Hydroponic Lighting 101One of the biggest challenges with growing plants indoors is lighting. Outside the sun provides all the lighting that the plants need to grow, however, indoors plants aren’t able to access this lighting source even on the sunniest window ledge!That means if you’re growing plants inside you’re going to need to bring the sun indoors.However, it’s not as simple as just switching on a desk lamp next to your plants and forgetting about it, in fact getting the lighting right is one of the hardest parts of any hydroponic system.Believe it or not, different lighting types can have very different effects on your plants, so before we look at lighting options for hydroponics we just need to understand a little more about light and how it’s measured (don’t worry this will be super easy to follow).
How Light Is MeasuredThere are a few different terms to get your head around when it comes to lighting that we’ll run through the two main ones now:
TemperatureWhen we talk about lighting temperature we’re not talking about the heat that comes from the bulb rather how “warm” or “cold” the light is. The cooler ratings tend to be at the blue end of the spectrum while the warmer temperatures are more orange.
OutputThere are three lighting output metrics that you’ll need to understand when shopping for hydroponic lighting:
- Watt power
- Nanometers (nm)
Lighting Options For HydroponicsSo now you hopefully know a little bit more about light and how important it is for hydroponics it’s time to take a look at the three most popular options.
Fluorescent LightsFluorescent light bulbs have now been around for years and have been used with some success by growers. They are affordable to leave running and don’t produce much heat meaning that they can be located close to the top of the plants without risking the bulb burning the leaves.The big downside to fluorescent lights is that output typically isn’t powerful enough to penetrate through thicker foliage meaning lower leaves are unable to soak up rays.
Checkout our guide to the best CFL grow lights.
HIDHID’s (High-Intensity Discharge Lights) use a much larger bulb the fluorescent or LED bulbs. There are two main types of HID lights available:Metal Halide – these produce light at the cooler end of the spectrum and are useful at the early end of the growing process.High-Pressure Sodium – these lights produce a much warmer output and are well suited to use when plants reach the flowering stage.The biggest issue with HID lights is that they economical as other forms of lighting and require additional equipment to run.
- Ballast – Lighting ballasts are used to start the bulb when you switch them on and maintain electrical flow through the bulb.
- Reflectors – A reflector is a metal hood that sits over the bulb and reflects the light down onto the plants.
LEDLED has been around long enough now that it’s now a reliable lighting source to use in your grow. We like LED over other forms of light as it’s very economical to run, produces good light output (although you want to steer clear of cheap Chines bulbs), runs cool and doesn’t need any additional equipment to use.They’re also incredibly long lasting and wont start to diminish their lighting output after 10,000 hours.
Alternative OptionsThere are a number of lighting alternatives available to use in your hydroponic system including:
- Induction bulbs,
- Sulphur Plasma,
- Double Ended,
- The sun (yes that’s right, you can do hydroponics outdoors)
The Bottom LineSo there you have it, hopefully our beginners guide to hydroponic lighting has left you a little less in the dark about what you need to do to get everything setup in your system.
Image by Peter Kirnhttps://thehydroponicsplanet.com/what-grow-lights-are-best-for-hydroponics-a-complete-guide/
Hi I'm Miles and I'm one of the team behind Gardeem.com.
Besides being a passionate grower and writer, I'm a husband, father and a grandfather to three! I started Gardeem in 2017 with the single goal of providing simple and reliable gardening advice to everyone no matter their ability levels.
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