Thankfully we live in a time where growing cannabis in your home isn’t a far fetched idea as it used to be. More and more states across the U.S. are passing laws that allow residents to cultivate marijuana right in their own homes, whether if it’s for recreational or medicinal use. This is huge for folks who believe cannabis can be used responsibly the same way alcohol is treated. At least with cannabis, there are notably fewer negative side effects.
So, if you’re lucky enough to cultivate marijuana in your home, there are a few key things anyone new to growing cannabis needs to know before getting started. But aside from working on your green thumb, if you plan on growing indoors you’ll need to make an investment in the right lighting.
It’s a fact that cannabis loves the sunshine and usually thrives best outside or in a greenhouse, but we’re not all fortunate enough to have Southern California’s climate so it’s understandable why an outdoor garden isn’t an option for everyone.
When you’re looking to give your indoor garden the exact type of light your plants need to thrive, they’re some different options on the market, but in general, they come down to three different types.
Fluorescent Grow Lights
- Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs)
- Florescent tubes or T5 grow lights
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Grow lights
- Metal Halide (MH)
- High-Pressure Sodium (HPS)
- Ceramic Metal Halide (LEC)
LED Grow Lights
Here are the Pros and Cons of each Grow Light type
Fluorescent grow lights are the most widely available and often the most convenient because they come in a variety of sizes and many can be used in traditional light fixtures. Fluorescent lights are considered energy efficient which is a huge plus and cannabis plants tend to do well with them during the vegetation stage.
On the other hand, fluorescent lights don’t penetrate the canopy of a garden during the flowering phase the way some of the more high power options do, so they will produce a lighter yield. Fluorescent lights are generally available in two types: Compact Fluorescent (CFL), which can be used in tight spaces (where heat isn’t an issue) or T5 fluorescent tubes that are longer and require a fixture.
Pros of Fluorescent lights:
- They have a great light spectrum and cannabis plants do very well with them during the vegetation stage
- They produce less heat and have a consume less power than some other options
- Less readily available with a less cheaper up front price
- They come in a few different shapes and sizes to customize your garden
Cons of Fluorescent lights:
- Fluorescent lights produce smaller yields during the flower stage of growth than other options on the market
- The light Fluorescents produce isn’t intense enough to penetrate the canopy of a cannabis garden so in later stages plants tend to develop unevenly
High Intensity Discharge (HID) Grow Lights
HIDs are pretty much the industry standard for large scale cannabis cultivators. The high intensity of these lights draws more power than fluorescents but cannabis plants definitely respond well to that extra energy.
HID’s are large bulbs that usually screw into a reflector to direct the light down onto plants. Many HID’s also require a ballast to supply power to the light. A ballast can be anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds and are usually oddly shaped with built in fans that can be a bit loud if noise is a concern. HID’s are great for growing cannabis but they also generate a lot of heat so they usually require a ventilation/cooling system of some kind, especially if your garden is in a tent or an enclosed space.
Types of HID’s
Metal Halide (HM) & Light Emitting Ceramic (LEC) Grow Lights
Metal Halide lights are HID’s that produce a bluish light that cannabis plants love during the vegetative stage however these lights can be used all the way through the flower stage as well. Light Emitting Ceramic grow lights are a ceramic metal halide bulbs that are more efficient than regular MH lights and many have the ballast built into the light fixture.
High Pressure Sodium (HPS) Grow Lights
Just as Metal Halide bulbs are well suited for cannabis during the vegetative stage, High Pressure Sodium lights are very effective during the flower stage of growth. The light from an HPS bulb appears yellow in color and produces a light spectrum perfect for bud production. During the flower stage, HPS grow lights are known to produce better yields per watt of electricity than any other type of grow light on the market, which is a major reason so many large scale grow operations use them.
Pros of HID Grow lights:
- HIDs produce the highest yields per watt of any other type of grow light available.
- HIDs have options to provide the optimum light spectrum for each stage of growth for cannabis
- Cannabis plants love HID light
Cons of HID Grow Lights:
- HID lights get very hot and require a cooling system of some kind to keep the temperature under control
- HIDs require more parts including a hood/reflector and ballast (with the exception of LECs) as well as a means to keep the light from building up too much heat
LED (Light Emitting Diodes) Grow Lights
LED grow lights are also very popular among cannabis growers with a light spectrum fine-tuned specifically for growing cannabis. LED lights tend to run cooler than their HID counterparts so many growers use them as an alternative to hot running HPS lighting. Also, LEDs have a lot fewer parts to assemble than HID lights so the setup is much easier.
Pros of LED Grow Lights:
- LED technology is constantly evolving so many newer lights on the market are in light spectrum fine-tuned for both the vegetative and the flowering phase of cannabis growth
- LEDs produce less heat than HIDs making temperature in the grow area more manageable
- Because LEDs produce light in a specific spectrum they are usually less intense than their HID counterparts and use less energy
- LEDs are usually plug and play and don’t require a ballast
Cons of LED Grow Lights:
- Because LED technology is newer and developing there really isn’t a performance standard so results and yields can vary quite a bit depending on the light you use
- Although LEDs produce light in the spectrum cannabis plants like they still produce less overall yield than their HID counterparts
There’s a lot to digest when it comes to finding the perfect lighting for your indoor garden. But keep in mind, if this is your first venture into growing, it’s important to start out small and work your way up. The last thing you want to do is invest a ton of money into something you’re not ready for. After getting some practice and experience with the plant, that’s when you should consider dropping a healthy investment on proper lighting.