The Best T5 Grow Lights?

You’ll find a wide range of prices out there when you start investigating getting the fixtures you need for your indoor garden. If you’re looking for efficient use of energy to keep the monthly cost of growing as low as possible, don’t make the mistake of assuming you can get by with a cheap grow light while trying to get your grow space setup.  There aren’t many edible plants that thrive in poor light. Except for greens and lettuce, inexpensive fluorescent fixtures and lamps or bulbs are priced lower for a reason.

You might think the 4-lamp T5 fixture you got an incredible steal on is bright, but you only use light to see things. Your plants use it to create their food – the stuff that fuels them for producing leaves, roots, and fruits. Unfortunately, grow lights aren’t one of those things where ‘seeing is believing’ holds true. At least unless you want to wait until you’ve used up a bunch of energy and wasted weeks of time in discovering that the light level is diminishing, the light delivered is unsteady… and your tomato or pepper plants are looking kinda thin in the skin so to speak.

Forget about standard T5 fixtures, unless your sole use for the light will be starting seedlings for the outdoor garden a few weeks ahead of planting time, or rooting some cuttings. Even then, your plants will be far happier if you invest in t5 HO grow light fixtures, and you’ll be able to bring a crop of lettuce to harvest using the same light. Still, you don’t want the cheapest HO fixture you can find. You can buy a nice looking 4′,/4-lamp fixture from Home Depot for less than $140. Beware. You can be pretty sure that the lamps are going to dim fast, deliver inferior quality light, and the fixture will not be of a quality in materials or construction to hold up much longer than the warranty. If you’re going to get the maximum growing power out of a cheap fixture – replace the lamps with something like Phillips. Yeah, they retail for about $15 each (and you need 4 of them) – but you only get what you pay for…

So wouldn’t you be farther ahead to just buy a better quality T5 HO fixture in the first place? The Quantum Bad Boy will run you less than the cheap light after replacing the lamps for better plant energy. And it will deliver 25% more light from the same light tubes. Not to mention that Quantum’s lamps have been fine tuned for delivering better growth to begin with. You have to ask yourself what’s more important – the $40 saved in the beginning or more food in the end?

Or you could get even better growing power by stepping up into the T5 VHO fixtures, because 40,000 lumens sounds like your plants will be kissing the near side of the sun, but it’s not the case. You cannot grow tomatoes to harvest with T5 HO lights, not an abundant harvest anyway. A few tomatoes will be all you get, and the plants will be thin. That’s not enough light to penetrate the garden canopy. It won’t produce thick stems, tons of foliage or promote good flowering – even if you do swap to red lamps.

T5 VHO is definitely something your plants will get a lot happier under. The same 4 ft./4-lamp size fixture almost doubles the plant energy output. Here your garden gets 7200 lumens from 95-watt lamps. They do create more heat, and will increase energy consumption, but nothing like an HID would. There aren’t that many manufacturers who have these hopped-up fluorescent grow lights, and only one who has one they call XHO – ‘extreme high output’ with 110-watts per lamp.

Check them out:

Why create such a powerful fluorescent fixture? To give the indoor gardener an efficient means of bringing a fruiting crop to harvest. Yes, they are about $100 more than a really good quality T5 HO, but you get double the growing power from them. An added benefit is that they’re closer to sunlight in light color which is an enemy to indoor garden bugs and deeper penetration tends to stop mold growth too.

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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.