Choosing the best Grow Light for Indoor Growing
Choosing the best grow light for the beginner grower can be a daunting task. A simple “grow light” search on Amazon will yield hundreds of different grow lights for all types of growers. Everything from $5 incandescent lamps to high tech, expensive commercial LED or HID lamps can be found. But what light will fit your setup? Here is a list of some different types of grow lights, their pros and cons, and how you can use them for your indoor growing.
There are 3 main types of grow lights, compact fluorescent (CFL), high pressure sodium (HPS) or high intensity discharge (HID), and light emitting diodes (LED).
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)
Fluorescent lights (CFL) typically come in long, tube like bulbs in a range of sizes including T5, T8, and T12. They are ideal for plants that require low to medium light, such as African Violets. When growing most houseplants, use light bulbs between 4000 and 6000 Kelvin, as the bulb’s color temperature will borrow from a full spectrum of colors—cools and warms. Culinary herbs, greens and starter plants can be grown year-round with them. Houseplants that need lots of light, like cattleya orchids, succulents and carnivorous plants, also perform much better under these full-spectrum lights.
These can be found in many stores including home improvement & grocery stores. Many first-time growers start with these types of lights. You can purchase the two lamp “shop light” variety for under $40 at your local hardware or garden supply store.
- Good for small grows
- Available in many stores
- Works in any standard light fixture
- Available in various color temperatures
- Low light output compared to other types of bulbs
- Need to be close to plants
- Need to use several
- Not meant for bigger grows
- Not for intermediate/experienced growers
High Pressure Sodium (HPS) or High Intensity Discharge (HID)
High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights are expensive to purchase and operate, but efficient. High energy discharge throws a lot of light and the blue light of MH lights will promote vegetative growth, but produce less flowering. The red to orange hue of HPS lights are powerhouses when it comes to producing buds and flowers, but plants will be less sturdy. Used in tandem, MH lights are often used to promote leafy growth before swapping in HPS lights to encourage plants to flower.
These lights are used by experienced growers, as many of them consider HIDs to be the best for growing and obtaining the highest yield.
- Costs less than other high-quality lights
- Produces great results
- Easy to setup and operate
- Produces a lot of heat, requiring ventilation and exhausts.
- Limited lifetime
- Does not plug into a normal socket
- Requires special hood & ballast
- Can significantly increase electric bill
Light Emitting Diode (LED)
LEDs are the new technology when it comes to grow lights. As technology advances these lights become more and more efficient for your plants. The lights emit virtually no heat and require a fraction of the power to operate compared to the other lights. LEDs can be programmed to fully optimize the light spectrum needed for each of your plants although very expensive to do so. As the technology advances, however, the prices will drop.
LEDs are able to produce enough light intensity for the most demanding grows. The right LEDs can compete with or beat other types of grow lights. These lights can be both red/violet or white in color. Please be wary of cheap knock-offs that can be found all over the internet. Just remember you get what you pay for, so do your research and find the perfect one for you!
- The most energy efficient grow light
- Barely produces heat
- Plugs into standard outlet
- Long lifetime
- High initial costs