Choosing the right grow light for your hydroponic garden is an important decision. Not all lighting is the same or will work for what you’re growing. There are several factors that come into play when choosing the best grow light.
I think it’s safe to say that LED lighting is now the go-to for hobby hydroponic gardeners. It used to be that LED grow lights were more of an upfront cost but that has changed. LED lighting has become extremely affordable.
Led grow lights perform better and last longer than other forms of lighting making them more efficient and cost-effective. They can have a life expectancy of around 50,000 hours, giving you a lot of growing time before replacement is necessary.
LED grow lights give off less heat than other lighting methods while also emitting an intense light that can penetrate the top of your plant canopy to reach the lower leaves of your plants.
Fluorescent Grow Lights
The most popular fluorescent tube light used for indoor hydroponic gardening is the T5 tubes. T5 tubes come in several lengths, cover a good amount of growing area and can be placed close to your plants since they give off little heat.
Fluorescent tube lighting is not as intense as other lighting so it’s not typically used for flowering and fruiting stages thought they can. You would just need to change over to soft white bulb for those stages.
Fluorescent grow lights work great for leafy greens and herbs since they don’t require intense light or need to go through a flowering stage.
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)
With my first hobby hydroponics system, I used some of our household compact fluorescent bulbs for the grow light. They were convenient to use since I had them on hand and worked well for the custom lighting I was making.
CFL’s don’t give off too much heat and can be used when there is not a lot of space. If you use enough CFL’s, this source of lighting can be intense enough for both vegetative and flowering stages. Recently though companies have begun to phase out the production of CFL bulbs in favor of LED lighting so the bulbs are hard to find in stores.
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Grow Lights
High-intensity discharge lights have been go-to for indoor gardeners for a long time. These are the large odd-shaped lights that are screwed into a hood looking fixture.
High-intensity lighting is intense, can be used for both vegetative and flowering stages, but gives off major heat. When something creates heat it uses a lot of electricity, and you will notice this type of lighting on your electric bill. Because of the heat lighting is kept several feet away from plants.
There are 2 types of HID lights, each used at different stages of the plant’s life cycle.
Metal Halide (MH)
Metal Halide lights give off a blue light so it’s most often used the vegetative stage of the plant’s growth cycle. There are now some bulbs that are corrected to be used with flowering as well. MH bulbs need to be changed about once a year.
High-Pressure Sodium (HPS)
High-Pressure Sodium lights give off a yellow light and are used for the flowering stage and fruiting stages of the plants life cycle. HPS bulbs have a life expectancy of about 18 months.