There are four major types of lighting systems available right now: incandescent, fluorescent, high intensity discharge, and L.E.D. lights. Incandescent lights are horribly inefficient (especially the screw-in "grow bulb" type) and really not an acceptable option for plant growth. Although they are inexpensive to purchase, their cost of operation makes them the costliest source of light.
There are alot of fluorescent lights on the market now that work fantastically. These can be a compact bulb fashion or in a tube model. HID lights are your typical growing light option. These include most remote ballast/reflector options out there. Finally the L.E.D. is the newest technology on the market today. They offer lower wattage and cooler functionality then traditional options. To pick the right lighting system for you think about what type of plants you will be growing, the size of the area and what type of set-up you are looking for.
Making sure that you have the proper lighting is very important to the growth and well being of your plants. With all of the products available on the market today, buying the proper lighting can be a very daunting task.
Plants need light for a process called photosynthesis to take place. They take carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and convert it to chemical energy in the form of sugar, which the plant uses for nourishment. Combined with the water that is also necessary for plant growth, it enables the plant to release free oxygen.
Just as humans need a balanced diet, plants need a balanced, full spectrum light for health and optimum growth. The quality of your lighting is just as important as the quantity of lighting that your plants receive.
All HID lamps must have a ballast to get it started and to maintain its level of light. A ballast contains a transformer, which regulates the voltage for the lamp. When selecting a ballast make sure it is designed for the size of bulb you will be using. Using the wrong ballast could result in a burnt out lamp and/or ballast.
Here at Midwest Supplies we offer two types of ballasts, magnetic ballasts and digital ballasts. Both are designed with a case of external aluminum to provide cool operation and they are both designed for minimum to no noise output. The biggest difference is that the digital ballast allows the bulb to burn brighter while saving you up to 10% on your electricity bill.
The second part of your lighting system is the reflector. Horizontal reflectors are the most popular for plant lighting. They do a great job concentrating the light in a downward direction, giving your plants a more intense coverage. As well as using a reflector you should also place reflective material on the walls of your grow room, neglecting to do this could cause you to waste a lot of the light that could potentially benefit your plants. When using horizontal reflectors proper spacing is also important. You should make sure that as the foliage begins to spread and grow that the leaves do not touch and shade each other. By altering the spacing every few days, while allowing the plants to remain as close together as possible without actually touching, shade will be kept to a minimum and growth will be maximized.
How do you know which type of light you should use and what wattage is right for your grow area?
Metal Halide (HID) lamps have a balanced light spectrum, which offers the most natural light output. HID lamps balanced spectrum contains the common blue and red wavelengths needed by plants for the most rapid growth. This type of lighting works best for vegetative growth and as a primary light source for any plant.
High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps produce a higher number of lumens per watt than the MH lamp making it a better choice for fruiting and flowering plants. The HPS lamp puts out an orange / yellow color that is similar to the sun's spectrum in the mid day of summer. Because it lacks the blue spectrum light it can sometimes make a plant stretch during the vegetative growth stage, that is why you should also use a HID lamp or have another light source available such as a window or a sunroof. Fluorescent lighting is best for seedlings and cuttings.
The wattage that you use will depend on your grow area and the type of plants that you are growing. The standard rule is that the larger the grow area the more wattage needed.
When hanging your lighting system you need to take several factors into consideration when determining the distance from your plants. The first factor is the wattage of your light source, the higher the wattage the higher the heat output, so they should be placed as close to your plants tips as possible without causing them to burn. A good rule to follow is 24"- 30" above the canopy for 1000 watt lights and 18" - 24" for 400 and 600 watt lights. If the plants start to become tall and spindly, they are stretching for more light, bring your light source closer to the plants. If the tips become "sun bleached" or begin to curl, move the light source higher away from them.
The second factor is how large is your grow area. If you have a large grow area you could hang the light higher, which will give you a larger coverage area, but this will decrease the intensity of the light. Another option would be to hang more than one light source above your grow area.
The last factor is the type of plants you are growing; if you are growing plants that require more intense light then you would want to use a higher wattage lamp and / or place the light source closer to the tops of your plants for optimum lighting.
Metal Halide lamps should be run 18 hours on with 6 hours off. High Pressure Sodium lamps should be run 12 hours on with 12 hours off.