The Best Grow Lights for the Amateur Grower

If you’re shopping for the best grow lights, you have probably already realized that there are a ton of different options out there to choose from. Different mounting styles, different bulb types, different colors and light spectrums – there is a lot to consider.

But if you are trying to grow plants indoors, there is no getting around it. You need grow lights. Whether you are starting seeds early, growing an indoor hydroponic garden, or keeping plants active through the winter months – grow lights are a necessity.

Do your research carefully, as the best product for you will depend largely upon your intended use for the lights. If you are starting seeds indoors once a year, you will be able to manage with a much smaller light than someone who is trying to get mature plants to bloom and produce fruit indoors.

There are products on the market to meet every need, and I have reviewed 5 of the very best options below.

**Below, you will find more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices and read customer reviews on Amazon.

Factors to Consider When Purchasing Grow Lights

The area you need to light is your biggest consideration. You need to make sure that the entire plant or tray of plants gets good light, or the growth will become weak and leggy where light is too dim.

Another important consideration is the installation that will be required. Some lights come with a self-contained stand and only need to be set up on a simple table top. Other lights have multiple pieces that must be independently mounted to the ceiling or a free-standing support structure. Installation for these lights can be as complicated as installing a pond pump or other complex garden equipment – much more complex than installing simple solar lights. Be careful not to bite off more than you can chew – and choose a light that you can install safely and securely in the space that you have available.

You will also need to consider the amount you are willing to spend. You can get a fancy light with some very nice options, but it will cost you about four times as much as a simple light with only an on/off switch.

Finally, considering that most grow lights contain intricate electronics, you would be wise to select a product that is backed by a manufacturer’s warranty. If no warranty is available, make sure that other users have reported long-term operation with minimal problems.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that will come into play when you select new grow lights:

Capacity

How much area do you need to light? If you are starting seed indoors, you will need enough light to cover a seed starting tray – typically about 10 inches wide by 20 inches long. Double that length if you want to grow two trays at one time.

If you are lighting a hydroponic system, how big is the system? Some popular containers are several feet long and wide, and you need to make sure that you can light the entire area. If your container is very large, multiple lights may be required.

If you only need to light one plant, that should be pretty easy. You simply need to measure the distance from one side of the plant to the other. Measure at the widest part of the plant, and add on several extra inches to account for the future growth of the plant.

Type of Bulb

Many types of bulbs are available. For this overview, we will take a quick look at 3 different types – fluorescent, LED, and high-pressure sodium (HPS).

Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs are very similar to the long tube lighting that you probably know from your local school, church, or office building. Fluorescent bulbs are very effective for growing plants because of their high light output and relative efficiency. While the lights at your school or office are probably very large T12 bulbs (over an inch in diameter), the T5 fluorescent bulbs you will use for growing are quite small, about the same diameter as a dime.

LED Bulbs

LED lights are a relatively new addition to the grow light arena. Rather than using one or two large bulbs, LED lights use a large array of small bulbs. The small bulbs can emit red, blue, or white light. The biggest advantage they offer is their extremely energy-efficient design. And as an added bonus, the spectrum of light can be adjusted by turning on and off the differently colored lights to create a spectrum that is high in UV or infrared light.

High-Pressure Sodium Bulbs

High-pressure sodium bulbs are very efficient, and with a reflector they are very good at lighting large areas. This type of lighting has been used for a long time to in street lights and parking lot lighting. High-pressure sodium bulbs are infamous for their high operating temperatures. With lights like these, installation is extremely important because a faulty installation can lead to a fire. These bulbs do contain a small amount of mercury, so it is very important that you handle these bulbs with care and dispose of them properly.

How Much Are You Willing to Spend?

Pricing grow lights can be very tricky, especially if you have never purchased lights before and you are not exactly sure what you need. Some of the very high end models, which are designed to maximize flowering in large indoor plants, can run in the $1,000 range. On the other end of the spectrum, you will find small LED lights that are designed to light a single house plant sold for $20 or less.

For the purposes of this review, we are going to look at mid-range stand-alone light fixtures that generally light enough area for two seed starting trays (or, roughly two square feet). If you want mature plants to bloom and fruit indoors, these lights may be too small for you. Consider purchasing multiple lights or finding a bigger product.

Even within this narrowed-down product selection, there is still quite a wide range of pricing. The very best lights will be in the range of $$$, and the lower end options will be in the $$ range.

Product Reviews – The Best Grow Lights

1.Apollo Horticulture GLK600CT24E

This compact unit from Apollo Horticulture uses a 600-watt cooling ballast with a high-pressure sodium bulb and a digital dimmer. An alternate 55,000 metal halide bulb is included as well. The high-pressure sodium bulb is perfect for active stem and leaf growth. The metal halide bulb is ideal for blooming and fruiting.

The digital dimmer features 3 settings for 50%, 75%, and 100% light intensity. The bulb is held in a 23-inch cool tube made of glass and aluminum. A reflector is included, along with a pair of rope hangers for suspending the cool tube from your ceiling or another support structure.

As a nice touch, Apollo throws in a simple outlet timer so that no other accessories are required to get your new lighting setup up fully operational.


Pros

  • 3-year manufacturer warranty
  • All-inclusive package includes everything you need
  • 6 different intensities from 2 bulbs with 3 settings
  • High lumen output at 87,000 (HPS) & 55,000 (MH)

Cons

  • Relatively high investment
  • Complex installation

2.Galaxyhydro 300w LED

The Glaxyhydro unit uses a 300-watt LED array composed of 100 bulbs. The red:blue ratio is 7:1, for increased growth and blooming. The light spectrum includes 1 infrared bulb and 1 ultraviolet bulb for disinfection and disease control.

This unit includes a daisy chain function so that multiple lights can be installed next to each other with a single power connection. This allows you to light a large area with a simple and clean solution.


Pros

  • 2-year warranty with 30-day money-back guarantee
  • High energy efficiency long life span with LED bulbs
  • Extremely simple installation

Cons

  • Relatively low lumen output at 7,000
  • Harsh LED lighting can harm your eyes – protection is advised

3.Agrobrite T5 FLT24

Agrobrite’s T5 fluorescent arrays are available in a variety of lengths and widths to perfectly suit the area that you need to light. To add to their flexibility, each of the units can be mounted overhead, horizontally, or vertically.

The FLT24 includes 4 T5 fluorescent bulbs at 2 feet each, for a total output of 8,000 lumens. An extra-long 8-foot power cord ensures that no extension cords will be needed.

The most impressive feature of these lights is the warranty that comes with them. You get a 5-year warranty on the ballast, with a 1-year warranty on all parts and workmanship.


Pros

  • 5-year warranty on ballast with 1-year warranty on parts and labor
  • Configurable options for length, width, and number of bulbs
  • Simple installation

Cons

  • Relatively low lumen output at 8,000 lumens on the FLT24

4.Sun System 900490

Sun Sytem’s tiny 900490 uses a 150-watt HPS bulb to light an area of two square feet with high-intensity growing light. The efficiency of this light is unmatched – it produces the same amount of light with less than half the amperage of comparable units.

The included mounting hooks make it very easy to install, and everything you need (other than a few small hook-screws) is included in the package. This is the most compact HPS unit I have ever seen, although it is capable of lighting an unusually large area.

At low heights, this light can light up to three standard-sized seed-starting trays. This setup is perfect for starting seeds indoors to get an early start on your organic garden each spring.


Pros

  • 5-year warranty on ballast with 1-year warranty on parts and labor
  • Configurable options for length, width, and number of bulbs
  • Simple installation

Cons

  • Relatively low lumen output at 8,000 lumens on the FLT24

5.Apollo Horticulture Purple Reign

Apollo’s Purple Reign is the only unit on this list which includes a free-standing stand. This light is designed to accommodate one standard 10-inch by 20-inch growing tray. The dual T5 bulbs are suspended from the stand by an easily adjustable cord.

The package includes all of the pieces required to build the frame, and assembly is extremely simple with no tools required.

The adjustable cord allows you to move the light upwards as your plants grow. By slowly moving the light upward you can maintain maximum intensity without allowing your plants to come in contact with the bulbs. This is an ideal setup for starting seeds, and your plants won’t run out of room until they are about 18 inches tall.


Pros

  • High intensity with dual T5 bulbs in close proximity to plants
  • Simple setup and installation
  • Easily adjustable to accommodate the height of your plants as they grow

Cons

  • Not usable with plants over 18 inches tall
  • No warranty

Choosing the Best Grow Lights for Your Application

Before you make a purchase, consider the installation that is required and make sure that you are comfortable with the level of effort that is required. The high-pressure sodium bulbs get extremely hot, and a bad installation job can lead to a fire down the line.

If you are not comfortable with installing a new light fixture, the Apollo Purple Reign is the perfect product for you. All you need is a secure flat table top, and there is virtually no risk involved.

If you don’t mind doing a more complicated installation job, consider the Apollo GLK600CT24E. While this light is a significant investment, it is worth every penny. You will receive everything you need in the package, from the professional ballast to 2 bulbs, and a simple outlet timer.

Whatever light you decide to go with, be sure to come back and leave a comment here to let me know how it worked for you. I would love to hear about your experiences and hear which grow light you think is best.

Good luck!
pumparea
 

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