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Choosing the Best Hydroponic Lighting

Audree Rodriguez   Hydroponic   March 28th 2020, 01:42:38

Grow Lights For Indoor Gardens Hydroponic Choosing the Best Hydroponic Lighting

Most plants grown in a hydroponic garden setting require light, lots of it. They photosynthesize to produce their own nutrients. They require warmth to keep biochemical reactions going, and going at the right rate. They regulate many processes by the amount of hydroponic lighting present, speeding some up and shutting down others. During photosynthesis, plants take in carbon dioxide and water to produce glucose and oxygen. The glucose is used as an internal energy source and much of the oxygen is expelled. But the color and intensity of the hydroponic lighting they receive play a large role in how they do that.

The fact that leaves are generally green and/or yellow shows that those colors are being reflected. The other components of white light (which is a mixture of many wavelengths) are mostly absorbed. But some are taken in more efficiently than others at different growth stages. Wavelengths in the range of the spectrum we perceive as red are used more during growth phases. Blue is absorbed more to produce flowering or fruiting.

Since few hydroponic gardens are simply left out in the sun to take their chances, a hydroponic lighting scheme is required to assist them in all those activities.

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Plants that sit near an open window or are grown outdoors largely self-regulate the wavelengths they absorb, where the whole spectrum is abundant. But those that live indoors can only take up what is available. That makes it important to ensure that they have all the hydroponic lighting they need, both in terms of intensity and wavelength.

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Indoor lights are typically less intense (provide less overall energy) and therefore plants may need to be supplemented with natural light. Or, it may be necessary to use special lights to provide the total amount of hydroponic lighting energy needed for warmth, photosynthesis and other useful tasks. The mixture will vary from one climate to another.

Indoor hydroponic lighting comes in a variety of types, prices, and wavelengths, some better for plants than others.

Incandescents provide a lot of heat. They’re relatively inefficient at using electricity for that reason. But they produce strongly at the red end and weakly in the blue range.

Many fluorescents, by contrast, tend to produce greenish light. They’re filled with mercury and the interior coatings that produce light in the visible range may be better or worse at producing a white-approximating spectrum. But, they are much cheaper to use in the long run.

A relatively inexpensive hydroponic lighting setup can be achieved with a mixture of incandescents and fluorescents. A 30-watt incandescent with a 100-watt equivalent fluorescent provides a good balance of wavelengths. Fluorescents use much less electricity so the wattages can’t be directly compared.

While they cost more, metal halide and sodium lamps make for very good hydroponic lighting systems. Metal halide lamps produce well in the blue range and sodium lamps provide more reddish light. The bulbs can’t be switched between fixtures so it’s necessary to buy a housing appropriate to each type.

Some newer LED lamps will produce a very broad spectrum and some can be adjusted to favor one wavelength range. However, they’re expensive and many won’t produce the same output as any of the other types.

Plants vary in the intensity they require, as well. Ensure that medium light plants receive at least 1,000 foot-candles. Others will need 2,000 foot-candles (about 20 watts per square foot) or more. A good light meter will tell you how much is being given off, or you can sometimes find the rating listed on packaging or advertisements for different kinds of hydroponic lighting.

Most lamps should be placed about a foot from the plant to provide the proper intensity. The figure will vary considerably, though, depending on whether incandescents, fluorescents or other sources are used.

Plants that receive sunshine will need from 8-10 hours per day. If all artificial light is used, the number rises to between 12-14 hours per day. For some plants and lighting schemes, 16-18 hours per day may be needed. The specific amount of hydroponic lighting required depends heavily on the species of plant.

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