By now most of you are familiar with the acronym "CFL," or compact fluorescent light; the "curly" bulb that we've been putting in our homes to replace the old, energy-inefficient, incandescent light bulbs that have been around since Edison's day.
However, many of you may not have heard of HOT5s (high output T5 fluorescent lights) or LEDs (light emitting diodes) that are being used to grow plants indoor year round by more horticulturists and hobby gardeners.
Fluorescent HOT5s, with names like "Sun Blaze," BadBoy" and "Pioneer" and LED lighting systems like the "GrowUFO" and "Penetrator" revolutionized indoor gardening in the last couple of years and are developing into lighting systems that will have the ability to grow plants from seedling to maturity at a much lower cost than the widely accepted high intensity discharge lights.
To date fluorescents and LEDs are the most energy efficient grow lights available, so they produce much more light for the amount of power consumed while emitting very little heat.
Fluorescent lamps such as the CFLs are perfect for starts and seedlings. CFLs are available in many energy efficient wattages from 13 watts to 300 watts with a CFL lighting system costing from under $10 up to $175.
They are generally a poor light source for production growth and flowering because of their low lumen or light output, although they are used in some instances for small scale systems with low growing plants, i.e.: lettuce, basils, etc.
To be most effective, CFL lights need to be placed within a couple of inches directly over the plants and raised as the plants grow. They provide a full spectrum of light for your seedlings or cuttings, without fear of burning them when they are at this fragile stage. Remember, as you raise your lighting, your light intensity drastically drops. When you double the distance between your light and your plants, you cut the light intensity by four times.
A two foot by four foot area can support up to 400 seedlings and young plants under a CFL. Even though fluorescents are adequate for the full life-cycle of a plant, most indoor gardeners use them for an initial propagation area, and then move the plants to another area as they begin to mature. Plant growth will not be as rapid as under HID lighting due to the lower light levels. However, the latest high output T5 fluorescent products are great for full-term plant growth, especially with a mixed spectrum of light bulbs.
The latest HOT5 fluorescent products are great for full-term plant growth. They come in 24 and 54 watt sizes and come in 2 foot, 3 foot and 4 foot lengths with the number of bulb configurations being one, two, four, six, eight, twelve and sixteen bulbs. A HOT5 lighting system costs from $30 to $500.
The HOT5s are also capable of being mounted horizontally or vertically to provide supplemental plant lighting. They feature a very low profile and very low heat that allows them to be placed close to the plant tops without heat stressing the plant.
The ability to place the light very close to the plant tops lets light penetrate much further into the plants foliage for more flower and fruit production. Using a mixed spectrum of grow and bloom bulbs significantly increases plant flowering and production.
LED lights work by emitting light in a specified color wavelength, especially reds and blues that are necessary for plant photosynthesis. LEDs are naturally cool light that efficiently converts electricity to light.
General consensus is that LEDs do work, but the overall intensity of light is not intense enough to grow tall plants due to the shallow light penetration. Most LED lights have to work in conjunction with HOT5s or lower power HID lights to be effective.
The latest LED products have expanded to larger, dense matrix panels of highly efficient lights to deliver the depth penetration that plants need.
This advancement provides more intense light, producing tall and healthy plants. The efficiency of the LED claims are that a 90 watt GrowUFO replaces a 400 watt HID light in intensity as well as coverage area.
Similarly, a 300 watt LED covers 50 square feet and emits light intensity equivalent to a 1000 watt HID. The cost of LEDs is a drawback; the 90 watt GrowUFO can set you back up to $350 with other panels costing considerably more.
Don and Sandy Landers are owners Dream Garden Hydroponics, LLC, 26380 State Route 7 Marietta. Columns on hydroponic gardening appear monthly on Monday's life page.