One of the vital elements a cannabis plant requires is light. During photosynthesis, a plant converts light energy into chemical energy, allowing it to grow strong and healthy, and with cannabis especially, light also fuels bud production. When growing outdoors you can harness the power of the sun, yet in an indoor setting, sunlight is mimicked with the use of grow light bulbs, which try to present the same spectrum of light as the sun.
Grow lights enable you to control precisely how much light your plants get, ensuring they get the same amount of light day after day, without the grower needing to fix problems with bad weather or cloudy days that occur in an outdoor environment.
Some grow lights are more pricey than others, but also more effective, saving money over time. Some lights are big with many components, 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 begin. Below's a guide to four basic types of grow lights on the market and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Kinds of Grow Lights
There are several types of lights, but below are the four most common ones you'll find in a grow room. There are numerous variations within each of these four kinds as well, and new lights and technology are released constantly.
Lights have fixtures and bulbs, and some need a ballast. Depending on the type and model, the bulbs or the components can be more expensive. There are a lot of acronyms, 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 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 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 kinds of HIDs are typically inexpensive to purchase but 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 fail.
Nevertheless, because of their low price, if you're new to indoor growing and not sure how often you'll do it, you might want to purchase an inexpensive HID light in the beginning to test the water.
MH (Metal halide)
These bulbs contain mercury and metal halides, produce a bluish light, and are commonly 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 normally contain sodium, mercury, and xenon, and generate a yellow/orange light, and also are commonly used 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 require a ballast.
CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) are fluorescent lights similar to what you 'd see in a school or office building, but smaller. For growing marijuana, they are typically 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 effective and great for vegetative growth. They're especially great for helping along germinating seeds and small seedlings because they don't emit much heat and won't burn the fragile seeds. They will not increase your electricity bill too much.
The disadvantage to CFLs is they aren't great for flowering plants, and cultivators will typically use another kind of light to finish plants. CFLs just do not generate enough intense light for plants to pack on weight.
Components are available in all shapes and sizes and can usually accommodate 4-12 long fluorescent bulbs; a standard size is 8 bulbs. Components usually have a reflective material to bounce light in one direction, down on your plants.
LEDs (light emitting diodes) are fairly new to the marijuana growing world, compared to HPSs, MHs, and CFLs, but they are quickly proving to be the way of the future. LEDs might be more expensive to buy at first, yet they are far more effective and kinder to the environment and your electricity costs. Some cities even give tax breaks to commercial cultivators who use or switch to LEDs because they're much better for the environment.
LEDs also generally run a lot cooler than HIDs, so you may not require extra equipment to cool down your grow space, and one LED can usually be utilized for both vegetative and flowering growth. Some high-end LEDs enable you to change the spectrum for each growth stage.
New LED grow lights appear all the time, however knockoffs are all around. There are several inexpensive LEDs that don't produce the best spectrum of light for plants.