How many hydroponic gardeners does it take to change a light bulb?
In the world of hydroponic gardening, light bulbs are a big deal, because the quality of bulb you choose can make or break your garden’s productivity. There are three main types of lights that you can choose from when starting a hydroponic garden. Which one you end up using depends on the kind of plants you are growing, your budget, and the size of your garden. High Pressure Sodium or HPS lights are the most powerful, and offer full-spectrum lighting for plants in both vegetative and flowering states. They are also expensive and need to be replaced yearly because their intensity decreases with each growing season. HPS bulbs put out a lot of heat, and always require additional cooling and ventilation, such as an in line fan or a clip on fan in your grow room.
Fluorescent, or CFL lights are another option. Fluorescents are most often used as a cheap light source in office buildings, schools, garages and more. They also work well for plants in a vegetative state of growth – think leafy greens, herbs, and cloning. Since they do not offer full spectrum lighting, CFLs are not a good choice for plants that will produce flowers or fruits.
Finally, we have Light Emitting Diode or LED lights. LEDs are new to the hydroponics market. Before a few years ago, LEDs were not powerful enough to be used to grow plants. Now, they are one of the best options out there because by combining red and blue LEDs, you can create full spectrum lighting. LEDs do not produce a lot of heat, so you don’t need to worry about buying heavy duty fans to cool down your grow room. The main disadvantage to LEDs is that they are very expensive to purchase up front when compared with other bulbs.
In this article we will go over the top 10 grow light bulbs out there for any budget, including all of the types mentioned above.
1. Apollo Horticulture 125 Watt Compact Fluorescent Grow Light Bulb
This bulb from manufacturer Apollo is a great choice for beginners or anyone with a smaller sized garden. It is best for plants in the vegetative state such as leafy greens because it does not put out a full spectrum. This bulb is 125W and is very inexpensive compared with other options, at only $24. It comes in either 2700K or 6400K, both at the same price. You can use this bulb in a standard socket or with a reflective hood such as the Apollo Horticulture Compact Fluorescent Grow Light Fixture Hood for CFL Bulbs ($29.95, Buy Here)
Price: $28.50 (21 percent off MSRP)
Watch a video on gardening with CFL lights here.
- Very inexpensive
- Good for beginners
- Good for very small gardens
- Not very powerful
- Not good for larger gardens
- Not full spectrum
Find more Apollo Horticulture 125 Watt Compact Fluorescent Grow Light Bulb information and reviews here.
2. Future Harvest Development Sun Blaster
This small bulb from Future Harvest Development is another good option for beginner gardeners. It is a 26W, 6400K temperature bulb that is equivalent to a 100W incandescent bulb. It is super convenient because it fits into a standard light socket, and will give enough light to grow a few small herbs or vegetative plants. If you are looking to try out hydroponics on a small scale, this inexpensive and energy efficient light would be a really nice choice. And, if you end up not enjoying hydroponics you can still use it as a regular light bulb!
Price: $10.50 (41 percent off MSRP)
- Can be combined with multiple lights to cover more area
- Very inexpensive and energy efficient
- Does not put out a lot of heat
- Not powerful enough for more than a few small plants
- Does not come with a reflective hood
- You will need to buy a light socket and hangers separately
3. Gled 10w Grow Light Bars Light Strip
This innovative LED strip from Gled takes a whole new approach to hydroponic light bulbs. Unlike most LED bulbs, which center lighting around a circular core in order to replicate the size and shape of conventional light bulbs, this bulb takes the form of a long strip of individual red and blue LEDs. This means that it is a fully customizable system, which allows you to combine multiple strips lengthwise or horizontally in order to cover a larger area. This light is suitable for both flowering and vegetative stages of growth, because you can select a wavelength of either 660nm or 45nm.
Price: $29.81 (29 percent off MSRP)
Watch an informative video here.
- Customizable for multiple garden sizes
- Good for flowering and vegetative
- Low heat output
- Does not come with power supply
- Less powerful than some other set ups
- Cost can add up if you buy multiple strips for a large garden
4. TaoTronics LED Plant Grow Light
This mid-sized LED light bulb from TaoTronics is one of the best selling LED grow lights on amazon.com. it is not quite as small as some of the other bulbs listed, but is still a good beginner bulb for one or two plants at a time. This bulb consists of 12 individual LEDs, with three blue and nine red. They emit wavelengths of 660nm and 430 nm, or 630nm and 460nm. This means that the light is suitable for all stages of growth, as well as cloning. It also comes with a one year manufacturer’s warranty.
Price: $20.99 (79 percent off MSRP)
Watch a review of TaoTronics LEDs here.
- Fits in a regular light bulb socket
- Comes with 1 year warranty
- Good for vegetative and flowering growth
- Not very powerful
- Not truly full spectrum
- Not good for larger gardens
5. 1000 Watt Metal Halide Bulb by iPower
This grow light from iPower may look like something out of Frankenstein’s lab, but it is in reality on of the best designed types of lightbulbs for hydroponic gardening. This is a high quality Metal Halide light suitable for vegetative stages of growth. It is 130V, 1000W, 4200 Kelvin and takes between 3-5 minutes to reach full strength. At less than $20, it is a great value for both beginners and seasoned gardeners.
Price: $33.24 (44 percent off MSRP)
- High quality
- Reputable manufacturer
- You must buy an HPS bulb separate for flowering states of growth
- Wears out quickly
- Does not come with fan or hood
6. Apollo Horticulture HPS Bulb
This High Pressure Sodium bulb from Apollo is a great deal for the quality. You can choose between 400W ($12, Buy Here), 600W ($20, Buy Here) or 1000W ($31, Buy Here). The bulb is ideal for flowering and fruiting stages of pant life, with a 2000K red-orange spectrum designed specially for hydroponic gardening. This bulb is expected to last 24000 hours at 110V. It takes about 3 to 5 minutes to warm up fully.
Price: $12.95 (57 percent off MSRP)
- Very powerful
- Good value
- Well known and reputable manufacturer
- Loses strength faster than LED
- Requires separate bulb and ballast for MH bulbs when in vegetative state
- Requires reflective hood and fan
7. Apollo Horticulture Pack of 5 Fluorescent-Light Bulbs
Apollo Horticulture also sells CFL or fluorescent light bulbs. CFL are meant to be combined with multiple bulbs in one hood for maximum coverage, so this packof 5 bulbs is a great deal. You can choose from either 2700K or 6400K at the same price. These bulbs are 4,580 lumens and they are 45.12″ long. These would be suitable for a mid sized grow, or you can buy multiple packs for a larger garden.
Price: $24.95 (50 percent off MSRP)
- Well known and reputable seller
- Does not require much ventilation
- Energy efficient
- Not as powerful as high quality HPS or LED
- Very fragile
- Burn out quickly
8. Bulbrite Reflector Bulb
This small bulb from Bulbrite will fit in any regular light socket. You can buy it as a single bulb for $5 (Buy Here), or in a 2 pack for $10 (Buy Here) or a 4 pack for $19 (Buy Here) if you have more than a few plants to support. It is available in a circular shape or an A shape, depending on what is best for your particular garden. This light is not truly full spectrum but works very well as greenhouse lighting or in a small garden that also has access to some natural light, such as the light that filters in through a window.
Price: $4.99 (64 percent off MSRP)
Watch a video about Reflector Bulbs here
- Very inexpensive
- Fits into standard socket
- Comes in round or A shape
- Not very powerful
- Not good for large set ups
- No manufacturer’s warranty
9. Miracle Gro AeroGarden Grow Lights
These light bulbs from AeroGrow provide a proprietary light spectrum which is suitable for both vegetative and flowering stages of growth. These lights are powerful enough to fully support plants in all stages of life, with no additional lighting such as a sunny window required. They are compact, great for small systems or anyone who doesn’t have a whole lot of room for their hydroponic garden. They do lose power over time though, and the manufacturer recommends replacing the bulbs every 6 months or so.
Price: $16.16 (35 percent off MSRP)
Watch a video about these bulbs here
- Inexpensive and energy efficient
- Low heat
- Full spectrum
- Must be replaced every 6 months
- Not super powerful
- Best suited to smaller gardens
10. iPower Super HPS Grow Light Bulb for Magnetic and Digital Ballast
This is a very powerful bulb from iPower. It is known as a Super HPS because of its massive light output of 90,000 lumen. This bulb consumes less energy than other standard HPS bulbs, despite its high output. It is a little more expensive per bulb than standard HPS, but you end up saving money in energy and increasing your yield due to the high Lumen output. This bulb comes in either a 1 pack or a 6 pack if you have a larger grow room. You can choose 400W for $15 (Buy Here), 600W for $22 (Buy Here) or 1000W for $41 (Buy Here).
Price: $22.51 (62 percent off MSRP)
Watch a video comparing HPS and Super HPS here
- Very powerful
- Relatively energy efficient
- 1 year warranty
Find more iPower Super HPS Grow Light Bulb for Magnetic and Digital Ballast information and reviews here.
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