Hydroponics grow rooms are incomplete without proper lighting. And it's often the biggest expense, given the high cost of a grow light system and the extensive use of illumination, which is typically 12 or more hours a day, every day. There are so many options when it comes to hydroponics lighting that it can be overwhelming if you're just getting started.
We'll take a look at two of today's most popular lighting systems: LEDs and fluorescents. Each form of grow lighting has its advantages and disadvantages, so we'll begin with a brief overview of each, followed by a direct comparison of LED vs fluorescent grow lights.
What Are LED Grow Lights?
Lighting-emitting diodes (LEDs) are a type of LED. To produce light, LEDs employ a semiconductor chip called an LED die, which uses electroluminescence to transform an electrical current into photons. Both the single-die emitter and the chip-on-board (COB) module are examples of LEDs that can be used on a circuit board, but there are many other options available. In order to create an LED light, an LED is attached to a heat sink, coupled with directing lenses and a power source.
In today's LED grow lights, the wavelengths of light can be carefully tuned to produce the natural daylight spectrum, or they can be used to meet the different needs of plants. Additional cooling systems have been added to improve their performance.
What Are Fluorescent Grow Lights?
Ultraviolet radiation from a mercury vapor current encourages the phosphor powder coating on the inside of the fluorescent lamp to fluoresce, creating visible light in the process. It's all about the phosphor's chemical composition that determines the light's color.
Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and fluorescent tubes are two types of fluorescent grow lights. Unlike conventional CFLs, grow lights are larger, more powerful, and produce a wider range of light. However, the T5 diameter HO fluorescent tubes are commonly considered to be the greatest grow lights to utilize, because they emit twice the brightness of conventional fluorescent tubes. Since the reflectors and ballasts for fluorescent grow lights are embedded into the fixtures themselves, they have a slimmer overall profile.
Benefits Of LED Grow Lights
Among the many advantages of best LED grow lights, the most important ones are their low energy consumption and long lifespan.
Hydroponic gardening is a natural fit for LED grow lights, which are known for their energy efficiency. Their solid-state lighting technology has revolutionized the industry.
Because LED grow lights are solid state rather than relying on vacuum or gas components that degrade over time, they have an incredibly extended lifespan. The built-in heat sink, which takes heat away from the lamp and disperse it into the air, also contributes to the lamp's brightness and longevity.
Because LED grow lights have lower operating temperatures, hydroponics can benefit from their use. To begin with, you'll have to spend money on a cooling system to keep your grow room from overheating, which means you'll have to spend money on power. It's also possible to install lights closer to the plants because of the lower heat output. This is critical for indoor growing since the less energy a plant has available for photosynthesis the further it is from a light source. Because of this, the closer the fixtures are to each other, the more efficient the light.
You don't need a ballast to limit the current or directional lenses, which direct light exactly where it's needed, with LED grow lights. If you don't require these extra functions, you can save space and save the headache of putting together your lighting system. Also, many LED grow lights can be plugged straight into standard electrical outlets.
COB modules and white LED grow lights resemble natural sunshine by putting out a broad, well-balanced spectrum that supports photosynthesis in plants, as well as highly adaptable lighting for varied growing goals, depending on the plants and the stage of growth.
And as more LED grow lighting features are being developed, the benefits of these lights are increasing while the costs are decreasing.
Disadvantages Of LED Grow Lights
There are certain drawbacks to LED grow lights, the most obvious of which is their price, which is significantly more than that of other types of grow lights. In the long run, the hefty initial investment in LED grow lights will pay for itself in decreased energy expenses and a long lifespan. But if you don't have the money to begin with, it doesn't matter what anyone says.
In light of the proliferation of LED grow lighting options, it can be overwhelming and even detrimental. Low-wattage LED grow lights, for example, can actually produce less light than other types of grow lights. For this reason it is imperative that you thoroughly research the brand's reputation and track record.
Finally, keep in mind that LED chips are extremely heat-sensitive. They can fail if they are exposed to high temperatures. As a result, professional LED grow light fixtures with built-in heat sinks and fans are essential. You'll need to make sure that your ceiling can handle the weight of heat sinks, especially if you're using LED grow lights with high wattage.
Benefits Of Fluorescent Grow Lights
Many benefits may be gained from using fluorescent grow lights, the most important of which is the fact that they are extremely energy efficient and versatile for the price. When it comes to plant growth, newer and better fluorescent grow lights are being developed that can be used for all stages of the plant's life cycle, not only the vegetative stage.
As a result of their inexpensive cost, fluorescent grow lights are a favorite choice for many growers. For starters and enthusiasts who want to get into hydroponics without spending a lot of money, they are the most affordable type of grow lighting available. If you plan to start small and subsequently develop your company, the scalability of fluorescent grow lights may be a significant issue.
Fluorescent grow lights are very popular because of their versatility. A wide variety of shapes, sizes, and power levels are available, along with a wide variety of wavelengths. To guarantee that all portions of the plants are receiving the light they require, CFLs can be positioned close to the plants, hung in various locations, and utilized as supplemental lighting. The slim shape of fluorescent tube lamps makes them ideal for use in small places. There are now fluorescent grow lights available that may be utilized for all stages of plant growth, from germination to fruiting.
Because they don't require any particular fixtures, sockets, or technical abilities, hydroponics growers find fluorescent grow lights appealing because they're straightforward to use and don't seem as intimidating as other types of grow lighting.
Disadvantages Of Fluorescent Grow Lights
Even while CFL grow lights are good for promoting plant growth, they are not ideal for flowering because of their lack of intensity.
While it comes to T5 fluorescent grow lights, the higher the intensity of the light, the more heat it generates, so growers need to be careful about placing them too close to plants and dealing with the heat buildup in their grow rooms when using these lights.
As a result, fluorescent grow lights have a lower life expectancy than many other types of grow lights now on the market.
Fluorescent lights also contain mercury, a dangerous heavy metal, so they should be avoided. Consequently, they pose an environmental and health hazard since mercury vapor is emitted when they shatter and they damage the environment when they are thrown away.
Comparison Of LED vs Fluorescent Grow Lights
LED and fluorescent grow lights may be compared on a variety of different metrics, so let's have a look.
LED grow lights outperform the best fluorescent grow lights in terms of energy efficiency. Light levels are more essential than electrical watts when comparing lighting efficiency, so keep that in mind. In terms of micromoles of photons per Joule of energy, a 300-watt LED lamp is equivalent to a 600-watt T5 fluorescent grow tube, saving nearly 50% of the light energy required while giving the equivalent level of light.
Color temperature/light wavelength output/PAR
If you're new to hydroponic farming, it can be difficult to understand the terminology used to describe horticulture lighting.
The wavelength output of a lamp's light is a measurement of the spectrum's hues, expressed in nanometers, that the lamp emits. When it comes to light energy, people can only see a small portion of the spectrum that sunshine comprises. When it comes to plants, pigments and photoreceptors have certain wavelengths of light that they respond to.
When it comes to the light spectrum, color temperature can be used to identify cool and warm colors, which are found in the blue and red ranges, respectively.
Light energy that plants use for photosynthesis is called PAR, which stands for photosynthetically active radiation.
A lot of time is spent studying the impact of light energy on plant growth in hydroponic systems. There are now a variety of cool, warm, and full spectrum fluorescent bulbs on the market that can produce a range of light outputs, but LED technology allows for an infinite variety of precise outputs ranging from broad-spectrum white light resembling sunlight to light that can be used to encourage basil plants to develop stronger flavor.
Heat Output Of LED vs Fluorescent Grow Lights
However, gardeners must take into account the heat produced by fluorescent lighting, particularly high-output T5 fluorescent lighting, while deciding between LED and fluorescent illumination.
Lifetime Of LED vs Fluorescent Grow Lights
With a lifespan of about 50000 hours, LED grow lights outperform fluorescent grow lights yet again. In comparison, CFL grow lights have an average lifespan of 8000 hours and T5 fluorescent lights have a lifespan of between 10,000 and 15,000 hours.
Cost Of LED vs Fluorescent Grow Lights
The purchasing price of LED grow lights is still much higher than that of fluorescent grow lights, even if their costs are decreasing. The same amount of light can be produced by fluorescent lights with half the energy consumption, while LED bulbs can last up to eight times as long. As a result, the long-term costs of LEDs for hydroponic gardening are lower than acquiring and running fluorescent grow lights.
Which Grow Lighting Should I Choose?
This LED vs. fluorescent grow light comparison, is there an obvious winner? With that said, LEDs outperform other types of grow lights on most criteria and are becoming more affordable. At the moment, the Viparspectra line of LED grow lights is my favorite. My thoughts on their entry-level model can be found right here.
The sort of plants you'll be growing, the amount of light you'll need for your grow space, the amount of electricity your lighting system will consume, and your budget for up-front and long-term expenditures of running your grow room operation will all play a role in your final selection.
Fluorescent lighting will remain popular among hobbyists and small-scale hydroponics growers until the costs of high-quality LED grow lights come down, but for those with more ambitious goals for their hydroponic operation, it makes sense to make the initial investment in LED grow lights.