Types of Grow Lights for Indoor Plants

Grow lights are used on indoor plants to help them thrive throughout the year. Every plant needs light to grow. Back in middle school, you must have learned about photosynthesis in science class. This is how plants converts light energy to plant energy; carbohydrates which are sugar and glucose. This energy is absorbed by the plant and used for growth, budding and flowering.

Plants require light either naturally or artificially. To cultivate indoor plants, grow lights are used. Growing lights help you maintain an indoor garden in any climate throughout the year; however, not all grow lights are the same. Some are designed to stimulate a plant’s growth stage; for instance, some will stimulate photosynthesis and others vegetative growth or germination.

Types of Grow Lights for Indoor Plants

Photosynthesis happens differently in plants. This means different plants require different light wavelengths to grow. Grow lights mimic the sunlight spectrum needed for a plant to flourish. Some produce blue light, which helps in foliage, others the red light that boosts flowering and root formation. Some grow lights have a full light spectrum. Below we explained 4 types of grow lights for indoor plants:

1. Incandescent Light Bulbs

Incandescent grow lights are the most common bulbs due to their inexpensive nature. Homeowners can purchase them at the local grocery or hardware store. An incandescent bulb is similar to the one used in a home lamp. However, they are not the best type of lamps for indoor gardening since they emit a lot of heat that would easily scorch your plants. Though easily affordable, incandescent is not long-lasting or energy-saving.  

Incandescent grow lights use tungsten filament enclosed in chamber filler with an inert gas like neon or argon. The bulb is categorized into three types by the US department of energy.

  • Standard A-19 bulbs: Standard A bulbs are round-shaped and used an E-2 screw base as Edison invented them. Standard-A 19 bulbs are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
  • Reflector Bulbs: Reflector bulbs are also known as type R bulbs. They use a parabolic aluminized reflector, PAR. This type is used for outdoor spotlighting and indoor or recessed lighting, which is common as grow light for indoor plants, are the ellipsoid lamps, ER.
  • Halogen Bulbs: Halogen bulbs use inert gasses to burn and increase the luminance of the filament thus high light intensity. Halogen bulb produces a lot of heat when burning and can easily scorch your indoor plants, thus not the most preferred indoor plants.

2. Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent light bulbs are another popular choice among many homeowners. They are available in full-spectrum, which is useful to a plant at any stage of growth. A full light spectrum is like sunlight. It’s essential when growing, budding and flowering.

However, the traditional fluorescent bulbs do not have adequate lumens for plants in the flowering stage thus are used for germination and vegetative growth. Unlike incandescent, fluorescents are safer. They much safer for your plants and consume less electricity since they produce less heat.

Fluorescents grow lights makes more sense when tilling a small garden plant. As you expand the growing area, you might start considering other grow light options. Fluorescents come in a variety of colors including, warm white, cool white, daylight, and each light color effective for certain stages of plant growth.

Fluorescent bulbs do not glare thus not harmful to the human eyes. Modern fluorescent bulbs like the T5, T8 and Compact Fluorescent Light emit over 90% solar spectrum. Let’s have a look at what grows well under fluorescent light.

3. LED Grow Lights

LED, Light-emitting diodes are lighting fixtures made up of many diodes that emit light. LEDs are the recent grow lights in the market and have hit the industry by storm. The lights use modern lighting technology to provide a high light intensity while emitting less heat.

LEDs are economical in that you can customize them to the color light the plant needs. Their energy consumption, on the other hand, is very low and contributes to the wide popularity. Purchase prices I, however, significantly higher than most CFL and T5 fixtures. With the increased competition for grow lights, LEDs prices are falling and there quite cheap ones in the market these days. However, for cheap LEDs, depending on the lumen produced, you are likely to stick them together to reach the required wavelength.

An LED light can be set to produce 5700K color temperature produced by sunlight and have the ability to give both blue and red band spectrums. They are the best lights to use for flowering, budding and vegetative growth.

Read More: Are LED Grow Lights Harmful To Humans?

4. High-Intensity Discharge

If you desire to venture into commercial indoor gardening, HIDs is the way to go. The technology produces a high amount of light and is popular among commercial growers. HIDs contain electrodes and gas-filled bulbs. After reacting with the gas, the electrodes produce a massive bright light used mainly for flowering plants.

HIDs light bulbs are not the types to operate on a low budget since they consume a lot of energy and increase operating costs compared to fluorescent bulbs. HIDs come with additional cooling equipment, which takes care of the high amount of heat emitted. If you hung them too close to your plants, they are likely to harm them. High-intensity discharge grow lights are available in different types; metal halides, high-pressure sodium bulbs and ceramic metal halide bulbs.

Metal Halides, MH:

Metal halides have a high mercury content thus are hazardous to humans and should be used in controlled environments. Metal halides require compatible ballast and reflector hoods thus have higher operating costs. MHs life span goes for a few months, thus very expensive due to frequent replacement needed.

High-Pressure Sodium grow lights, HPS:

Like the MHs, HPS also needs a compatible ballast and a reflector making it more expensive than the alternatives. Due to the high heat emitted by HPS, you need to set up ventilation and an air conditioning system.

Ceramic Metal Halide grow lights, CMH:

CMH is available either in individual components or a complete kit. CMH is a new version of metal halide, with the only difference being that they use a ceramic tube just like the HPS, while the MH uses a quartz tube. CMH produces a light of up to 96 CRI, which is much closer to natural light.

The bulb is a compilation of both metal halide and high-pressure sodium into a single bulb; therefore, you can use it throughout all your plant’s growth cycle.  
CMH gives a high CRI, meaning it is perfect for both the plants and bear-human eyes. It’s easier to spot forming discolorations. They also offer higher lumens usable by plants.

CMH contains a full light spectrum with UV light types, UV A, UV B and UV C. They have glass filters to filter UV-C, which is harmful to the human eye, but UV-A and UV-B are important for quality plant growth.

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