Time and time again we emphasize how important light is for our plants. But, this can be quite a challenge when you are cultivating indoors. Thus, you have to impose several techniques to supply your plant’s much-needed light.
Literal provision of a grow light system is one fundamental step to take. Apart from that, there are also other ways to help boost its efficiency. One of which is through the use of reflective materials in your grow tent or room.
In this article, we will get to know why reflective material is essential for your grow space. Moreover, we will also discuss valuable points to consider when choosing the right reflectors. As a bonus, we will also include some of our best picks in the market for your reference.
Importance of reflective material in your grow room?
In an indoor growing environment, your main source of light is the grow lights. But, to further optimize its effect, you may need to use an add-on accessory to help manage the light better. This is where the reflectors come into play.
Reflectors are materials used to help focus the light on a specific target area. Remember, the more light means better chances of producing bigger buds. So, you want to make sure that your cultivars get all the light it needs to grow healthy.
Reflectors also reduce the incidence of wasting energy. Because even though you want to give more lights, it does not mean adding more bulbs. Sometimes all you need is to direct the reflection of the light in the right area. In this manner, you reap the full benefit by making the most out of what your existing grow lights can provide.
What are the best reflective materials?
Flat white latex paint
Painting the grow space’s walls and ceiling white is one of the most practical solutions. The white paint is good at absorbing heat without bouncing it back to the room. It has a light reflectivity of about 80% to 90%. Even if it may not be as efficient as others, it is one of the cheapest though among the available options. This makes it a viable solution for covering larger grow rooms at a much lesser cost.
The latex type of paint is more favorable to use because it is easier to clean and emits a minimal odor only. This paint also comes in different finishes. A matte or flat white finish has better reflectivity compared to a glossy coating. Thus, make sure to check this on the label before buying the paint.
The preparation of the area is also important for this task. The latex paint is suitable to use on smooth surfaces. So, you have to inspect first the walls or ceilings for lumps or curvatures. If the unevenness is very prominent, painting may not be your best option.
Another step in the preparation is priming. Painting the surface with a primer helps the white latex to adhere better. Moreover, it also saves you time and money as it lessens the need to reapply multiple layers or coats of the paint.
Our top picks for matte white latex paints:
A silver mylar is one of the most common reflective materials used in indoor grow rooms or tents. It has very high efficiency with 90% to 95% light reflectivity. This polyester film has a thickness of either 1 mm or 2 mm. It can also come in the form of flat rolls or as premade sheets.
This material is also available in different characteristics. But, those with a textured surface are more likely to be effective in reflecting light. To add, they are also less prone to scratches and tears especially when attached to the wall. The diamond pattern, in particular, is a popular choice for mylar sheets.
Proper ventilation is one thing that you have to consider when using the mylar sheets. That is because the material radiates heat that can be quite damaging to your cultivars. So, having a good ventilation system helps to counter this effect. It neutralizes the environment by introducing cool air into the room.
Our top picks for diamond mylar sheets:
Foylon is very much alike mylar foil but with key differences. Unlike the previous, it has much higher light reflectivity at 95% to 100%. For that same reason, it tends to produce more radiant heat as well. Thus, having a good ventilation system is also imperative when using such material.
One significant feature of foylon is its durability. This material is a laminate mixture of polyester fabric and aluminum. So, they are much thicker and more resistant to tearing. But this premium quality comes at a price too. As expected, foylon has a higher cost than its mylar counterpart.
Our top pick for foylon:
Another reflective material used for indoor gardening is panda plastic. This has a light reflectivity of 85% to 95%. It is being characterized by a black tint on one side and then white on the other. This appearance is what gives it its interesting name.
This color scheme is being intended to follow a specific purpose. The white side should be facing the inside of the room. As mentioned earlier, white hues absorb heat without deflecting it back to the room. Meanwhile, the black side should be facing outwards. The dark tint helps to block external light from penetrating inside the room.
In general, the cost of polymer plastic is more affordable than other types of reflectors. But also because it is being made of plastic, it is quite expected to be less durable as well. Especially the thin and low-quality ones are more prone to tearing and damage. It is also least likely to withstand heat thus it has a tendency to melt. So, you have to be very careful not to place it too close to grow lights or any heat-emitting devices.
Our top picks for panda plastics:
Orca Grow Film
Orca grow film is a reflective material that is being made with white plastic microfiber. It earned its name because of its unique design. The material mimics the manner of how the skin of an orca, also known as a killer whale, reflects the light. The crystalline-like structure of this film is well-known for its uniform distribution of light despite creases. It has a light reflectivity between 90% to 94%.
Similar to panda film, this material is also white on one side and black on the other. In the same sense, white should be facing the inside of the grow room. Meanwhile, the black side is facing outwards.
This reflective film is thicker thus more durable and defiant against tears. It also has the advantage of being mold-resistant and easier to clean. A feature that is not quite available on other reflective equipment.
One drawback of the orca grow film might be its steep price point. It is much more expensive compared to other reflectors. But with its efficiency and durability, some growers are willing to look past its cost.
Our top pick for orca grow film:
Other viable reflective materials to use
Aside from those 5 materials, here are some alternatives to choose from. They may not be as efficient as those we presented above. Then again, they are good enough to deliver a decent result. Moreover, they are inexpensive and readily available in your local stores.
- White Poster Board.
The white poster board is your quick fix when you don’t have flat white latex paint available on hand. It is very cheap and accessible in almost every school and office supply shop. It has a light reflectivity of up to 60%.
This material though tends to be rather a temporary solution. It can work as long as the surface of the board maintains its pristine white color. But because its main component is paper, it is more difficult to clean. Moreover, it will turn soft and soggy when wet with water or humidity. So, it has a higher chance of forming molds.
Our top picks for white poster boards:
- Aluminum Foil.
Aluminum foil or tin foil is a supply we often use in the kitchen. But its silver metallic surface makes it a good substitute for reflective material. It has a light reflectivity of 55% to 65%. Contrary to what most people think, the dull side of the foil is better at reflecting light than its shiny side.
The big issue with aluminum foil is that it is so easy to crease. In fact, it is an utter challenge not to create wrinkles when handling the foil. These uneven creases make reflecting light less effective.
Our top picks for aluminum foils:
- Emergency Blanket.
The emergency blanket is another alternative for reflecting light in your grow space. It is possible so because it uses Mylar film as its main component. This material though often comes folded. Thus, it is likely to form creases along the folded lines. As a result, the uneven wrinkling reduces its efficiency. In general, emergency blankets have a fair light reflectivity rating of up to 70%.
Another problem with this material is its durability. Its construction is often very thin thus it is likely easy to rip and tear as well. Price-wise it is very cheap though. So, it won’t be too costly on your end to replace it every now and then.
Our top picks for emergency blankets:
Materials to avoid
Of course, there are plenty of other options for reflective materials. But not all are safe to use for your grow space. Here are some of the items best to avoid:
This may sound intuitive because mirrors are well-known for its reflective ability. Then again, they are notorious at creating hot spots too. Thus, it increases the risk of cultivars from getting scorched.
Also called expanded polystyrene foam. It is a very cheap, durable, and lightweight material. The uneven surface of the styrofoam helps to diffuse light without forming hot spots in the room. The biggest downside though of this material is its flammability. It is very flammable that it poses a great hazard when being used in your grow space.
|Type of Material||Light Reflectivity|
|Flat white latex paint||80% to 90%|
|Mylar||90% to 95%|
|Foylon||95% to 100%|
|Panda plastic||85% to 95%|
|Orca grow film||90% to 94%|
|White poster board||Up to 60%|
|Aluminum foil||Up to 65%|
|Emergency blanket||Up to 70%|
|Materials to AVOID||Reason|
So, there you go! Those are some of the common materials you can use to optimize the light in your grow space. Always remember that the higher the light reflectivity the better it is for your plants. Although, you also have to consider the limitations of each material.
Some may be good but price-wise expensive. Others may be cheap but not as efficient. There are also materials that are cheap and effective but it radiates too much heat. So, you have to weigh its pros and cons depending on your personal requirements. In that manner, you can decide which one works for your best advantage.