Are you planning to grow your own vegetable and flower transplants this year? You may find it incredible to buy grow light fixtures for indoor gardening.
When browsing the many options for lighting products, you may come across confusing terminology. Don’t let this scare you. When choosing grow light fixtures for your indoor garden, you just need to know a few basic principles.
Once the seeds have germinated and the first “true leaves” appear, light begins to play a vital role in the growth and health of the seedlings. Outdoors, plants harvest energy from sunlight to produce their own food, a process called photosynthesis.
All green plants need light for photosynthesis, during which special cells convert the energy contained in the light into sugars. During this process, plants release oxygen.
The amount of light plants need to thrive varies widely—from low-light houseplants, like dracaena, to fruit foods, like tomatoes, that require brighter light.
Seedlings need lots of bright light, and when they don’t receive enough light, they become weak and leggy. In most cases, even the sunniest windowsill will not provide the required light intensity or duration, especially in winter.
Successful indoor gardening relies on grow light fixtures that closely mimic sunlight to trigger photosynthesis without generating excessive heat. Your seedlings will thrive under high-quality, energy-efficient, full-spectrum light that is evenly distributed over your growing area.
What are the types of grow light fixtures?
The main three grow light fixtures are LED, HID (HPS/MH) and fluorescent. Each type of grow light fixtures has its pros and cons, but all in all, we believe LEDs are the best overall investment to produce high quality crops at the best cost. As shown below, LEDs typically have a higher upfront initial cost, but through BBIER®’s direct-to-consumer model, we offer top-quality LEDs at nearly half the cost of competing LEDs and HID lamps. So, with LEDs from BBIER®, in addition to saving on long-term operating costs, you can also save on upfront purchases.
• Higher upfront costs
• Most energy efficient and produces less heat (reduces cooling costs)
• Long service life (5-10 years)
• Support full cycle growth
• Suitable for large plantings
• LEDs produce high cannabis yields
• Older/cheaper models may perform worse
• Reduce upfront costs
• Reliable, trustworthy industry
• High cannabis production
• Support full cycle growth
• Suitable for large plantings
• Bulbs need to be replaced annually
• less efficient
• Generates a lot of heat
• Higher power/cooling costs
• Lowest upfront cost
• Easy to set up (for beginners)
• Low power consumption
• Low heat output
• Suitable for very small plants or seedlings
• Low light output
• Shorter lifespan
• Not the best option for full-cycle growth
What are the factors to consider when choosing grow light fixtures?
With so many types of grow light fixtures available, it can be overwhelming to find the one that best suits your needs. Here’s our guide to the most popular grow light fixtures, including what they do and the benefits they provide.
Asking yourself these questions can help you make the best choice:
- What type of plants will you grow?
- Will you plant year-round or start in the spring?
- How tall can plants grow?
- Where would you put your grow light fixtures: in your living space, or hidden in your basement?
- Should grow light fixtures be mobile (eg casters)?
What type of grow light fixtures should I use?
Let’s start with the weakest option. HID (HPS/MH) are the cheapest, but they are also the least efficient and have high heat output.
CFLs are probably the best known because they offer a broad spectrum and emit low heat. These are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but are also more energy efficient.
LEDs are new to the block and definitely the best option in my opinion. LEDs are the most energy efficient, have the lowest heat output, and have a full spectrum that is completely specific to your plants. Also, LEDs often offer options that allow you to switch between different lights or combine certain lights. My lights toggle between red, blue and a combination of the two.
What color grow light fixtures are best?
The spectral range includes red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Colors on the far end are most useful to plants, but all colors are absorbed to some degree. When purchasing grow light fixtures, be sure to read the packaging as it outlines the spectrum offered. Full spectrum is always the best option, or the best option to provide a mix of reds and blues. Different colors serve different purposes, which I will outline below.
- Blue light (mostly violet) is very important because it is how our plants get chlorophyll and grow and strengthen their leaves as a result.
- Flowering varieties require red light. Care must be taken when using it, as too much red light can kill your plants, which is why many grow light fixtures offer a mix of red and blue at the same time, so that your plants can meet all their needs.
- Green and yellow lights are said to have slight benefits in seed germination, but are not necessary for your plants.
Best grow light fixtures for growing seedlings
Newly emerged and seedlings grow well with the help of full spectrum light with blue and red wavelengths. Special LED and fluorescent “grow light fixtures” can be used, but also less expensive fluorescent tube bulbs. Make sure the light source is within 6 inches of the plant leaves for best results. For easy mobility, hang the fixture on a chain, or place your plant on a table or this DIY seed starter. To keep your grow light fixtures working efficiently, lightly wipe the lamps to remove dust and grime before each year of use.
Best light for flowering plants
Red light waves are essential for prompting plants to bloom and growing fruit indoors. Shop for LED bulbs and fixtures designed for growing plants. They are often labeled “grow light fixtures” because they are used to generate large amounts of red light waves.
Some electrical brands make plant-friendly LED bulbs called “high output LEDs.” High output LEDs are typically twice as bright as standard LED grow light fixtures. These ultra-bright lights are ideal for growing plants native to sunny, dry climates, such as cacti, citrus, rosemary, and geraniums. Plan to light 16 to 18 hours a day for flowering and fruiting plants. Position the light source about 12 inches away from the leaves.
How much light do I need?
Once you’ve decided what kind of grow light fixtures you want, it’s time to decide how big a light bulb will be for the space you have. First, determine how much space you need to light. As a rule of thumb, aim for 20 to 40 watts per square foot. Divide the wattage of the bulb by 20 (for example, 400 watts divided by 20 = 20), then divide the wattage of the bulb by 40 (400 divided by 40 = 10).
The answer gives you the extreme values of the light intensity range. With a 400-watt system, you can light up 10 to 20 square feet of interior landscape. Also, be sure to match the wattage of the bulb to the wattage your light fixture is designed to handle. For example, a 400-watt bulb should not be used in a 250-watt system. Adjust your settings as you watch your plants grow. Increase or decrease the intensity of the light by changing the position of the plants or grow light fixtures to bring the plants closer or further away from the light source.
How to place and use grow light fixtures?
Ideally, your grow light fixtures will be placed above the plants, as this best simulates sunlight and also allows for the most even coverage. Recognizing that this isn’t always possible, mine sticks to the side of the fridge to illuminate my plants from the side and top. Incandescent lights need to be at least 24 inches above the plant. Fluorescent lamps have a lower thermal signature and can be 12 inches, while LEDs can be closer to 6 inches. You will have to adjust the light over time as the plant grows. Check regularly to make sure nothing is burnt. The height at which the light is placed affects how long you can turn it on.
Depending on the time of year and plant type, the amount of light your plants need will vary. Flowering varieties and vegetables require 12-16 hours of light per day. Remember that it is also important to have at least 8 hours of darkness per day. Nighttime is the time when plants break down the energy they get from light. Most grow lights have timers set. Mine turned on around 7am and ran 12 hours a day. If your plant is further away from your light, it will absorb less. So if you have an incandescent bulb, you may need to keep your light on longer than if you were using an LED bulb 6 inches away.
For more details, contact us for help!