Lighting can be as complicated as you want to make it. If you need to know all of the complex details to make your lighting decisions, search for the 420 forum on Google and seek out posts on lighting.
They go into great detail about lumens and colors, etc. For what I do, though, the information I provide in this chapter is really all you need.
T5 is a fluorescent fixture and light. When I first started with T5s, I used cheap and even a few free fixtures because they were easy to find.
The tubes are easy to find and, because they last so long, they’re relatively inexpensive.
Energy use is reasonable and the lights run cool.
Of course, the plants – from the leaves to the buds –were smaller, but all in all, T5 lights are okay for a newcomer’s initial growing experience or if you have no choice in the matter.
Ideally, however, I would recommend using CFL instead of T5 once you’ve got your set-up together and want to finalize your grow room.
● Use T5 first; make sure you enjoy growing before investing in more expensive lighting
● Plants will be smaller
● Buds will be smaller
● Vegetative and flowering cycles could be slightly longer
CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) work great in clamp light holders and are another inexpensive way to start growing without making the investment in HID or LED lighting.
Similar to T5s, their energy use is reasonable and the lights run cool.
Use 6400k lumens CFL bulbs for the vegetative cycle and a 2700k lumens bulb for the flowering cycle. Place the lights as close as possible to the plants without burning the leaves.
CFLs are easy to set up and handle, and in my opinion, for just a couple of plants, they’re perfect for a first grow or a grower on a strict budget. The same bullet points for T5 apply for CFL, too.
Simply, you can get something to smoke with T5 or CFL and then decide if you want to move up to the more expensive HID or LED lighting for your next grow.
HID or high intensity discharge bulbs were once the light source of choice for most growers, but that’s started to change since LEDs are becoming less expensive.
That said HID lights need a ballast, are hot, and use quite a bit of electricity. Always wear cloth gloves when handling HID bulbs so that you don’t leave fingerprints.
Fingerprints will stain your bulbs and reduce their life; always handle them with care.
MH or Metal Halide bulbs are used for the vegetative cycle of growing and come in various watts.
HPS or High Pressure Sodium bulbs are used for the flowering cycle of growing and also come in various watts
Super HPS bulbs have a wider spectrum that includes bluish light, which promotes more vegetative cycle growth and can be used for both the vegetative and the flower cycle, but they do cost a little more.
If you’re using HID lighting, I suggest using electronic switchable ballasts that will run both MH and HPS bulbs. It will also allow you to run the bulbs at 50, 75, or 100% of power if necessary.
This is important because, for new or young/small plants, you don’t want to blast them with 100% of 600 watts. I use 50% power for a couple of days and 75% power for another few days before going 100%.
Important Tips about HID Grow Lights
- Never touch the bulbs when they’re hot, and never touch the bulbs with your bare fingers. Use a soft cloth or even better wear a pair of cotton work gloves when handling the bulbs.
- Never water or spray/mist your plants when the bulbs are on or hot. Wipe your bulbs with the soft cloth after spraying your plants.
- Some ballast has a built-in fan that aids in cooling. They do make some noise, but nothing unusual or annoying, and I recommend using ballasts with fans to help with heat.
- Make sure the ballast is in a location with a little space around it for ventilation and is not touching anything except a flame retardant surface like a wire rack or a flat stone.
- I have used both; they work well for cooling.
- Also, make sure to use the appropriate bulb wattage for your room size.
- If the bulb must be kept too far away from the plant because of temperature, the benefit of high wattage is negated by distance and you’re better served with a bulb lower in wattage and proximity to plant.
- Change your bulbs every grow to get the most bang for your buck lumen wise. Bulbs will weaken over the course of time and the amount of light they spread will lesson.
LED - Light-Emitting Diode
LED lights have been around for a while now and, as with anything, there are various opinions on which light spectrum they produce that you should use.
But, the verdict is in: LEDs work great, the plants love them (stretching less during the veg cycle, growing a little bushier), and the lights run cooler and use half of the electricity that HID lighting uses.
I’ve added LED lights and use them alongside my HID lights, and am having fantastic results. Let me say that again: I use LED, MH, and HPS lighting all at the same time now.
Doesn’t matter if they are in veg or flower cycle, either; I now mix the lights and strongly suggest that everyone try it.
In my opinion, using only LED lights during the flowering cycle produces smaller buds. I don’t really weigh or measure anything, but my eyeballs are pretty accurate.
Note: Never keep a scale or plastic bags around if you grow because, if you’re busted, they’ll throw in a dealing charge, too, regardless of what your intentions for the scale or bags are.
HID lighting produces larger buds than LED lighting. But, when you mix them together during the flowering cycle, you’ll get a tighter, heavier bud than you’d get with just plain HID.
Roughly speaking; to run about 1500 watts of HID lighting costs approximately $175.00 per month. Comparatively, running 3300 watts of LED lighting is costing about $80.00 per month.
Of course, these amounts depend on your local energy costs, but the comparison gives you some idea of what difference you’re looking at.
I now run 1000 watts of HID and 3300 watts of LED for the vegetative as well as the flowering cycle.
Some LED manufacturers, namely in the U.S., claim the LEDs from China are using the wrong spectrum and that the lights are of lower quality.
The U.S. manufacturers charge a lot more money for an 800 watt LED versus $159.00 for a King LED that you can find on Amazon.
I’m fairly certain the U.S. lights are in fact better, but their price point is nuts.
Since I’ve been using LEDs from China for over two years with good results, I will continue to use them until the U.S. manufacturers lower their prices.
For a large commercial grow, though, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy high wattage American-made LED lights.
One important note: Make sure you keep sunglasses in your grow room, as you will definitely feel the LEDs in your eyes if you don’t wear protection; they can be dangerous to your eyes.
LIGHTS TO USE FOR THE VEGETATIVE AND FLOWERING CYCLES
Metal Halide, also known as MH, are the best lights to use during the vegetative cycle of your grow (the first 30-60 days).
Without getting technical, they provide the light that falls into the blueish spectrum which promotes the type of beginning growth you want for the awesome buds you’ll have coming later.
If you buy dual ballast (handles both MH and HPS), it’s easy to use a MH bulb for the veg cycle and then switch over to a HPS (High Pressure Sodium) bulb when moving to the flowering stage. You can also get dual wattage ballasts so you can switch between 400 and 600 or 600 and 1000 watt bulbs.
High Pressure Sodium, also known as HPS, are the best lights to use during the flowering stage of your grow.
They provide the light that falls into the reddish spectrum. It’s important to read and follow the suggestions on handling these bulbs, though, as they get very hot and can be fragile and dangerous.
There is a lot of mumbo jumbo about lighting, I admit, but it boils down to what I included in the sections here.
If you want really technical stuff, go to the 420 Forum and look up lighting: www.420magazine.com/forums/
If You Are Using LED Lights
If you’re using LED lights, some have vegetative and flowering switches which will change the spectrums. If your LED light doesn’t have such a switch, use it for both the vegetative and flowering cycle as it is.
LEDs are powerful. Wear proper eye protection every time you enter the room. I wear sunglasses, but you should check out what’s best for your eyes with your own health/body in mind.
Your room will be a little cooler if you’re using LEDs, but they still generate heat – so, continue using fans.
Growing indoors during the wintertime works best because of the heat generated by the lights; in the summer, a small room really gets so hot that you’ll have to use a small window air conditioner.
Running the lights all night makes a lot of sense, too. It’s cooler and you’re probably home. It’s not recommended to be away very long when running HID lights, so that’s something to consider when determining your grow schedule.
That’s a lot of juice and heat in your grow room unattended.
Use a digital timer to run the lights; they are precise and trustworthy. You can also use an electric/mechanical-type timer.
Also, use the daylight savings time change program on your timer so the light remains the same when daylight savings kicks in.
If you use a mechanical type of timer that plugs into electricity, you have to push down the little tabs for the complete time period you want on and leave the tabs up for the time period you want off.
It can be difficult to get the exact time set and so I suggest using digital timers if possible.
I now use 1000 watts of combined MH and HPS, along with 3300 watts of LED light for both growing cycles, and are having the best results ever.
The absolute best way to grow is outside with the natural sun, of course; nothing beats the sun, and Mother Nature never sends us a bill.
GAS LIGHT ROUTINE
I don’t care where the name came from, but I do know that the GLR will save money on energy bills and encourage your plants to start flowering a little bit faster.
This light routine is a little different, and has three objectives:
Giving the plant the light it needs for vigorous root and foliage development
Saving energy to result in a lower energy bill
Encouraging the plants to flower faster when it’s time
The GLR is used only for the vegetative cycle. Its purpose is for running the lights fewer hours during the veg cycle by interrupting lights-off time with one hour of lights on.
The normal vegetative light schedule is either running your lights for 24 hours on or:
● 18 hours of light on
● 6 hours of light off
The GLR light schedule is as follows:
● 12 hours of light on
● 5.5 hours of light off
● 1 hour of light on – this interrupts lights off, keeping the plant in the veg cycle
● 5.5 hours of light off
Your lights will be running 13 hours each day under this cycle, resulting in significant savings, and when it comes time to start the flowering cycle, your buds will start forming sooner.
NOTE: Some strains will flower if you’re using GLR, so watch for that. If you do see the flowering cycle commence, just revert back to your regular vegetative hours; you won’t be able to use the GLR for those plants.
MIXING MH, HPS, AND LED LIGHTS
Your heard it here first; I get hardier plants with larger buds by running MH, HPS, and LED lights at the same time during the vegetative and flowering cycles.
Not sure if the commercial guys have figured it out yet, but they should make the switch immediately.
Here’s how it happened. I was only growing a few plants, had a ton of lights lying around with all the hooks mounted in the ceiling already, and so I thought:
What the hell? I’ll run MH and HPS along with the LEDs, and I’ll run them for the vegetative and flowering cycles and see what happens!
It wasn’t really surprising to me that it worked so well because Mother Nature provides a wide variety of light spectrums that change from hour to hour, day to day, month to month, for the complete growing season.
Indoor plants won’t reach the size of a Mother Nature-grown bud, but it’s still pretty impressive how well this worked out.
I set up the LEDs like I usually do, and then around the edges, I set up the HID lamps.
I drop them to about the same height as the LEDs, but instead of using both mounting holes to hang them; I only use the front hole on both sides.
Because it’s off-centered, the light will hang at a slant, throwing its lumens onto the sides of the plants under your LEDs.
You do have to rotate your plants, but for a small grow, it’s no big deal. It’s less work and much easier growing fewer plants, at least in my case/opinion.
Remember, I’m not trying to start a business; I only want to save money by growing my own at home.
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