One of the vital components a cannabis plant needs is light. During photosynthesis, a plant turns light energy into chemical energy, allowing it to grow strong and healthy, and with marijuana especially, light also fuels bud production. When growing outdoors you can harness the power of the sun, yet in an indoor environment, sunlight is simulated through using grow light bulbs, which try to display the same spectrum of light as the sun.
Grow lights allow you to control exactly how much light your plants receive, ensuring they receive the same amount of light every day, without the grower having to solve problems with bad weather or cloudy days that happen in an outdoor environment.
Some grow lights are more expensive than others, but also more effective, saving money in the long run. Some lights are big with many parts, some light in weight, and some are better suited for young or mature plants.
There are many different kinds of lights out there, so it can be intimidating to know where to start. Right here's a guide to four basic kinds of grow lights on the market and the pros and cons of each.
Types of Grow Lights
There are many types of lights, but below are the four most common ones you'll find in a grow space. There are several variations within each of these four kinds also, and new lights and technology are released all the time.
Lights have fixtures and bulbs, and some need a ballast. Depending on the type and model, the bulbs or the fixtures can be more costly. There are a lot of abbreviations, but do not 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 types 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 home, 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 expensive 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 types of HIDs are typically affordable to purchase yet will eat up electricity. HIDs throw off a lot of light and heat, which the plants need to grow and get potent. But, they run hot, contain heavy metals, and ballasts can stop working.
However, due to their low price, 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 have mercury and metal halides, produce a bluish light, and are typically utilized for vegetative growth. They require a ballast to regulate the current. In the past, ballasts have been big and bulky, however digital ones are now available.
HPS (High-pressure sodium)
These HID bulbs normally have sodium, mercury, and xenon, and produce a yellow/orange light, as well as are generally utilized for flowering plants. Some growers will start plants under MH bulbs and switch them to HPSs when plants enter the flowering stage, using the same hood. These lights also need 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 weed, they are normally called "T5s"-- the "T" stands for "tubular" and the "5" refers to 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 cheap and efficient and great for vegetative growth. They're particularly great for helping along germinating seeds and tiny seedlings since they do not put off much heat and will not scorch the fragile seeds. They will not run up your electricity costs too much.
The drawback to CFLs is they aren't great for flowering plants, and cultivators will usually utilize another type of light to finish plants. CFLs just don't produce enough strong light for plants to pile on weight.
Components are available in all shapes and sizes and can typically accommodate 4-12 long fluorescent bulbs; a standard size is 8 bulbs. Fixtures typically have a reflective material to bounce light in one direction, down on your plants.
LEDs (light emitting diodes) are relatively new to the cannabis growing scene, compared to HPSs, MHs, and CFLs, but they are quickly proving to be the way of the future. LEDs might be more expensive to purchase at first, yet they are far more effective and kinder to the environment and your electricity bill. Some cities even offer tax breaks to commercial cultivators who use or switch to LEDs because they're better for the environment.
LEDs also typically run a lot cooler than HIDs, so you might not need additional equipment to cool down your grow area, and one LED can usually be utilized for both vegetative and flowering growth. Some high-end LEDs allow you to change the spectrum for each growth stage.
New LED grow lights appear constantly, however knockoffs abound. There are several inexpensive LEDs that don't generate the best spectrum of light for plants.