Whether your looking to grow tomatoes, strawberries or "other" plants indoors, a grow light will be one of your largest and most important purchases. There are so many options for grow lights these days it can be daunting for a beginner entering the field. Luckily, it's alot more simple then meets the eye.
Types of hydroponic grow lights
The most popular grow lights for hydroponics for for years has been high powered sodium (hps) or metal halide (mh.) Starting at around $100 for a basic 400W light with reflector and ballast, these are the cheapest option to start out with for a smaller to larger sized grow operations. Unfortunatly they have many downfalls like the amount of heat which is produced and the power consumption. More recently, LED have started to take over the industry, from smaller home growing enthusiasts to large commercial operations. LED has been kicking around since 1962, but have just recently kicked down the door to the hydroponic industry. The biggest reason would be the power consumption, LED uses just a fraction of the watts a HPS or MH uses, producing the same amount of lumens. Lifetime would be another huge benefit of LED lighting. LED's have an average lifetime of 50,000 hours compared to 12,000 hours of HPS lights.
Confused about the varying prices of grow lights?
You might see a 300W led grow light for $100 and another 300W led grow light for $300, so why is this? Each brand of grow light has its own design, and each design has it's own benefits and flaws. Some might have a lower light time, some have a more pinpoint direction and cover area of light. The largest factor would be the price of components in a light. Higher end companies will use higher quality components such as Cree LED's instead of a no name brand from china. Each brand also has their own opinion of what mixture of spectrum to include which can also up the cost if they decide to go with a wide selection of bands of light. With any product on the market, some companies like to show confidence in their product by offering a longer warranty then the other brands out there.
how many watts do you need for your plant?
This greatly depends on what type of plant your growing, all plants have different light requirements all based around spectrum intake. The general consensus is 400W per 4ft x 4ft of grow space, but this is more based on hps lights since the spectrum of light is a set amount and the only thing you can control is the amount of lumens you have shining on the plant. What makes it tricky is that every brand of led chip has a different quality level, thus creating a varying amount of lumens per watt. With that being said, these days we have learned that is not so much about the amount of lumens the plant gets but more so about the amount of spectum a plant requires.
What are color bands and how many do you need for your plant?
Color bands of light are basically just wavelengths of light that we percieve in different colors. Each color is obsorbed through different pigments in the plant which tell the plant how to use the energy being obsorbed. Most plants require more blue spectrum with a pinch of red at the seedling and vegging stages, then red with a pinch of blue in the flowering. This is the basic requirements but if you wanted to get into detail, all the spectrums of light have different effects on your plants and it is important when creating life that it gets all the nutrients it can. A simple conlusion when choosing your grow light would be to buy a light with 6-8 bands of light. This would give all the essential spectrums along with supplementary bands of light acting sort of like vitamins to give your plant that extra boost to grow bigger, fuller and full of nutrients.
As mentioned above, the most important aspect when it comes to choosing your light sources will be the species of plant. Read what others have learned while growing plants specific to yours and keep logs so you can share your discoveries, and dont forget to keep your green thumbs up!