Indoor Garden Lighting Options

By

October 16, 2012

For anyone’s budget – hobby or enterprise, keeping the cost of grow lights and their operation at a reasonable level is important. Your improvised sunlight must be effective and economical without sacrificing your plant’s needs. You want the best harvest for the least amount of money invested.

Lots of Grow Light OptionsTraditional HID grow lights are expensive to purchase, and even more costly to operate long term. They are also not particularly green in terms of reducing your carbon footprint.  You want safer food to eat at the same time as you are trying to lessen your carbon footprint. Both must be done at a price that is affordable for you to maintain.

While you’re considering your options, keep in mind that the price of your grow lights is just the beginning of the out of pocket costs. Running them daily and keeping your electricity bill paid is another. Lighting is never an inexpensive purchase and grow lights can really run up a hefty shopping cart total. While you are researching the cost of different grow light fixtures, you should also be making notes on the output of usable spectrum.

Your plants won’t use all of the light spectrums produced by HID lamps. In fact, you’ll be wasting even more money than buying more lumen wattage than you really require. HIDs create very hot grow room temperatures, which in turn will have you paying for excessive electricity to maintain a safe growing climate.

You Do Have Better Grow Light Options

CFL lamps, or compact fluorescent lamps are far less expensive both to buy and to operate continuously. While they run cooler than HIDs, be prepared to pay for more energy every month than if you were running LED grow lighting.

LED lighting is really your best choice. While the lamps themselves are not cheap to purchase, they are far less expensive to operate. LEDs use 80% less electricity, burn much cooler and deliver the perfect spectrum to your crop through each stage of growing. Rather than one lamp for the life of the plants, you use the right spectrum to help your plants perform the task at hand.

  • Blue for stem and foliage growth
  • Red for flowering
  • Orange for fruit production

Not only will you see a huge savings in electrical use, your ventilation equipment will last longer when your lighting produces 90% less heat. The light may appear dim to you compared to more traditional lights, but a 90-watt LED light fixture actually puts out more growing light than a 400-watt metal halid or HPS lamp.

LED Grow Lamps Last Longest

Don’t let that purchase price of the light scare you off!  The diodes in an LED grow light fixture can last for up to 100,000 hours. This computes to be more than 5,550 consecutive 18-hour days… can you handle 15 years ROI? No grow lamp bulb is this efficient and cost effective. All while reducing the carbon footprint needed to grow nutritious, chemical-free food with more flavor than what you buy at your local grocery store.

HOWEVER…

To size up the situation in a nutshell, your indoor garden is far more budget friendly with LED lamps. They can save you hundreds of dollars over a year in an average home growing space. All of which looks good on paper, BUT if you want to grow fruiting plants, prepare to lay out a sizable sum on that LED fixture. The most you can grow with the average LED grow light is leaves – they don’t give plants enough energy to provide you with peppers, tomatoes, and harvests like that. If all you want to grow is lettuce – LED is perfect. Otherwise, you might want to check into taking out a loan, because fixtures like NASA uses run tens of thousands of dollars each.

While LEDs are getting better all the time, it isn’t the right light to grow everything under the sun. Maybe someday, but not yet.

Tammy Clayton

Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.
Tammy Clayton

5 Comments

  • Greetings,
    one way of maximizing your lighting efficiently is to employ light movers. Lights can be moved along closer to the plants without burning them and at the same time you increase light penetration to the lower areas of growth whilst reducing shading. The scientific reasons for moving your lights is solid. I would also like to say that if they didn’t work I would have been out of business manufacturing them over 20 years ago. Kind regards,
    Nic

    • Hey Nic – Glad to see you dropped by. Yes, light rails do help in increasing light coverage with HID lamps. Tis true! Indoor growers have been using them for years. However, they up the energy use in the grow room, rather than reducing it and you still have excess heat to dispel that does reduce the efficiency level of the garden in terms of cost and carbon footprint size. Especially when the spectrum is not all used by the plants themselves – which is why the lights are in the grow room in the first place. Still if HID lights are the only way of an optimum harvest and operating costs aren’t an issue, then light rails are the way to go. ~ Tammy

  • Hi Tammy,
    thanks for the reply. You mention that the light movers add to power consumption but it is actually the other way around. Light movers allow you to actually reduce the amount of lights used over the same growing space and the mover motor only consumes 3 watts of electricity.
    I have recently installed a light mover in a commercial system that grows herbs and lettuce for a large supermarket chain. They are moving a bank of Valoya led lights over the plants and it has drastically cut down the number of leds that they would have had to use if they were stationary. They are going to expand this setup this year to a full indoor growing environment using the Light movers. You can see a few photos on my new FB site http://www.facebook.com/jupiter2lightmover
    Kind regards,
    Nic

    • Hey Nick – in a large commercial operation, track lighting would definitely help to reduce the cost of equipment as well as energy consumption. In the average small home grow space however, it may not be the best option. Still thanks for sharing. For some indoor home gardeners, it could be a great solution.

      Tammy

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