What a confusing array of hydroponic lights on the market today! This clear and simple guide will help you pick the one that’s best for your garden.
Talk about confusing! Just open any hydroponics catalog and you’ll quickly get lost in all the different hoods, bulbs, ballasts and timers offered.
Hydroponic Lights In a Nutshell
- Good: T5 High Output Fluorescents
- Better: HID (High-Intensity Discharge)
- Best: The sun 🙂
- New alternative: LED panels
Okay, maybe that was a wee bit simplistic… Here’s the good stuff…
First, we’ll explain how the different hydroponic lights work and when to use them. Then, at the end, we offer our pick for a simple, inexpensive all-purpose lighting system!
How simple is that?
T5 Fluorescent lamps
T5s are a vast improvement over the “grow sticks” you’ll find at Walmart. Fluorescent lighting is fine for lettuce, leafy greens, and most herbs. We have had much success with lettuce rafts using nothing but T5s. Read more about these “cool” lamps here.
HID Hydroponic Lights
Although the HID lamps put out a lot of heat, they are the best lamps available today for the indoor hydroponics farmer. You can grow any leafy, flowering, or fruiting crops under HIDs.
They can be expensive, but we offer an excellent reasonably-priced all-purpose system below.
More about HID lighting and tips on wattage and electric consumption here.
Optional Upgrade: Make the most of your lighting bucks with an HID Light Mover.
Sunlight is best
An outdoor vegetable garden needs at least 4-6 hours of direct sun; plus 8-10 more hours of bright light.
So, for your inside hydroponics garden, you will need to duplicate this. Plan on 14-16 hours of bright artificial light, followed by 8-10 hours of darkness.
Plants need dark downtime, just like you, in order to metabolize and rest. Put your hydroponic lights on a timer for the proper routine. Then set it and forget it!
LED grow-light panels
For years we have recommended you not buy LED lights for your grow room. Why? The technology just wasn’t there yet and we believed they were a waste of your hard-earned dollars (lots of ’em).
Guess what? LEDs have finally grown up! The latest technological advances have made LED grow lights a viable alternative for the hydroponics gardener. Read our synopsis on these lights with a caution before you buy.
After much surfing and shopping comparison, we hooked up with a company that manufactures a complete 400-watt conversion light kit that we offer at a super price! See the photo below.
This highly recommended kit, for a typical 4′ X 4′ garden, includes:
- 400 watt HPS conversion lamp/with hood
- remote ballast
- 400 watt HPS bulb
- 400 watt MH conversion bulb (slimline)
- heavy-duty grounded timer
All this for under $200! You can’t beat that for a combo light. Order your lamp kit here: HID Combo MH & HPS Light Kit
We have tested and often use these kits and they work just great!
Disadvantage: The hood is a little flimsy and tedious to put together. If you’ve got the bucks, then upgrade to a more expensive hood.
But for the price, we’re very happy with this light kit. The ballast and cords are heavy duty.
So there you have it… Hydroponics lighting simplified! Unless you are growing in a bright greenhouse or on a sunny patio, you will have to buy supplemental lighting… Or you just won’t get the spectacular growth and crop yields hydroponics is famous for.