One of the vital components a marijuana plant needs is light. During photosynthesis, a plant turns light energy into chemical energy, enabling it to grow strong and healthy, and with cannabis specifically, light also fuels bud production.
When growing outdoors you can harness the power of the sun, however in an indoor setting, sunlight is mimicked through the use of grow light bulbs, which aim to display the same spectrum of light as the sun.
Grow lights allow you to regulate precisely how much light your plants get, ensuring they get the same amount of light day after day, without the cultivator needing to fix problems with bad weather or cloudy days that happen in an outdoor setting.
Some grow lights are more pricey than others, but also more effective, saving money over time. Some lights are bulky with several parts, some light in weight, and some are better suited for young or mature plants.
There are various types of lights out there, so it can be intimidating to know where to start. Below's a guide to four basic types of grow lights on the market and the pros and cons of each.
Kinds of Grow Lights
There are several types of lights, but below are the four most prevalent ones you'll see in a grow space. There are numerous variations within each of these four kinds as well, and new lights and technology come out all the time.
Lights have fixtures and bulbs, and some need a ballast. Depending on the type and model, the bulbs or the components can be more costly. There are many abbreviations, but don't be alarmed.
HID (high-intensity discharge) is an umbrella term under which MH and HPS bulbs fall, which we'll go over more below. These kinds of lamps have a hood that reflects light and bulbs that are enclosed capsules containing a gas, as opposed to bulbs you 'd find in your house, which have a filament that heats up.
For HIDs, light occurs as an arc between two nodes inside the bulb. The gas contained in these bulbs is what makes MHs and HPSs different. HID bulbs are typically more costly than the reflective hoods that hold them.
HIDs have been the standard in indoor weed growing for decades, however LEDs are quickly catching up to them.
Both kinds of HIDs are usually inexpensive to buy but will eat up electricity. HIDs throw off a lot of light and heat, which the plants need to grow and become potent. However, they run hot, contain heavy metals, and ballasts can fail.
However, due to their low cost, if you're new to indoor growing and not sure how frequently you'll do it, you might want to buy an affordable HID light in the beginning to test the water.
MH (Metal halide)
These bulbs contain mercury and metal halides, generate a bluish light, and are typically used for vegetative growth. They require a ballast to regulate the current. In the past, ballasts have been big and bulky, but digital ones are currently available.
HPS (High-pressure sodium)
These HID bulbs usually have sodium, mercury, and xenon, and generate a yellow/orange light, as well as are generally utilized for flowering plants. Some cultivators will start off plants under MH bulbs and switch them to HPSs when plants enter the flowering stage, using the same hood. These lights also require a ballast.
CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) are fluorescent lights similar to what you 'd find in a school or office building, but smaller. For growing marijuana, they are typically called "T5s"-- the "T" stands for "tubular" and the "5" represents its diameter, "⅝".
There are daylight bulbs and warm white bulbs; the former better for vegetative growth, and the latter for flowering.
These fluorescent lights are inexpensive and efficient and good for vegetative growth. They're especially great for helping along germinating seeds and small seedlings since they do not emit much heat and won't scorch the delicate seeds. They won't increase your electricity costs too much.
The drawback to CFLs is they aren't great for flowering plants, and cultivators will typically use another type of light to finish plants. CFLs just do not produce enough intense light for plants to pile on weight.
Fixtures come in all shapes and sizes and can typically fit 4-12 long fluorescent bulbs; a standard size is 8 bulbs. Fixtures commonly have a reflective material to bounce light in one direction, down on your plants.
LEDs (light emitting diodes) are fairly new to the cannabis growing world, compared to HPSs, MHs, and CFLs, however they are quickly proving to be the way of the future. LEDs might be more pricey to buy at first, but they are much more efficient and kinder to the environment and your electricity costs. Some cities even offer tax breaks to commercial growers that install or change to LEDs since they're much better for the environment.
LEDs also usually run a lot cooler than HIDs, so you may not require extra equipment to cool your grow space, and one LED can typically be used for both vegetative and flowering growth. Some high-end LEDs enable you to adjust the spectrum for each growth stage.
New LED grow lights come out constantly, however knockoffs are all around. There are a lot of cheap LEDs that do not generate the right spectrum of light for plants.