How to Use Grow Lights: Everything You Need to Know
One of the most important elements to create a successful indoor garden is the grow lights. Grow lights are electric lamps used to provide light to simulate the growth of the plants.
There are 4 main types of artificial light sources available to enhance the growth of indoor plants: incandescent, fluorescent, LEDs, and high-intensity or gas discharge.
The most commonly used grow lights are LED and fluorescent bulbs. However, incandescent lights aren’t recommended to use on their own; they’re usually paired with one of the other types as a source of red rays.
These lights will help substitute direct sunlight in the event it’s not available or not enough for your indoor plants. It enables the plants to perform photosynthesis leading to normal growth. In this article, we’ll explore how to use grow lights for your indoor garden.
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How to Use Grow Lights for Indoor Plants
Before using the grow lights, you need to figure out the type of plant you’re going to grow. Vegetables and leafy plants have completely different needs than flowers. Consequently, resources such as available electricity and water play a vital role in deciding the type of plants you can grow.
Once you choose the plant you’re going to grow, you can determine the quality of light your plants need. For example, each type of plant requires a different light spectrum and a different color temperature. This step calls for thorough research to make sure you’ll install grow lights that are best suited to help your plants flourish.
Finally, select the type of bulbs you need, be it fluorescent bulbs or LED bulbs. You may also use a few incandescent bulbs alongside fluorescent bulbs to deliver red rays if required. Be sure to maintain the general ratio of incandescent to fluorescent bulbs at approximately 3 to 10.
How Many Grow Lights Do I Need?
This depends on the type of plants in your garden, as well as the size of the growing area.
If you only have one or two plants, you may use the fluorescent bulbs. However, if you’re working with more plants, you need to consider the LED option as a more efficient and economical solution.
In the case of LED bulbs, some manufacturers provide information about coverage areas for their lights. However, sometimes they deliver misleading information about the performance of their bulbs. Additionally, they don’t necessarily take into account whether the plant requires a lot of light or not.
The best way to determine the number of light bulbs your garden needs starts with knowing how many watts the bulbs produce, then comparing this value with the category that your plants fall in. Indoor plants are divided into 3 categories: low, medium, and high light intensities.
To put matters into a better perspective, low-light plants require between 10 to 15 watts of fluorescent light for every square foot of growing space, while high-light plants demand at least 20 watts per square foot of growing area.
Remember to take into account the efficiency of the light bulb. For example, some bulbs might be advertised as 400 watts and they actually perform as such, while others might produce fewer watts than advertised.
How Much Heat Do LED Grow Lights Produce?
One of the highlights of LED bulbs is that they produce much less heat compared to their counterparts. However, they still emit some amount of heat. The higher the quality of the LED bulbs, the less heat they tend to produce.
High-quality LED bulbs convert up to 80% of the used electricity into lighting which makes them an efficient grow light. The light emitted by the bulb is used by the plants, however, a small fraction of this light is converted into heat and is sent out of the bulb.
How Much Electricity Do Grow Lights Use?
Generally speaking, LED bulbs consume less electricity than other types of light bulbs. To calculate the amount of electricity grow lights use, you need to know the exact watt usage of a certain bulb, how long you run it, and the electricity rate of your country/city.
The most expensive part of maintaining the LED grow bulbs is to actually buy them. After that, you save a lot of money on electricity bills, cooling systems, and bulb replacements.
The more expensive the initial cost of your LED light bulbs system, the less electricity it’ll consume in the long run.
How Long Do LED Grow Lights Last?
Another benefit of LED bulbs is their long life span. It lasts two times more than fluorescent bulbs. Many LED manufacturers usually claim more than 50,000 hours of light which is great. On the other hand, the fluorescent bulbs last for 20,000 hours maximum.
Another advantage is the fact that the brightness of the bulb doesn’t fade away quickly over time. It keeps its brightness for a longer time, making it more efficient as a source of light for the plants.
LED grow lights can also save you more money. Instead of replacing the bulb every now and then due to burning out or reduced brightness, you’ll have a long term investment in a bulb.
How to Hang Grow Lights?
Before you hang the lights, choose the correct distance between your plants and the light depending on the plants’ needs and the bulb’s qualifications. Make sure that the light covers all of your plants by assessing the light’s footprints.
Moreover, ensure that the plants are close to each other and that the growing area is fully lit by the grow light so your entire garden can benefit from the light.
How to Hang Grow Lights in a Tent?
Hanging grow lights is usually done using rope ratchets. They’re very easy to apply and quite affordable. The most evident advantage of hanging lights is that you can adjust the distance between the bulbs and the plants without risking them falling on the plants.
How to Hang Grow Lights from Ceiling?
Once you decide on the type of grow light system you’re going to install, you need to choose the place where you’ll hang it on the ceiling. Then, make holes in the ceiling using a drill.
Depending on the number of the plants you’re growing, determine the number of grow light bulbs needed. You may need a grow light reflector in case you have a large number of plants.
After that, hang the rope ratchets with the bulbs. Follow up by adjusting them according to the location and size of the growing area.
How Long to Keep Grow Lights on Plants?
It depends on the type of plants you’re growing, however, you shouldn’t leave the lights on for the whole day. Plants need their dark cycle as well as their light cycle.
Most plants will need 12 to14 hours of light, while vegetables will need around 16 hours of exposure to grow lights.
How Far Should LED Grow Lights Be From Plants?
Once again, this depends on many factors including the type of plants, the amount of light they require to grow, and the wattage of the LED bulb. As a rule of thumb, the LED bulbs should be about 6 to 12 inches far from the tips of the plants.
How Many Watts Per Square Foot for LED Grow Light?
In general, you should aim for a minimum of 32 watts per 1 square foot. However, there might be variations depending on the type of plants and the amount of light they need.
How Do Grow Lights Work?
Grow lights work as a replacement of direct sunlight to provide indoor plants with the necessary light to thrive. Something nifty about LED grow lights is that they have a spectrum of colors and brightness that makes them perfect for growing different types of plants.
Also, the light spectrum and intensity of LED bulbs can be easily modified in line with the plants’ needs.
Grow lights work by giving the plants the proper amount, intensity and color of light needed at every stage of development to ensure healthy growth. This is a very convenient solution for indoor plants, as well as the cases where not enough sunlight reaches the outdoor plants.
How to Use LED Grow Lights for Vegetables?
To use LED grow lights for vegetables, you need to install the bulbs in a grow tent or hang them from the ceiling as we explained above.
Note that vegetables usually require a lot of light, so you should set up the grow lights about 10 to 12 inches away from the vegetables. Also, leave the lights on for about 16 to 18 hours each day to make sure that the vegetables will grow and bloom perfectly.
Don’t forget to rotate the vegetables under the grow light once or twice per week to ensure that all areas are getting equal light. This is to avoid having the light concentrated in some areas more than the others.
The Bottom Line
Research is usually needed before you start growing your plants to fully understand their needs and prepare the perfect grow light for them to thrive. If you do this research right, you’ll be able to set up an ideal grow light system with a suitable distance between the bulbs and plants to achieve the best results.
Also, make sure to follow the steps we explained above regarding how to set up the light bulbs and how to choose the best intensity of light for your plants.