How To Choose The Right Grow Lights For A Small Greenhouse

best grow lights for small greenhouses

A key benefit of gardening in a greenhouse is that you can take advantage of the sun’s powerful rays. However, there are some times when even the sun can’t help your plants reach their full potential. The only way cultivators could overcome the “winter blues” is to add artificial grow lights to their greenhouse set-up. 

While grow lights aren’t “necessary” for greenhouse cultivation, they can help you produce more plants year-round. Even if you live in a town that gets dark during the winter, you can still grow spectacular crops with the right grow lights. 

Grow lights could reward greenhouse gardeners with excellent yields, but you have to choose a suitable product. There are many features to consider as you shop for grow lights, but cultivators should first review the pros and cons of the most popular models.

Best Grow Lights For Small Greenhouses? — The Three Top Options

Despite their warm and inviting glow, incandescent bulbs aren’t well-suited for gardening applications. Since these lights give off a ton of heat, they can burn many delicate plants if you’re not careful. Plus, incandescent lights tend to have a relatively short lifespan. 

So, if incandescent bulbs are out, what lights can you use in a greenhouse?

Generally, indoor gardeners focus on the following three light models:

  • Fluorescent bulbs
  • High-intensity discharge (HID)
  • LED panels

Each of these lights could work in your greenhouse, but each one suits different cultivators. The best way to figure out which light will work for you is to compare each model’s features with your budget, space, and plant requirements. 

Are Fluorescent Bulbs Enough For A Greenhouse? 

Fluorescents aren’t as intense as HIDs or LEDs, but high-quality T5 bulbs should get your plants photosynthesizing. As a bonus, it costs way less to use and replace fluorescent bulbs. As long as you handle these bulbs with care, they could last roughly 20,000 hours before you have to change them out. 

Arguably, the top drawback associated with fluorescents is they’re not bright enough for exceptional plant growth. Indeed, since fluorescents are relatively weak, they need to be close to your plants throughout their maturation cycle.

On the plus side, it’s unlikely your plants will experience burning side effects with fluorescents. Even delicate seedlings won’t get damaged with a T5 bulb just a few inches above them. 

If you are going to use fluorescent lights, you can’t just set it and forget it. Instead, you’ll need to constantly adjust the height of these lights to ensure they’re covering your herbs. Also, you probably won’t get the same ROI with fluorescents as with higher-ticket LEDs or HIDs.

Still, if you’re a greenhouse gardener who’s on a budget, fluorescent lights are probably the best model to consider.  

What Makes HIDs A Good Grow Light Option? 

HIDs have long held the dominant spot in the indoor grow light category. While LEDs are threatening this title, many greenhouse cultivators feel comfortable taking advantage of HIDs’ many impressive features. 

Unlike fluorescents, HIDs are far brighter and can be placed far away from your plants. Indeed, these lights are so powerful they come with a separate ballast to support their wattage. This higher lumen output translates to a greater yield—provided you keep these lights far enough from your plants!  

It’s important to note that HIDs also come in two forms: metal halide (MH) and high-pressure sodium (HPS). The critical difference between these bulbs is the color they give off. MH lights are associated with “cool” blue colors, which are best suited for vegetation. HPS, however, is a “red” light, which means it can encourage flowering growth.

While adjusting from MH to HPS helps mimic natural sunlight, it can be annoying and dangerous for novice growers. Another disadvantage of using HIDs is they give off a lot of heat. This may not be a massive issue if you’re in a super cold climate, but you will have to adjust your ventilation and heating strategy if you’re using HIDs.

While HIDs have their flaws, they remain a common choice in the indoor gardening community. Thanks to their intense brightness, they can produce exceptional plants if you hang them from a reasonable distance. Just remember that HIDs require extra maintenance and give off more heat than other lights.

Are LEDs Really The Best Grow Lights For Small Greenhouses? 

LED grow lights haven’t been around all that long, but they’ve made a bright impression in the greenhouse community. When you compare the features of LEDs with the other common grow lights, it’s easy to see why gardeners are interested in these diodes. 

First off, LEDs are the most energy-efficient option on the market. These panels will give off high-intensity, full-spectrum light without pulling a significant amount of wattage. LED models are far easier to set up and maintain versus HIDs. As a bonus, LEDs don’t give off ambient heat. 

The main reason greenhouse gardeners don’t go for LEDs is their high initial cost. Even though LEDs save growers in the long run, many don’t feel comfortable paying extra for this new technology. 

Also, since LEDs are so powerful, gardeners must ensure they have sufficient space in their greenhouse. Unlike fluorescents, it’s impossible to place LEDs a few inches over your plants and expect good results. You typically need a few feet of clearance to give your plants LED light without burning them. 

Although LED grow lights are a significant investment, many companies are working to make their models affordable and scalable. For instance, Mars Hydro offers an FC Series of LED grow lights with high-quality Samsung diodes at a reasonable price. Plus, since these lights have a daisy chain attachment, it’s easy to expand your grow operation whenever you’re ready. The SP3000 and SP6500 are also great grow lights for your greenhouse.

Anyone considering adding LED grow lights to their greenhouse should check out Mars Hydro’s catalog for professional, beginner-friendly models. 

Find What Fits Your Greenhouse…And Your Budget!

It’s easy to get confused with the many grow lights on today’s market. However, there are noteworthy distinctions gardeners could remember as they research the top three models. While LEDs may have the most pros, that doesn’t mean they’re the right choice for your greenhouse. 

As always, you need to consider personal factors like what plants you’re growing, budget concerns, and how much space you have. While all of the models listed above will work in small greenhouses, only one will line up with your preferences. Please take your time figuring out which light will help you achieve your yearly growing goals.

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