It’s no secret that light is essential to cannabis growth (or the growth of any plant, for that matter). The real question is, how do you ensure optimal lighting conditions when growing cannabis indoors? To produce high-quality product without straining your budget, you need a grow light system that fits your unique cultivation needs.
Here are the key factors to consider when deciding which system is best for your plants and your grow space.
Light Types: LED vs HID
LED or HID? Seasoned cultivators are always debating which lighting system is the best, but at the end of the day, different systems will work better for different growers. When selecting your own, make sure to keep these facts in mind.
Well-established in the industry, high-intensity discharge (HID) lights are the “traditional” choice when it comes to selecting a lighting system. They’re said to deliver better canopy penetration due to their high light intensity, but with that comes a higher risk of burning your plants (and a high electricity bill).
HID lights can also be more difficult to install due to the system’s complexity and height limitations. However, because HIDs have been used for cannabis cultivation for so long, you’ll easily find available expertise.
LED GROW LIGHTS
LED grow lights are quickly becoming the most popular choice among commercial growers, and for good reason. While upfront costs are higher, LED systems are highly efficient, helping cultivators cut down on costs in the long run.
Beyond the cost benefits, LED lighting systems are growing as the top choice for cannabis cultivation thanks to their ability to adjust and meet the lighting needs of cannabis plants in just about any stage of growth (more on that later).
Key Differentiators to Know
One of the biggest costs indoor cannabis growers face is their energy bills. To limit spending while ensuring your plants receive sufficient amounts of light, you’ll need to consider the efficacy of your grow lights. However, you’ll need to do more than just look at the wattage, which only tells you the amount of power used. You should also be taking into account the systems efficacy rating and look for systems with a rating of 2.7 or higher.
The energy consumption of the light itself isn’t the only thing to keep in mind. Depending on how much heat your lights give off, you’ll need a stronger cooling system. HID lights, for example, produce much more heat than LEDs. This often means you need a more robust ventilation system, further increasing your electricity bill.
The amount of light you need throughout the cannabis lifecycle varies. The vegetative stage, for example, thrives with more blue light while the flowering stage needs more red light. If you plan to grow cannabis indoors during each stage of growth, broad-spectrum lights that accommodate these different needs are the way to go.
Perfectly mimicking the sun is impossible, but grow lights with a wider, more balanced spectral composition are the most effective at giving plants the light they need when they need it and giving you more control over your production. While both HID and LED lights are broad-spectrum, HID lights may give your plants light they don’t necessarily need, while LED lights can be wirelessly customized to produce different wavelengths.
In the context of light, LEDs are also much more energy-efficient. Compared to HID lights, LEDs are able to convert energy into more Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR). In other words, LEDs waste less electricity by converting it to usable light. HIDs, on the other hand, convert more energy to heat.
Poor light uniformity can lead to uneven growth, inconsistent water usage, and even burnt plants. To avoid this, you’ll want to consider a system’s Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density (PPFD), a measurement in micromoles of how much light is actually landing on a specific area of the canopy.
These measurements play a significant role in planning your lighting installation, as different heights and arrangements will impact how much light your canopy receives. When comparing lighting systems, you’ll need to take into account what the PPFD levels would be across your entire canopy. Many fixtures may produce high PPFD at their center, but ideally, you want a well-designed system capable of delivering high, uniform PPFD across greater areas.
Other Factors to Consider
Different light models are built for different types of facility layouts and racking systems. HID lights, for example, are typically too bulky and emit too much heat to fit a vertical racking system, unlike LED lights, which are low-profile and produce less heat. Similarly, LED lights may not be the best choice for single-level cultivation systems, unless they’re hung low enough to properly penetrate the canopy.
Of course, you don’t want to make the decision to invest in a lighting system based on company reputation alone. However, the explosion of the cannabis industry brought hoards of lighting companies with it, and not all of them are selling the high-quality systems you need. Make sure you’re working with a trusted lighting company that will work with you to find the best grow lights for your cultivation.
Improve Your Cultivation With Grow Glide
We care about providing cultivators with the very best solutions that let them grow their business while honing their craft, so we partnered with lighting companies that do the same. Connect with us today to learn more about our trusted lighting partners or our own industry-leading cultivation solutions.