For the most advanced greenhouse growers, investing in lighting to provide 24/7 nourishment to plants is an important element for business and success. Your first step in this process, though, will be looking at all the many lighting options out there. And there are certainly plenty to consider!
Are all lighting setups the same? The more you dig into the world of lighting options, you’ll realize just how different the parameters are with each potential choice. Depending on what you grow – as well as your own personal needs as a grower – you’ll want to choose the specific type that is just right for your setup, or at least the most versatile to provide you what you need exactly when you need it.
Starting out though, it’s hard to know all the details of what’s what, and which type of lighting system will give you which benefits. From fluorescents and LED’s to more obscure options like metal halide, how do you know if you’re making the right choice? Which system will save you the most money in the long run, too?
Luckily, you’ve found the perfect introductory article to get you started, and to equip you with all the pros and cons for each option. Which lighting would truly be best for you, your greenhouse plants, and your pocket? Let’s take a look and find out.
FIRST: DOES COLOR MATTER?
When purchasing lighting for your greenhouse, you may see terms like “blue light,” “red light,” or “full spectrum lighting” on the packaging or in the product description. The question here is: does your choice really matter?
It most certainly does, according to the Greenhouse Catalogue. In most cases – and for the majority of growing conditions – you’ll want to invest in full spectrum lamps, since they provide the entire spectrum of light plants need to be healthy.
However, if you want to encourage bushier, leafier growth in the types of plants you grow (say lettuce, ornamental non-flowering shrubs, or nursery trees), a blue spectrum lamp may suffice. On the other hand, lamps on the red spectrum will be more conducive to flowering and reproduction: perfect for crops like cannabis, flowers, and fruits.
Lamps, bulbs, and lights of various spectrums also come in many different forms you can choose from, as outlined on Greenhouse Product News. When you’re in the market for new greenhouse lighting, make sure you know everything about the options before you, so you’re sure to make the best decision for you and your plants in the long run.
COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHTING (CFL)
In terms of the color spectrum, fluorescent bulbs give you a wide variety of ranges to work with, and at an affordable price – comparable to and not all that different from the bulbs you might invest in for your own home. You may choose full spectrum, blue light, or red light among these for your growing operation. Fluorescents lights are most commonly found on the blue spectrum, however, so check packaging carefully.
This makes fluorescent lighting a popular option for most growers: you have a lot of options to work with, they’re simple to use, AND they’re affordable and energy efficient. Keep in mind, however, that purchasing the fixtures and ballasts needed for them may be the most expensive part of the investment. Over time though, the energy savings you get on them will pay things off (after all, fluorescent bulbs last an average of 20,000 hours).
Make sure to keep an eye out on the temperature ranges enlisted for each bulb or lighting with fluorescents, too. Some bulbs emit more heat than others, so you’ll want to match hotter bulbs with the plants that can stand it, and cooler ones with plants of cooler preferences, ensuring that each gets what’s beneficial.
HIGH INTENSITY DISCHARGE LIGHTS (HID’S)
For growers seeking light with greater intensity than the realm of fluorescent bulbs (which can sometimes be lacking for larger operations), HDI’s are the next step up. Since these types can emit very high temperatures and very intense light, they are much more ideal when hung up or installed a good distance away from or above plants, whereas fluorescents are sometimes encouraged to be set up quite close to maximize light.
For this reason, the intensity of HID’s means you won’t have to invest in nearly as many bulbs as with fluorescents. On the other hand, HID’s are usually more expensive to invest in to start, making both options about the same when it all pans out – except that HID’s last an exceptionally longer time than fluorescents.
HID’s fall into two broad categories: metal halide lamps and high pressure sodium (HPS) lights. While both have exceptional efficiency and longevity standards – enough that they don’t “burn out” even after they reach their shelf life – you’ll have to keep a close eye on them as they reach their end. The energy use, efficiency, and functionality of each bulb takes a plunge after its expiration date, especially in HSP’s. Replacing and maintenance for these systems is key to reap its benefits.
1. Metal Halide
Of the two HID options, metal halides are a little less often used. This is because they emit a blue light, which is really only useful to greenhouses with non-flowering, mature plants in need for a little more natural light – not a very common need. Still, they are a great available option in those cases – particularly for indoor grow systems that lack the more natural rays of blue light, since blue rays are the closest to natural outdoor light on the spectrum.
2. High Pressure Sodium Lighting (HPS)
In contrast to fluorescents and metal halide, High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights tend to emit light that is more so on the red spectrum. This makes them an excellent option for greenhouses with flowering or fruiting plants, or a perfect addition to a full spectrum setup for giving flowering plants a little boost.
Generally speaking, these lights are also a better option for more mature plants, which tend to not be in such dire need for full spectrum light as seedlings starting out would be. With either HID choice – metal halide, or HPS – some fixtures are available that will take either kind of bulb you choose, depending on your operation’s need.
Among the newest and most modern options for lighting is LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting. Their amazing advantages are that they are incredibly small lights and fixtures, only a portion of the size and weight of other options. This way, you save some space!
But also, LED lights are extremely energy efficient. Though they are more expensive when starting out, they most certainly pay themselves off over time with the electricity costs you save. In truth, however, their advantages aren’t just limited to their efficiency, longevity, and costs.
Their biggest plus: amazing control of the light spectrum. Bulbs are available in all colors – red, blue, or full spectrum – while some lighting systems allow you to toggle or change the light spectrum they emit at will to fit your needs. Unlike other bulb options, LED’s admit hardly any heat too, making them a fitting option for all sorts of growing systems – including fragile light systems for hydroponics.
An even newer wave of lighting options, OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. Instead of using bulbs as with other lighting options, this method uses thin strips of material that give off a diffusive, completely natural and cozy light, as described by OLEDGrowLights.net. Instead of being lit and augmented through glass, these strips instead emit a broader area of light that is admittedly more natural and less intense for all types of plants.
OLED can also be even lighter and less obtrusive than LED, making it a space saver. It’s also notable that it gives off zero radiation like other lighting options might, which not makes this better for plants – it could also encourage them to grow faster, some experiments have shown. In fact, OLED at this present time provides the cleanest, most natural source of light to date, which helps plants thrive.
At present, OLED is hard to find and very expensive. All the same, it is a very exciting and hopeful development on the frontier of sustainable greenhouse growing.
Beyond the lights themselves, you’re going to want to arm yourself with the very best in lighting accessories. This includes ballasts, cords, plugs, fixtures, and so on and so forth.
For greenhouse technology in particular, the more you can streamline the efficiency and energy your lighting systems use, the better. Investing in extra gadgets such as a Smart Ballast can help your systems detect when light bulbs go out or if circuitry misfires by turning off the system to avoid wasting power. This will also let you know that bulbs need replacing, instead of forcing the ballast to continue to misuse power.
In a similar vein, smart plugs will not only assist you in curbing excessive energy use, but they can also give you complete control over your lighting systems by remote control – sometimes even from a mobile app (such as with our Smart Greenhouse technology).
With all these lighting options spread out before you, you’ll never be left in the dark when figuring out what your greenhouse plants need in terms of photosynthesis and nourishment. Will you go for a powerhouse lighting system like HPS to get the most out of your flowering crops? Or will you favor a system that will save you more energy – and, ultimately, more money – like LED or even its newer relative, OLED?
No matter where your greenhouse growing passion leads you, there are plenty of options to help you light the way.