You will find numerous plant lighting systems on the market, each one with their own positive and negative aspects to consider. Choosing the right light for your application is the most important part to effectively growing indoors.
Type of Lights:
Incandescent lamps are standard household light bulbs. These lamps have an efficiency rate around 5% and the spectrum of light produced is not ideal for growing plants and also produce a large amount of heat which will increase your electricity and cooling costs.
Fluorescent lamps are a great choice for indoor plant growth. They are 3-7 times more efficient than incandescent, meaning you will use less electricity while producing more light. Fluorescent lamps are available in a wide range of spectrum's, with bulbs in the 6500k range being ideal for growing.
Another kind of fluorescent lamp is the Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) and let me tell you something, these lamps are an efficient alternative to incandescent bulbs. Why? CFL’s use less power and have a longer life than incandescent bulbs.
If you are a newbe, this is the light you need to start with because they don’t require a ballast or fancy wiring; These lamps simply screw into a standard mogul socket. However, is these are the lamps you are going to use, you better use a reflector. The CFL distribute light in all directions so you could find yourself wasting light, energy, and time.
HID or High Intensity Discharge Lamps are the top choice among growers. Types of HID lamps include high pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide (MH) bulbs. Today, these lamps are a great choice among growers because they have a very high light output and are 4 to 8 times more efficient than incandescent lamps.
HID lamps utilize a special bulb in conjunction with a mechanical or electronic ballast. The purpose of the ballast is to start and maintain the arc through the bulb. To put it simply, a ballast is needed to turn the bulb on and provide a regulated voltage to the lamp.
To make your life simple, I would recommend the Electronic ballasts, why? Because they are quiet and efficient plus they are typically compatible with multiple bulb types and will help you save more money on electricity and equipment in the long run.
Keep in mind that HID lamps produce a large amount of heat, so extra ventilation and proper reflector height should be taken into consideration.
In addition, you should hang your lights about 2 feet from the top of your plants. A good way to check the height of your lights is to hold your hand just above the plant - If the heat from the light is too hot for your hand, then its too hot for your plant.
Using LED’s will save you money on electricity because these lamps use much less Watts compared to all other light sources.
LED’s last for a long time, most will last around 50,000 hours. The only problem with the LED’s is the high cost associated with setting up a LED system.
Of course, there are huge benefits using LED’s such as, electricity savings, specific light spectrum for photosynthesis, and less heat which may further lower your bill by reducing your cooling load.
Now that we know the basics, let's bother ourselves with a few cool questions:
Let's see! How much light should I use in my hydroponic system?
As a general guide, we should use a power light source of 600 – 1000 watts per square meter of your growing area. Remember, 1% of increase in light, 1% of increase in growth up to the light saturation point.
Light saturation: the amount of light when the plant stops growing; mostly due to overheat.
What is the best light to use?
There are many factors to consider when purchasing a grow light. The most important factors that you will need to consider are your budget, enclosure type & size, plant type, and ventilation.
If you are a newbe, fluorescent tubes are not a bad idea, usually a size T5. Small-scale growers will be better off with compact fluorescent bulbs.
If you have more experience, a larger budget, and a larger grow area, then you should go with a High Intensity Discharge (HID) light system.
Now, if you are a pro-like grower, you probably don’t need any recommendation but we will be very happy to argue between LED,s and different uses of High pressure Sodium Vs Metal Halide. For example: LED's are all-in-one for large crops setups. However, when you have HPS & MH, HPS gives a marginally better yield when used for the bloom phase, and MH performs better during growth. Therefore, combining these two lights, growers can achieve better results over their yields.
Wait a minute! How can we know that our hydroponic system has the right amount light?
Well, remember the “light saturation point?” We have to provide light to our plants so they can grow faster and stronger; this means, 1% more light, 1% more growth, but if you have your lamps too close to your plants, the heat depleted can affect them really bad. The same rule is applied on the contrary, if the light is too far, then your plants won’t grow properly.
Nice! and how high above the plants should I put the lamps?
You can adjust your lamps between 2 feet (300mm to 600mm) away from the tops. Just make sure that when you put your hands over the top of your plants, the heat doesn’t burn your hands. If you burn yourself that probably would happen to your plant.
OK! what if I have plenty of light but my plants are still growing like crazy during the flowering period?
Good question! This could be due to excessively long light exposure during the flowering stage. In this case, you should drop the light for a period between 8 to10 hours and have an Electrical Conductivity around 2.5-2.8 E.C. while using high quality potash such as Complete Hydroponics PK 13-14. If light is not your case, then the nutrients you are using during flowering are loaded with high concentration of nitrogen. I told you! Use Complete Hydroponics! If this is not the case, then your plant might come from from another dimension and congratulation, you have a new kind of strain :)
I hope these article has been useful for you. The objective is to guide you in one of the most common things that growers go through in this incredible hydroponic world. If you have more questions, please don't hesitate in contacting us. We would be happy to help you.