The Different Types of Lights for Cannabis: Pros and Cons
The variety of grow lights available today can be confusing, especially for those new to cannabis cultivation. We look at the different types of lighting along with their pros and cons.
Cannabis cultivators know how important light is when it comes to growing successfully. A sufficient amount of the right type of light is one of the most crucial factors for healthy growth and yields of potent buds.
Although natural sunlight would be optimal for cannabis growing, many cultivators prefer to grow indoors, for various reasons. Firstly, not everyone lives in a climate where outdoor growing is feasible. Secondly, indoor growing with artificial lighting on a timer allows the grower control over the vegetative and flowering phases of their cannabis.
You can find various types of grow lights for indoor cultivation today. However, not all types of grow lighting are equal. There can be big differences when it comes to their effectiveness and costs. Let’s look at the available grow lighting types together with their pros and cons.
FLUORESCENT (CFL) GROW LIGHTS
CFL stands for “Compact Fluorescent Lights”. You can get these lights at many places, including home improvement stores and even most grocery stores. They are especially suited to small grows and make affordable starter lights.
Their availability and low cost are among the advantages of CFL grow lights. These bulbs have standard sockets so you can use them with any standard light fixture. Commonly used CFLs for growing cannabis range from 40W and upwards. They are available in various colour temperatures such as “daylight” at 6500K or “warm white” with a more reddish light spectrum at 2700K. Bulbs with a “daylight” spectrum are more suitable for the vegetative growth phase while “warmer” CFLs with their more reddish light are better for the flowering of your plants.
The light output of CFL bulbs is low compared to other types of grow lighting. You will have to put the CFL bulbs very close to your plants if you want to provide them sufficient light. Unless you are willing to use a number of CFL bulbs, CFLs are normally better suited for smaller grows, say if you only grow one or two plants. On the other hand, “day light” CFL grow lights can be the ideal grow lights for clones and seedlings.
CFLs are not very efficient or powerful compared to other lighting options, but for who are only just dipping their toe into the water of cannabis cultivation, they are a great starting point.
HID GROW LIGHTS (MH & HPS)
HID (High-intensity Discharge) grow lights are somewhat of a golden standard in the cannabis growing industry. Many growers swear by HID lighting and believe that they give the best and biggest yields.
There are two main types of HID lights, MH (Metal Halide) lights and HPS (High Pressure Sodium) lights. The difference between the two is that MH lights give a “cooler”, blueish light whereas HPS lights sit at the red end of the spectrum. This makes MH lights better suitable for the vegetative phase of your plants and HPS better for flowering.
Most advanced growers, therefore, use a combination of MH/HPS bulbs for the duration of their grow. If for some reason you need to choose one type of HID for the entire grow you should get an HPS light.
600W HPS lights are the most popular form of HID lights because they provide a good balance between how much light they produce and how much electricity they use.
Growers that want to grow using HID lighting can usually get complete sets that include the bulbs, ballast and a reflector.
HID lights will initially cost a lot less when compared to some other types of grow lights. They are easy to set up and to operate, and they are proven a proven standardised solution able to get excellent results.
Powerful HID lights in the 600W range or more can produce big amounts of heat. This means you will need adequate exhausts and vents in your grow room. Also, because HID bulbs degrade over time, their life span is somewhat limited. You will have to replace your bulbs periodically. Some growers get new bulbs every year while others grow with them a little longer.
HID lights cannot just plugged-in to a regular light socket because they need a special hood and ballast. As such, they are extremely power hungry, and can significantly increase electricity bills.
LED GROW LIGHTS
Just a few years ago, LEDs were not suitable for any “serious” grows aside for providing light for seedlings or clones. However, LED technology has come a long way in recent years.
Modern LED grow lights with more lumens per watt and modern COBs (“Chips on Board”) technology can now provide adequate light intensity and penetration for even the most demanding grows. Today, LEDs can rival or even surpass other types of grow lighting including HID lights - though you need to get the right ones.
LEDs are the most energy-efficient type of grow light. This means they can provide the most light compared to their running costs. Another advantage of LED lights is that they run much cooler compared to HID lighting - barely producing any heat at all. This, in turn, means there is less risk of “burning” your plants from too much heat plus it helps to keep temperatures in your grow room down. LEDs also don’t need a ballast to work like HIDs do, you can simply plug them into a standard outlet.
When compared to other types of lighting, the initial costs for LED grow lights can be steep. High-end grow LED fixtures with modern LED modules can easily set you back thousands of Euros. On the other hand, if you plan to grow a lot, the lower running costs of LEDs, and lower temperatures can make good for your initial investment over time.
It is also worth noting that unlike HID and CFL lights, there is no industry standardisation. As such, the current LED grow light market is flooded with retailers that try to sell poorly designed LED lights by often making outrageous and false claims. You get what you pay for when it comes to LEDs, and it always worth doing your research and paying extra for a reputable brand.
So, what type of grow lighting is best? This is a decision that will depend on various factors, including the size of your growing area, the light’s running costs over time and last but not least how much you can or are willing to spend.
If you have very high light requirements, such as if you want to max out your yields during flowering you will not get around needing a powerful light such as a 600W or better HID light or LED equivalent. On the other hand, if you only want to grow one or two small plants, or are looking after clones and seedlings, a less powerful light will do.