Along with temperature and humidity, grow room lighting is an essential component. And thanks to advances in lighting, it’s now a more controllable factor than ever for growing healthy plants with maximum yield. The production of artificial light is very energy intensive and thus, costly for growers. Advancements in the ability to precisely apply light only when necessary represents dramatic potential cost savings.
Cannabis and Lighting: A Look Back
The industry has had a long and varied history with lighting over the years, affecting both legal and black market cannabis operations. In fact, did you know law enforcement has been known to work alongside energy providers to monitor energy consumption that correlates with black market plant growth? Here are some lighting options that are still in use today by growers large and small.
Fluorescent, Including T5s and Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs)
Fluorescent lighting has been around for nearly 100 years. Thanks to widespread availability, they can be found just about anywhere—shopping malls, office buildings, schools, hospitals, and even our homes. For many years, fluorescents were the only option available to growers.
T5 lights are tube-shaped and 5/8-inch in diameter. The “T” is for tube shape, and the “5” is taken from the 5/8-inch unit of measurement. They are used linearly in many different growing environments and conditions, providing consistent levels of light to all the plants within their reach. T8 or T12 lights were originally often used, as that was all that was easily available at hardware stores or lighting suppliers for retail buildings. The higher the number, the fatter the tube. T5 became more popular for being compact and smaller.
CFLs are an enhancement to linear fluorescent technology. They are designed to screw into a regular incandescent socket or plug into a recessed can. They are widely available, easy to use, and low in cost.
High Pressure Sodium (HPS)
HPS lights were developed in the 1960s. They are high intensity and primarily used in streetlamps and warehouses, emitting an orange-white light. They are capable of producing an intense amount of light, which can increase flowering.
Both fluorescent and HPS lights require a ballast to regulate electrical energy throughout the fixture. Ballasts can run hot and generate heat quickly. In addition, HPS bulbs are ballast sensitive, so the bulb or fixture wattage can’t be changed without changing the ballast as well. The amount of output decreases over time so it’s important to replace them every 6–12 months.
Metal Halide (MH)
MH lights were also developed in the 1960s. In contrast to HPS lights, MH lights produce a blue-hued light. Their light spectrum mirrors natural sunlight during the spring and early summer months, encouraging bushy, vegetative plants.
Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH)
CMH lights were brought to market in 1994 as a more efficient variation of MH lights. They feature a ceramic tube instead of the fused quartz tube in earlier MH lamps. The bluish light generated by a CMH lamp, with a color rendering index (CRI) of up to 96, is close to daylight.
Double-Ended High Pressure Sodium (DE HPS)
DE HPS lights were introduced in 2013 and are considered the next generation evolution of HPS lights. They connect to a fixture on both ends (similar to a fluorescent tube), and do not have the metal frame of an HPS light, enabling them to deliver more light, more evenly, for a more uniform canopy.
Note: All lighting types listed are available in options as high as 1000 watts, with the exception of CMH, which are available in 315 or 630 watts.
Choosing the Right Grow Room Lights for Your Space
There are now numerous options in grow room lighting, each with their own advantages and drawbacks. There are a variety of factors to consider, which include balancing energy efficiency versus initial purchase price, being aware of regional-specific rebates for energy-saving technology, and monitoring the impact of lighting on your grow room’s humidity,
Check out what Anden experts Kirk Collins, Major Accounts Sales Manager, and Victoria Aceves, East Coast Regional Sales Manager have to say about the relationship between lighting and humidity.
Evolution in the Industry—and in Lighting
It’s no secret that the cannabis industry has experienced rapid change. Plant growth knowledge has improved. Legislation has broadened around who can grow, how much can be grown, and where it can be grown.
“As pro-cannabis regulations have expanded across the country,” says East Coast Regional Sales Manager Victoria Aceves, “we have seen the evolution of grow rooms that were primarily restricted by visibility and plant limits to massive operations that not only produce exponentially more but require more powerful and efficient lighting to get to the plants within those massive rooms. This, in turn, means much higher capacity environmental control systems.”
Grow rooms have changed from small basement rooms with low ceilings, hot lights, and the need for fans and A/C into modern operations of every size and scale, including commercial. Lastly, lighting technology has evolved too, with more energy-efficient and affordable options, including LED.
The Growth of LED
LEDs were originally considered cost prohibitive and that their performance was poor. Their usage has risen over the last decade with advances in production and distribution. With the cost of LEDs coming down, energy efficiency improving, and energy rebates more readily available, LEDs have become a more attractive choice.
“The commercial demands of lighting have triggered a market focus which has brought a diverse and less expensive way to deliver efficient photons to your plant using the broadest spectrum imaginable”, explains Victoria. “Both hobby and commercial growers have access to be able to provide better lighting for their plants.”
The team here at Anden is seeing more and more growers choosing LED over other traditional options, in large part due to innovations in LED technology, including:
- Unlimited spectral opportunities, in numerous colors and frequencies.
- Greater cost efficiencies. LEDs cost more up front but are cheaper to run and maintain in the long run, due to efficiency and lack of heat. This reduces energy costs and increases production per square foot, which is especially important in commercial facilities.
- Improved performance with expanded chip capacity and lifespan.
- Greater longevity. LED fixtures can last over 10 years, removing the need for regular changeouts.
- More readily available and affordable, as more companies produce them. As the price of fixtures continues to fall, the addition of energy rebates can bring the upfront cost of an LED very close to that of an HPS.
- Adaptable for all size grow rooms.
- Better space utilization. The lack of heat omitted from LEDs allows growers to maximize space with lower ceiling heights and also allows for vertical growing.
- Emit less heat than HID lights, meaning their proximities to the plants are more consistent and manageable.
- More efficient when dimmed, compared to other lighting types. LEDs are designed to produce the same quality of light at different intensities.
Kirk adds that since LEDs do not give off as much heat, it is important to adjust your environment and inputs to achieve desired growing conditions. Consulting a Vapor Pressure Deficit (VPD) chart can be very useful when dialing in your space. VPD charts can help you determine your VPD “sweet spot” depending on your specific data points, lighting type, and growing stages.
Know More. Grow More.
Growers have more choices today than ever before. No matter how you keep your grow room lit, Anden will help you optimize your space with the right equipment to maintain the level of humidity your plants need. Have a question? Want an expert opinion? Give us a call at 1-800-972-3710 or drop us a line.