Many cannabis growers believe that good lighting equals better yields and they can’t be far from the truth. Those who cannot grow their cannabis plants outdoors under bountiful sunshine rely on the power of indoor grow lights. If you’re one of the many people who grow cannabis indoors, this guide will show you how to find the best grow lights for cannabis.
Light is food to plants and the intensity of your growing lights affects their growth and yield. Without proper lighting, even healthy plants will not produce much yield at all.
Three Types of Grow Lights for Marijuana Cultivation
There are a lot of grow lights that you can use to grow cannabis in an indoor setup but when you consider the basic types, there are three to consider:
Fluorescent Growing Lights
Fluorescent grow lights are the most common grow lights for cannabis cultivation. These include compact fluorescent lights and T5 growing lights. These are very easy to find and buy from any hardware shops or cannabis growing supplies shops and are usually the most affordable.
High-Intensity Discharge Growing Lights
High-intensity discharge (HID) grow lights are not as commonly used indoors or in homes but are often used in commercial settings or from a lamp post. This kind of lighting shines the brightest but at the same time, burns very hot. Three of the most common HID lamps are metal halide lamps or MH, ceramic metal halide lamps (CMH, LEC, or light-emitting ceramic and LEC) as well as High-Pressure Sodium or HPS. If your home is located near the road or highway, lamp posts are surely fitted with high-intensity discharge grow lights.
LED Growing Lights
LED growing lights are the latest addition to the best grow lights for the cannabis list. LED bulbs are fitted in a special lamp or receptacle and the bulbs vary in sizes, form factors, and colors. There are no standard types of LED growing lights however, some growers say that some lamps have better results than other lamps.
LEDs are preferred by many growers because these last longer compared to ordinary CFL or HID. These shine brighter but at the same time, are cooler and won’t make your growing area too warm. LEDs may be more expensive than other grow lights but these burn brighter and will shine longer.
Other Types of Grow Lights
Induction grows lights are rare but are used by some growers claiming that these are far better than other types of grow lights. There are two kinds of induction grow lights: magnetic induction grow lights and plasma induction grow lights.
Magnetic induction grows lights are good for cultivating cannabis and are even mentioned as grow lights that can give you good results. Meanwhile, plasma induction grows lights don’t perform well when it comes to growing cannabis.
There are some kinds of induction lights that are better at lighting large areas like stadiums and coliseums but are not as good as growing cannabis. Also, induction lamps are very expensive
Other types like old-school yellow/amber light bulbs are not suited for cultivating cannabis. Also, these burn very hot and will only turn your growing area to an oven.
Comparing the Best Cannabis Growing Lights
You can choose from any of the three general types of grow lights and the best way to find the best one is to make a simple comparison.
Fluorescent Grow Lights
Fluorescent growing lights are very popular and come in various shapes and sizes. You’ll find fluorescent bulbs in different shapes; from twisted bulbs to long and loopy ones. These also come in different tones or colors which favor people who use them in their homes.
Aside from growing cannabis, fluorescent lights are also effective for growing different plants including herbs, vegetables, and ornamental plants. These don’t use too much electricity however, you need several of these if you have a larger grow room or you have more plants to cultivate.
CFL growing lights are odd-shaped, twisty bulbs that you can find in almost all hardware stores. CFL lamps produce different spectrums of light and are perfect for growing weed in very small or tight spaces. Most growers use CFL lamps when growing cannabis inside growing tents or cabinets. Growers make their light fixture or holder or use large gooseneck lamps so it’s easier to adjust the position of the lamps.
T5 growing lights are another readily available type of fluorescent light. This is used not just for growing cannabis but also in cultivating indoor ornamental or flowering plants, herbs, and small indoor vegetable gardens. Although not as popular as CFL lamps, T5 grow lights are more available in garden and hardware stores.
T5 lamps are wider and bigger compared to CFLs. These come in a set with a panel or hood. With this setup, you can hang this over your plants and adjust the distance between the lamp and your plants.
Advantages of Using Fluorescent Lighting
- Fluorescent lamps are cheap/affordable.
- These are easy to purchase from a local home and garden supplies shop or hardware
- These won’t use a lot of electricity unless you use several lights at once.
- These won’t generate a lot of heat unless you use these lights at the same time.
- These have a good light spectrum that benefits growing cannabis plants.
- These are perfect for small spaces or growing areas.
- You can keep these closer or farther from your cannabis plants
Overall, fluorescent lights are the best choice for those growing clones, newly sprouted plants, seedlings, and also very young plants. This type is also great for small growing spaces and stealth growing areas.
By using smaller lamps like these while the cannabis plants are still small, you will save a lot of money in paying electric bills during the first weeks of your plants’ lives than using HPS lamps.
Disadvantages of Using Fluorescent Lighting
- Your plants will have smaller yields compared to other kinds of grow lights especially during the flowering stage as the buds are forming.
- Fluorescents can yield only 0.25 grams per watt
- LEDs and HPS can yield up to 1 gram per watt.
- Light from a fluorescent lamp does not penetrate well therefore these are better suited for plants that grow flat and short. Tall plants won’t work well with fluorescent lamps, especially during the flowering stage.
Fluorescent lights are recommended for growing clones and very young plants. It can also be used as supplemental lighting to save you money during the growing phase than using HPS lamps. These are perfect for smaller spaces.
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Growing Lights
HIDs are very efficient compared to fluorescent lights. These lamps come with very large transparent bulbs with weird shapes. Growing lamps come with large hoods with reflectors that will reflect light to your plants. Some lamps are already available with hoods while some ingenious growers make their own HID lamps with makeshift metal hoods and reflectors.
Another very important thing about HID grows lights is that these tend to burn brightly and emit a lot of heat. This heat is bad for your plants as these can dry up moisture and will make the growing conditions inside the growing room intolerable. To augment his, exhaust fans have been integrated into lamp hoods to removing building heat.
Metal Halide Grow Lights
Another best grow light for cannabis is MH or metal halide. These are perfect for the vegetative stage because these produce blue light that growing plants need. But this light is not just for the vegetative stage but may also be used during the flowering stage up to harvest time. Cannabis growers who use metal halide lamps recommend this lamp to grow stronger and healthier vegging plants.
High-Pressure Sodium Growing Lights
Another type of high-intensity light is the very popular high-pressure sodium grow lights. These are most commonly used during the flowering phase because these emit yellow light. This color of light helps stimulate the production of buds.
Cannabis plants exposed to HPS lamps during the flowering stage produce better yields for every watt of electricity consumed than other growing lights. This is why this type of lamp is very popular.
Ceramic Metal Halide and LEC Light Emitting Ceramic Growing Lights
CMH lamps and LEC lamps pertain to the same thing. CMH is a kind of metal halide bulb that makes use of ceramic as a vital part of the lamp similar to HPS lamps. This is why CMH lamps are considered to be more efficient compared to MH Lamps according to users.
Advantages of HID Growing Lights
- These are very efficient as these will give you higher yields for every watt.
- These efficient bulbs are best for the flowering stage. You can get as much as 0.5 to 1 gram of yield per watt as long as all the growing and flowering needs of the plants are met.
- HID lamps are very straightforward to use. You can hang these from the correct distance. You don’t need to adjust the lamps all the time compared to fluorescent lamps.
- LED lamps come in different colors. You can switch the red color for flowering and blue color for growing.
- There are many different lamp designs to choose from.
Disadvantages of HID Growing Lights
- These lamps can become very hot especially for more lamps and bigger lights.
- You need additional fans to remove heat. Ducting also helps and these are additional things to consider for a grower.
- You need to think about more lamps or lighting parts. HID lamps need a fixture, a ballast, cables, and the bulbs as well as extra exhaust systems to remove heat.
For a 250 watt HID bulb, you can get as much as 1 to 2 ounces per month. For a 400 watt HID lamp, you can get as much as 1.5 to 3.5 ounces per month. For 600 watts HID, 2.5 to 5 ounces of yield per month.
HID lamps are suited for cultivating cannabis and are also very straightforward to use. If you want to get the best yields then HID lamps are the best for your growing area.
LED Growing Lights
LED lamps are very popular for growers and are used instead of HPS lamps. These are cooler and come with a cooling system such as fans and heat sinks. These are wall-plugged and hung over your plants. LEDs are known for their easy light penetration and thus these don’t need to be moved regularly.
Advantages of Using an LED Growing Lamp
- This kind of lamp comes with a cooling system that will remove heat from the lamp.
- LED lamps are cooler and may not need any vents at all.
- LED lamps are available in different sizes. Small LEDs may be plugged into a wall outlet and hung over the plants. Just plug and grow.
- According to some growers, LED lamps can grow buds with more resin. They combine two grow lights: an LED and HPS to get good yields and improved resin production.
Disadvantages of Using an LEDGrowing Lamp
- Larger and more powerful LEDs require venting or a proper ventilation system using fans and heat sinks.
- LEDs will give you smaller yield amounts compared to HPS according to some growers. But there is still a lot of studies to be done to prove this.
- You must provide a larger space between your lamp and plants to get the best outcome. Small LED panels should be around 18” or higher from your plants during the middle of the flowering stage to prevent burning buds. Bigger LEDs should be kept 30” or higher.
The best grow lights for cannabis depend on several factors. Consider the size of your growing area, the number of plants you wish to grow, and your growing budget. Compare different lamps to get the best results according to your plant’s growth stage.
Also, consider the cost of maintaining your growing lights. Choose lamps that don’t require special maintenance and lamps with easily available parts from a local store or hardware shop.