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Fluorescent grow lights produce a combination of light spectrums aimed at promoting photosynthesis. They also allow the plants to achieve maximum height since they emit low heat compared to High-Intensity Discharge (HID) grow lights.  Do these features make fluorescent a suitable alternative to LEDs? Here’s a complete breakdown of LED vs fluorescent grow lights.

LED vs Fluorescent Grow Lights

LED grow lights are diodes or semiconductors that emit a combination of blue, green, orange, and yellow UV light for horticultural use. This technology stands out because the light produced is the closest replica to sunlight compared to fluorescent or HPS bulbs. In addition, some models have features where farmers can activate purple UV light for nurturing flowering plants.

Advantages Of LED Grow Lights

1. Drives Crops To Achieve Their Full Potential

As mentioned previously, LED grow lights can replicate natural solar to a high degree. This characteristic allows cultivators to use the same source of light from germination to harvest. The biggest advantage, however, is that LEDs simultaneously produce wavelengths suitable for different parts of the plant. Purple light stimulates bud growth and photosynthesis on the canopies, while foliage in the bottom and mid-section requires yellow wavelengths. A grower using LEDs will benefit from larger harvests per square foot compared to using alternatives such as fluorescent or HPS bulbs.

2. Compatible With Smartphones

Recent innovations have produced LED grow lights that allow farmers to control light cycles and intensity remotely. After setting up the panel, a grower downloads an app and connects to the LED through Wi-Fi. It’s quite a life-saver for cultivators traveling long distances and might forget to activate flowering or regulate light intensity. The same feature is crucial for first-time growers who are still learning the ropes.

3. Compatible With Compact Spaces

LED grow lights are popular in compact-size grow kits, such as the 24 x 24-inch model since crops can thrive without experiencing heat stress. This advantage makes LEDs a safe bet for novice cultivators eager to learn about indoor growing while nurturing one or two plants.

4.  Requires Minimum Dehumidification

A cultivator using HPS lights inside a 4 x 4 grow tent needs to create space for a dehumidifier. The accumulation of heat produced by the bulb and moisture released through transpiration nurtures mold spores into full-blown fungi. This additional equipment results in the farmer paying expensive power bills.

LED grow lights only produce 33 percent of the heat emitted by HPS bulbs. This edge reduces the need for a dehumidifier except during winter when external humidity increases significantly.

When Should You Use An LED Grow Light?

1. Growing Crops That Require Strong Broad Spectrum UV Light

Plants that grow tall and develop thick bushes require penetrative light reaching the undergrowth to maximize yield production. It’s also crucial to have a grow light that adapts to the crop’s flowering stage. Peppers, for instance,  flourish under a light that’s rich in red wavelengths. Tomato plants produce large fruits when exposed to red and blue wavelengths.

2. Setting Up A Grow Room

High-Intensity Discharge bulbs consume 70 percent more energy than diodes. A 200-watt LED produces a similar amount of lumens emitted by a 600-watt HPS bulb. Their inability to produce different wavelengths of light limits yield production, making them an expensive option for illuminating large areas.

What Are Fluorescent Grow Lights?

Fluorescent grow lights contain mercury vapor and a white phosphorous coating inside the bulbs. They’re used to nurture seedlings or plants that require a low amount of UV energy. These bulbs come in two designs, the most popular being the Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL). Tubes come in different diameters such as the T5 and T8.

Light is produced when electricity passes through the electrodes and stimulates the mercury atoms to move vigorously. This movement produces ultraviolet light which becomes brighter as the wavelengths pass through the phosphorous coating.

Can You Grow Plants With Regular Fluorescent Lights?

Yes, you can germinate seeds using regular fluorescent bulbs because they produce heat and light that are conducive for seedlings. In addition, some houseplants require a moderate amount of UV light to carry out photosynthesis. As the seedlings transition into a vegetative state, the cultivator has to purchase alternative grow lights for the crops to grow strong and healthy.

Advantages of Fluorescent Grow Lights

1. Affordability

Fluorescent grow lights are highly affordable and easily accessible at any store. The light fixtures cost less than $100, making this option the most affordable compared to HPS and LED grow lights.

2. Allows Maximum Vertical Growth

Seedlings can grow without experiencing heat stress when a CFL is suspended two inches above the soil. As the plants grow taller, the farmer maintains a two-inch distance between the bulb and apex.

3. Reliable Source Of UV Light

A 26-watt CFL bulb provides green and yellow light wavelengths that are necessary to promote photosynthesis. This process provides seedlings with sufficient energy to develop healthy roots. The wavelengths produced by CFL maximize the growth of foliage and improves the plant’s chances of survival.

When Should You Use A Fluorescent Grow Light?

1. Cultivating Crops That Require Low UV Energy

Kitchen herb gardens require a moderate amount of UV light to cultivate crops into maturity. The average duration for most herbs is three weeks. It makes sense to purchase a couple of T5 or T8 fluorescents to supply light because their low consumption of electricity makes them affordable compared to HPS or LED bulbs.

2. Germination

Seedlings require UV light to perform photosynthesis and develop healthy roots. Fluorescent lights enhance the success rate of germination by providing warmth to the soil. In addition to boosting microbial activity, the heat activates the seedlings’ metabolism.

3.  Nurturing Houseplants

Green plants are common inside home yoga studios because they increase fresh air supply and enhance aesthetics. A homeowner can enjoy vibrant greenery throughout the year because CFL bulbs are low maintenance, and provide sufficient UV light that’s beneficial for photosynthesis.

Comparison Of LED vs Fluorescent Grow Lights

1. Heat Output of LED vs Fluorescent Grow Lights

The heat output produced by grow lights is quantified using British Thermal Units. It’s derived by multiplying the bulb or diode’s wattage by 3.41. Cultivators use this approach as a guide when shopping for grow lights. LEDs emit a higher BTU than fluorescents based on wattage, and that’s why cultivators hang diode panels two feet above plant canopies.

2. Efficiency of LED vs Fluorescent Grow Lights

CFLs and LED grow lights have similar efficiency. Bulb manufacturers calculate efficiency based on how much electrical energy gets converted into lumens. Diodes transform 80 % of electrical energy into light, while fluorescent’s efficiency ranges around 75-80%.

3. Cost of LED vs Fluorescent Grow Lights

It’s obvious that CFLs and T5s cost a fraction of an LED grow light. Fluorescents range from $10-$30 while customers pay $150-$200 for a standard 150-watt LED panel. It makes sense to purchase fluorescent grow lights for low-energy crops compared to using LEDs.

4. Lifetime of LED vs Fluorescent Grow Lights

LED grow lights require servicing after five years and can serve for up to a decade. The cultivator can maximize value for money by maintaining a temperature of around 82 degrees Fahrenheit. A dehumidifier also prevents excess moisture from damaging the panel’s internal components.

A cultivator using fluorescent grow lights will replace the bulbs after two years. CFLs and tubes experience air leaks and this leads to oxidation on the electrodes. Oxygen also reacts with the mercury vapor molecules and this hinders their mobility when electricity flows through the electrodes.

5. Color Temperature

Cultivators use color temperature to identify the spectrum produced by a source of light. It’s measured in Kelvins and indicated on the packaging of CFL, HPS, and LED grow lights. LED panels emit 5,000-7,000 Kelvins which enables the crops to receive broad-spectrum UV light that resembles solar energy.

Fluorescent grow lights produce 3,500-4,500 Kelvins and this translates to a narrow spectrum compared to LED panels.

6. Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR)

Green plants require broad-spectrum UV light ranging from 400-700 nanometers to activate photosynthesis. Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) is a unit used to quantify light photons that are within the desired range and available for the crops. Farmers use a device known as a photon counter or PAR meter.

LED grow lights produce high PAR because they emit broad-spectrum UV light that’s rich in yellow, blue, red, and purple wavelengths. Fluorescents emit a narrow spectrum of light and this translates to a lower PAR.

Which is Better For Growing Plants, LED or Fluorescent Grow Lights?

As the contest between LED vs fluorescent grow lights concludes, a few observations stand out. While both sources illuminate UV light, fluorescents hardly pose a threat to LED grow lights. The diodes emit a higher-quality spectrum of light and this translates into impressive harvests per square foot.

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