Grow Light Basics for Beginners

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Last Updated on December 7, 2022 by Gary Stephen

Are you interested in hydroponic gardening, but you still need to learn more about grow lights before you click ‘Add to Cart’? Whether a home or commercial grower, you must understand the basics of grow lights before buying.

Below is a guide on grow lights and how they function—plus, advice on picking the right one for your grow system setup.

Grow Lights (And Why You Need Them)

For anyone looking to start seriously, grow lights for indoor gardening are an essential piece of equipment. Available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, grow lights provide the artificial light that indoor-grown plants need to produce food/energy to grow (via photosynthesis).

In addition to providing necessary light, grow lights offer a few more perks, including the following:

  • Growing year-round 
  • Control over growing environment
  • Extended growing season for seasonal plants 


As a vital part of indoor and hydroponic gardens, grow lights have become more advanced, allowing gardeners to easily modify the light intensity and duration to fit the needs of their plants.

Popular Types of Grow Lights 

There are several different types of grow lights available on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The following list has some of the most popular grow lights used by growers: 

  • Fluorescent grow lights are the most common type of grow light. They are inexpensive and emit very little heat, making them ideal for use in small spaces. However, they are not as bright as some other types of grow lights and may not be suitable for all plants.  
  • LED grow lighting is a newer, more easily customizable option. Many LED lighting options can be tuned to different wavelengths on the light spectrum, while other bulb-type lights would need you to switch bulbs for different growth periods. LEDs are more expensive than fluorescent lights, but they are much brighter and emit very little heat.  
  • High-intensity discharge (HID) lights are the brightest type of grow light, with types including high pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide (MH). HID grow lights generate a lot of heat. As a result, they must be used with caution and only in well-ventilated areas. 

Now that you know more about the different things you should be looking for, its time to shop! There are many different types of grow lights available on the market, so do some research to find the one that best suits your needs.  

3 Factors to Help Choose the Best Grow Light

Choosing the right grow light to suit your plants’ needs can be a complex task – but it doesn’t have to be daunting! By following some simple tips, you’ll find yourself well on your way towards selecting an optimal lighting solution. 

1. Consider Overhead Space 

Different lights have different height requirements due to the amount of heat they produce; some may require much more clearance than others. It is best to determine ahead of time what types of plants you will be cultivating and how close you can get your lights to them. This ensures that plant growth is not stunted by too much heat from your lighting solution. 

Furthermore, consider what kind of overhead space is available in your setup. If you don’t have enough vertical clearance, you’ll know that a higher-powered grow light with increased heat output may not be suitable. 

With all this information in mind, you can make an informed decision on which grow lights are most appropriate for your indoor growing needs.

2. Research Light Spectrum Specifics

Research your plant’s optimal light spectrum during each growing stage. To make sure your plants grow at their healthiest, it’s important to identify the color of light that best suits the type of plant you are growing. Different colors of light can have different effects on plant growth, so selecting a light that will promote optimal, healthy growth is key. 

Consider researching the spectrum and intensity that works best for your specific plant variety, as well as what kind of reflectors and lenses are needed to maximize light transmission and ensure the right wavelengths reach your plants. 

Additionally, it is beneficial to purchase lighting fixtures with adjustable color temperatures. This feature lets you change the colors of your lights throughout a plant’s lifespan in order to optimize photosynthesis. 

3. Calculate Light Coverage Needs

How much light do your grow lights need to provide? For example, most flowering plants require 20-30 watts of light per square foot in order to thrive. More than that can actually damage the plants, causing bleaching and burning as a result of too much sun exposure. Determine canopy dimensions for your grow area and check each manufacturer’s grow light coverage area chart, also located in the details/additional info section on grow light ecommerce product pages. This will help you to know how many grow lights you will need to purchase for adequate light coverage. 

4. Understand Ongoing Costs to Operate

When deciding on which grow light to buy, make sure to take into account the ongoing cost of running it. Consider whether the power usage is efficient and how often does the bulb need replacing. Some lights may require more frequent and/or expensive bulb replacements compared to others, so choose a light that won’t put an undue burden on your finances. Research the different types of bulbs available and their associated costs, as well as the potential energy savings from using more efficient lighting systems.

Next, we’ll share some tips for getting your lights up and running. 

Setting Up and Operating Your Grow Lights 

Grow lights are a great way to provide vital light for your plants, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are some tips to get the best results: 

  • Set up your grow lights properly. They should be positioned close to the plants and at the correct angle to ensure they get enough light.  
  • Monitor your plants closely. Check them regularly for signs of stress or excessive growth and adjust as needed. Ensure lights are adjusted according to plants phase of growth. 

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your plants get the light they need to thrive. 

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