Cannabis cultivation and food production rely heavily on two key factors — water and light. In order to be a successful grower, choosing the best indoor grow lighting systems is essential. Review these common indoor grow lighting systems to get a better idea of what to use for your operations.
Indoor Grow Lighting Systems
When choosing an indoor grow lighting system, several factors must be considered. Light efficiency, light spectrum, plant needs, cost, yield and energy consumption all come into play.
Light Emitting Diodes (LED)
Growers have recently started switching to LED grow light systems from high pressure sodium and metal halide bulbs. LED grow systems have many advantages when it comes to energy efficiency. LED systems produce the exact wavelength of light necessary and no other, which makes them more energy efficient. With minimal heat production and the ability to produce light at two distinct spectrum points simultaneously, light efficiency increases. Nearly all wattage converts to usable light, which greatly benefits growers.
Some growers believe LEDs produce higher quality flowers with more trichomes, which are home to the active ingredients in cannabis – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids. LEDs can also bring out higher potency, more vibrant colors and natural taste and smell. Additionally, LED systems don’t require a ballast – a device that limits the amount of current in an electrical circuit. With a LED system, you can plug directly into the wall. Many LED systems come with built-in cooling systems, which vents air away from plants.
LED systems can initially be pricey, but the energy savings costs can make up for the upfront costs in the long run. When it comes to improving yield, high pressure sodium (HPS) lights tend to produce higher yields when comparing electricity used. Some LED grow light systems achieve comparable results in the flowering phase, but generally, have some catching up to do compared to HPS grow lights.
High Pressure Sodium (HPS)
HPS bulbs generally provide the best yield/watt, although LED continues to catch up and provide comparable results. HPS lights generate light in the warm, red end of the spectrum. Lights on the warm end of the spectrum trigger reproductivity in the plant world, which makes HPS lights ideal during the flowering phase and for improving yields. Plants need light from both the warm and cool ends of the spectrum, which means HPS grow lights shouldn’t be used for all phases.
HPS lights send electricity through ionized gas and take a little while to warm up. Ballasts help regulate the current flowing through the light and help keep the system going. One cost that needs to be considered when choosing HPS lights is the addition of an exhaust system. HPS lights generate a great deal of heat, which means an exhaust system may be required to remove some of the hot air from the room.
When it comes to light efficiency, HPS bulbs thrive. With six times more light output than an incandescent bulb, HPS bulbs boast high energy efficiency and a life span of two to five years. The long lifespan of HPS grow lights should be considered when calculating operating costs.
Metal halide bulbs produce a cool range of light that closely resembles natural light, making them a great choice for the vegetative growth phase. Metal halide systems require a ballast and can generate high levels of heat output and consume high amounts of energy. When considering cost and energy efficiency, metal halide systems lean towards the higher end of the spectrum.
Metal halide lights are small, but intense. Compared to fluorescent and incandescent bulbs, metal halide systems are more efficient and are a great addition to any grow room. Metal halide lights need to be used properly in order to prevent the plants from burning. Growing in warmer climates may prompt the need for additional ventilation to control the temperature of a grow room.
Compared to incandescent bulbs, metal halide grow lights are five times as energy efficient, which is only slightly less than HPS bulbs. Metal halide bulbs typically have a usable lifespan of two years when used 18 hours a day. Light efficiency radiates with metal halide bulbs, meaning you can expect strong and healthy plants with the quality of light that comes from them.
Light Emitting Ceramics (LEC)
Both metal halide and HPS lights fall under the category of high intensity discharge (HID) lamps. Light emitting ceramics (LEC) also fall under this category, however they vary from the classic HID lights. A ceramic tube allows the bulb to run at a higher temperature, creating a natural spectrum of light that more closely resembles natural sunlight. Unlike colored grow lights, this more natural light retains the color of your plants and makes it easier to diagnose problems. The UV-B rays produced by LEC lights may also contribute to increased trichome development and the smell in cannabis buds.LEC bulbs only need to be replaced once every two years and use a ballast that allows for smoother, more efficient firing. Additionally, LEC bulbs have a low heat output, which makes them perfect for smaller spaces. Compared to metal halide bulbs, LEC lights produce more light per watt and are longer-lasting.
LEC bulbs only need to be replaced once every two years and use a ballast that allows for smoother, more efficient firing. Additionally, LEC bulbs have a low heat output, which makes them perfect for smaller spaces. Compared to metal halide bulbs, LEC lights produce more light per watt and are longer-lasting.
LEC lights typically see a smaller yield than HPS lights of similar wattage, however they can generate higher yields than similar wattage metal halide bulbs in the flowering phase. One disadvantage to LEC bulbs is price. LEC grow lights typically have a high cost, starting around $500 for the smallest size. Although costs considered, better light quality and higher efficiency results can mean an increase in performance.
Based on your needs and budget, varying types of grow lighting systems are available. By evaluating factors such as energy efficiency, light spectrum and light efficiency, along with strain-specific needs, indoor grow lighting systems can be easier.
From energy-efficient LED lights to HPS lights for increased yield, choosing the best indoor grow lighting system depends on individual needs. Often a combination of lights can be used to achieve optimal vegetative growth and flowering yield.