to emit a large amount of heat.
With them you can easily control the growth process, or replace your bulbs If you see some negative changes in your plants.
They can also be used during the flowering process since they provide a balanced and adequate amount of light for all plants.
High-Intensity Discharge lights, or shorter, HID lights are bulbs that operate with a gas-filled tube.
They are usually chosen by gardeners that have years of experience or commercial growers.
They can be pretty complicated to set up, and even though they are not that expensive, I wouldn’t recommend beginner gardeners trying to use them. They are very hard to maintain and require a lot of care.
There are 3 different types of HID lights that are often used for indoors growing – HPS lights, MH lights, and CMH lights
1. High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) Lights
High-Pressure Sodium lights started taking over the gardening world by storm in the past few years, and nowadays they are used pretty often.
Their efficiency is what draws gardeners with many years of experience to them. They are also preferred by commercial growers.
They emit strong red and orange light which is more suitable for plants that are in their flowering stage.
HPS lights generate large amounts of heat, so you should use them only If you are able to keep them at a good distance from your plants. Otherwise, your plants’ foliage may burn and flowering may stop.
High temperatures and a dry environment can also slow down the growth of your plant and If you are growing vegetables, it can affect their taste in a negative way.
Because of their power and heat, HPS lights require a really good and expensive set up which will help with managing heat production provide ventilation.
It is a really complicated and expensive system so you will rarely find people who pursue gardening as a hobby using them.
2. Metal Halide (MH) Lights
Metal Halide lights are not really popular among gardeners, except the commercial ones.
They give off blue lights of the spectrum so they are usually used during the vegetative phase of plants. They are considered to be insufficient during other phases of plant growth.
3. Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) lights
Ceramic Metal Halide lights are way more efficient than regular Metal Halide lights so they are usually recommended to use during the vegetative phase.
They give off enough light that is in the middle of the spectrum and can provide your plant with stable and healthy growth.
During the flowering phase, it is always recommended to use HPS lights since all the other cant emit enough light for your plants during this phase.
High-intensity discharge lights have a lot of pros when compared to other types of grow lights since they have proven to be very efficient.
They are pretty stable and their quality is really high, but when choosing them you will have to make sure you choose the ones that are adequate for the phase your plant is in.
Also, not every type of HID lights suits all types of plants.
In conclusion, HID lights should be reserved for professional commercial growers that already have years of experience in gardening.
HID lights require complicated systems and tools in order to work the right way, so you should completely avoid them If you are a beginner and pursue gardening as a hobby.
Just one small mistake can burn all of your plants and require you to establish a new indoor garden.
LED (Light Emitting Diode) Lights
LED lights are one of the newest types of lights on the market. When they first appeared on the market, people were very skeptical about it, but, in a very short time, LED lights became the most popular lights out there.
LED lights are loved because of their efficiency and many advantages that other types of lights still do not have.
They first came to use in gardening and urban farming at the beginning of the 2000s where they were loved because of their red and blue lights.
LED lights are definitely the most efficient lights on the market, their light efficiency is always above 20%, coming even above 60%. This makes them 2 times more effective than CFL lights.
LED lights used to grow plants have more focus than all other types, which means you can put them even a bit far from the plant, but they will still remain focused.
One of their biggest advantages is the fact that they produce little to no heat. If you want it, you can place them right above the plant and they won’t harm it.
Most LED lights that are available on the market right now also have a cooling system integrated within them which will regulate heat levels around the plant and save you some time.
If you have this kind of technology in your indoor garden, you won’t have to check up on your plants daily.
If you are willing to spend some more money on a LED light with cooling technology, I would recommend choosing this Elaine LED grow light.
Some of the LED grow light options also have a technology that will allow you to target specific wavelengths within the color spectrum.
This technology is considered a form of plant therapy because you can satisfy your plants’ needs on a daily basis with just a simple button.
They are also known for their amazing life span. On average, they have 50,000 hours of light which can last anywhere between 10 to 15 years. All other lights usually have a life span of 10,000 hours.
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Some researches have also proven that vegetables that grow under LED lights develop a better taste since their environment has a good balance of adequate temperatures and humidity, which improves the overall health and growth of the plant.
These are the reasons why we have so many gardeners opting for LED lights when growing their plants indoors.
However, as it happens with everything, there also some cons of LED lights.
For example, LED lights can be pretty expensive to set up, especially If you don’t really have experience in this. You may even have to hire a specialist to establish your LED light system.
Long term, this investment can be very cost-efficient since LED lights require much less electricity than other grow lights.
LED lights are also vulnerable to extremely high temperatures, which probably won’t be a problem for you unless you are a commercial grower working in professional conditions.
A temperature that is too high can burn out your LED light and its modules.
In the end, we will answer the questions that made you google this in the first place.
Which Types of Grow Lights Are the Best?
Now that you’ve found out everything about different grow light types, you may have already concluded which type of light would suit you and your needs the best.
Grow light that I would recommend to a beginner that is on a tight budget is for sure some type of fluorescent lights, whether it be Fluorescent tubes or Compact fluorescent lights.
Fluorescent tubes can fit into all kinds of environments, even the smallest ones, and they are a great option for a complete beginner. They are also easily set up, so you won’t need anyone’s help.
Compact fluorescent lights are also a great option because of their efficiency and availability, you may even already have some in your house.
Just like tubes, they are also easy to set up and can be used both during the vegetative and flowering processes of the plant.
Both of these types are really cheap, but If you are just beginning to grow your indoor garden, you won’t need anything better or more expensive than them.
What about more expensive lights?
On another side, If you are a beginner that is willing to spend some more money on grow lights, I would suggest buying LED lights.
As I already mentioned, LED lights are way more efficient than fluorescent lights and they produce little to no heat, which will allow your plants to prosper.
The setup of LED lights can be quite complicated and expensive, but long term, LED lights will save you a lot of money because of their long life span.
If you are delving between LED and Fluorescent lights but are willing to spend some more money, I would always recommend investing in LED lights.
Lastly, we have HID lights which I would not recommend to a beginner nor a person that isn’t an experienced commercial grower.
They are expensive and very easy both to set up and maintain and If you are not careful enough, they can ruin your whole garden in a really short time.
I hope this cleared up things a bit and that you will be able to make the right choice for your little indoor garden!