A Beginner’s Guide with Kyle Kushman: EP 3 – Choosing the best marijuana grow lights

ABG. EP 3: Choosing your lights
Author avatar By Kyle Kushman
June 13, 2020

We have a symbiotic relationship with plants. Our leafy friends use the sun’s energy to convert CO2 and water into food. This amazing process is called photosynthesis and its byproduct is oxygen – the all-important gas that sustains almost all life forms, including ours.

Not everyone has the room to grow outdoors. Fortunately, we can mimic the sun for indoor cultivation using grow lights. It’s essential that you get your cannabis grow light setup right, for the sake of your plant’s growth and yields.

For growing marijuana light is extremely important, as can be seen below, we have quite a lot of options when choosing the right indoor marijuana grow lights.

What are the best marijuana grow lights?

Fluorescent light for marijuana

A fluorescent light marijuana grow

Fluorescent lamps are great for the early stages of plant life and have been popular since the dawn of indoor growing. But why do people love fluorescent lamps so much?

Fluorescents: the pros

  • They’re cheap
  • They come in all shapes and sizes
  • They can be bought everywhere
  • They’re efficient in terms of operating cost
  • They produce minimal heat
  • They take up little space
A fluorescent marijuana light

That said, all fluorescents, even T5s, are rarely used for continuous veg or flowering, unless you’re happy with smaller yields.

Fluorescents: the cons

  • Not very powerful
  • Smaller yields
  • Only good for the early stages of growth
  • Can be cumbersome

HID lights for marijuana

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lights, like metal halides and high-pressure sodium, are used for later stages of growth. Blue-heavy halides are for vegging and red-heavy sodiums are for flowering. The switch is said to mimic the color change of the seasons which makes them particularly useful as indoor grow lights for cannabis.

In the old days, a growing unit needed separate ballasts for metal halide and sodium lamps. You also needed the ballasts wired for the proper voltage. Nowadays, the ballasts accommodate lamps from 400 to 1000 watts, halide or sodium. Plus, they automatically configure their electronics to 110 or 220 volts. All HIDs come integrated with ballasts and hood already in the box. Be sure to check for the bulb, some include them, some don’t.

HIDs: the pros

  • They are very powerful and pretty efficient
  • HIDs deliver big yields
  • Virtually all modern HID lights are interchangeable and convertible.
A HID cannabis grow light

HIDs: the cons

  • Intense heat signature. Back in the day, they used to fly helicopters equipped with heat imaging cameras to find and bust growers. Sure enough, many were caught because of the immense heat produced by HIDs.
  • Higher power consumption and bills. Because of the intense heat, cooling your grow room is a must. This, of course, means higher energy consumption and higher electricity bills.

LED lights for marijuana

Light-emitting diode (LED). Improvements in LED technology have been exponential. Since I’ve just pulled off my best LED crop yet, I’ll venture to guess that in a few more years LED lights for cannabis growing will be the norm.

The newest generation of marijuana lights are based on the principle that all plants, no matter where they are on the planet, perform the same exact biological functions. They do this best when the sun is strong and directly overhead. Ipso facto, the best light for rapid photosynthesis is the light spectrum you see when you walk outside into bright summer sun. It is predominantly blue and white with just a touch of red, which happens to suit the human eye perfectly.

LED lights for marijuana

LEDs have a light spectrum that works well for both vegging and flowering. This is a game-changer! There’s no need to move plants from one grow space to another or change light bulbs. It seems LEDs really are the future of cannabis grow lights.

LEDs: the pros

  • Less heat: LEDs are extremely efficient. The best LED grow lights for marijuana maintain a much cooler temperature than other types of light.
  • Less electricity: they are cheap to run and you’ll save money on air-con.
  • Lightweight and easy to install: no heavy ballasts!
  • Lifespan: a good LED bulb can run continuously for over ten years.
  • Extremely directional: less need of reflective wall coverings.
  • Veg and flower: many units have a veg and flower mode, no more bulb swaps!
LED grow lights for cannabis

LEDs: the cons

  • Expensive: LEDs good enough for a big harvest are VERY expensive.
  • Substandard products: there are a lot of bad LEDs out there, do your research.
  • Funny colors: the light from LEDs can make it tricky to spot potential problems or plant diseases.

Let there be lights!

Lights are an essential factor in determining the success of your indoor grow, but having the best marijuana grow lights isn’t enough. You need to know how to use them and when to switch cycles. Once you understand the capability of each of these light sources, you’ll know exactly which light will suit your grow.

In the next video, I’ll give you tips on setting up and optimizing your grow room. See you soon!