What are the different types of grow lights?

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Grow Lights for Indoor growing and gardening

You may have read our earlier article on the Basics of Indoor Garnering. Continuing the theme, today, we will look at the different types of Grow lights. This will help you get an overview of the options that are available out there.

What are the different types of grow lights?

For all Indoor growers or indoor gardeners, grow lights are a very significant need and non-negotiable whether your setup receives natural light or not. Plant grow lights are essential as they essentially replicate sunlight to enable plants to photosynthesize and grow. Now, what may appear bright full-spectrum lights to the human eye, are not how plants see them or use that light. This article will focus on giving indoor gardeners and indoor growers a basic idea of the types of grow lights that exist in the market.

So grow lights are specifically designed to ensure that plants get the appropriate wavelengths of light at different stages of their growth. For example, in the vegetative phase plants utilize more of the blue spectrum while the flowering stages require more of the red spectrum. We will delve into the more technical aspects of grow lights in another article.

Here are four types of grow lights in the market today:

HID Grow Lights (High-Intensity Discharge)

These come in different types, most commonly HPS (high-pressure sodium), metal halides or ceramic metal halides (CMH). HIDs are a close second to LEDs in the indoor grow light market. They cost less but require more maintenance and replacements more often than LED which needs to be evaluated before buying. They work great for indoor growing as they produce high-intensity light and wavelengths idea for plants. Growers combine different types of HIDs for different stages of a plants growth. For example, during the vegetative stage, metal halides are preferred as they give off more of the blue wavelength while HPS is preferred during the flowering stages.

Fluorescent Grow lights

These were immensely popular amongst indoor growers before the LED options become more prevalent. You would hear of terms like CFL, T5, T3 etc. associated with these types of lights. In general, they cost far lesser than the above two options but you need to do your homework to understand the combination of these you need. Most CFLs work quite well for the early stages during the vegetative phase but you will need to measure your PAR values to ensure that the intensity of light and wavelength is adequate for plants. You will need to get a combination of lights here to ensure that the flowering stages are also taken care off. This is why LED grow lights and HID lights fare better on the whole. But depending on your plant such as microgreens like lettuce etc, you might just be ok with a series of CFLs

Induction Grow Lights

Induction lights are also a fairly new entrant to the grow light market. Simply put they are a more powerful version of CFL lights but are far more powerful and have a long life span. They essentially work by using microwaves or magnetic ways to heat the gas within a sealed bulb or tube. This produces energy in the form of light and with low heat emission. This makes them very powerful and despite the fact that they are relatively new to the market, they will continue to be watched very closely by indoor growers. They come in two types, induction fluorescents and sulfur plasma. Induction lights claim to have a very long life span (in some cases 10-15 years) without requiring any replacements or loss of wavelength emission. However, their dispersing ability or spread of light is more focussed on a lower area of coverage in their current avatar requiring multiple lights to be used. However, this is certainly poised to change as they continue to innovate. Watch this space for more.

LED Grow Lights

Considered the most efficient and effective grow lights out there today. However, there is a wide array of LED grow lights at various price points and it can get extremely confusing for buyers. The key to choosing the right LED grow light is to understand the true wattage, the PAR (Photosynthetic Active Radiation) values i.e. the actual measure of wavelengths of light that the plant will use for photosynthesis. In short, make sure your grow lights talk about actual PAR values and you get a measure of what the PAR values are with a PPF meter (Photosynthetic Photon Flux). Your first red flag on any grow light is if you just see them talking about words like full spectrum and wattage. These are ways that a lot of companies will claim to have effective LED Grow lights but in effect, they are useless for your plants.  Essentially what you are looking for is to ensure that your plants will get adequate wavelengths that they will use and that is evenly spread by the light source. We will delve into more details in a separate article.

Our recommendation

From an overall cost-benefit standpoint, lower energy footprint, efficiency, and overall cost, LEDs are right now the most recommended lights to go with from our standpoint. Their adaptability to choosing wavelengths of light for different stages of plant growth make them even more compelling and their relatively low maintenance ensure that you can focus on your plants more than worry about the lights at least.


Here are some of the best LED’s to look for at great prices.

Happy growing!!

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