What indoor grow lighting is most economical?

by Richard

most efficient grow light in my opinion

most efficient grow light in my opinion

Which indoor grow lighting is most inexpensive to run in the long run and keeps the electric bill down?

Answer: When trying to figure out what grow light option is the most economical in the long run, there are several things to consider and compare. The biggest factors are the initial cost of the equipment, the monthly cost to run and cool the equipment, how long the equipment can run before needing to be replaced (bulbs), and how much yield you can expect from the equipment if it is run properly.

Let's take a look at the equipment cost first. A nice 600 watt system with a digital ballast and 6" vent holes, like the one pictured here, is what I recommend and can be bought for about $164 (FREE shipping) from the link above. It also comes with a lot of extras like one HPS bulb, one MH bulb, two adjustable "light-lifter" light hangers, and a digital timer too!

By comparison Black Dog LED lights (the only LED lights I will recommend, because I've witnessed the results personally) cost about $1,214 per set. A 4x4 set of T5 fluorescent lights costs about $136.86 but you will need two of them to cover the same square footage as the HPS light, for a cost of about $273.00.

Let's jump right into yield next. The T5 lights above produce about 1/2 the yield compared to the HPS light. The LED light would produce even less, because it does not cover a 4'x8' area like the other two options I mentioned (more like 3'x3').

The monthly cost to run these different grow light systems? The HPS light cooled by a 465 cfm centrifugal fan would add about $75 per month to your electric bill. The T5 lights end up being about the same, because you have to run double the equipment to light the same space. The extra air conditioning may add an additional $20 per month to grow rooms using HPS, MH, or T5's. The LED grow light is the most efficient, costing only about $20 per month to operate and generating much less heat than the other lights. Unfortunately, the excessive initial cost of the LED lights together with the small square footage of light coverage still leave LED grow light systems at the bottom of the list.

Even when you consider the fact that LED grow lights can run like 10 years without needing replacement, it is STILL not enough to overcome the large initial cost of the system and the small footprint of the LED systems. HPS and MH systems can run the same grow lamp (light bulb) for about 10-12 months before needing replacement, which costs about $80 per bulb). T5 fluorescent lights require bulb replacement at about the same frequency (once a year) and at the same cost approximately.

So, altogether, you would have to run an affordably purchased HPS grow light system for about a year before the costs would be equal to the costs of an LED system. Keep in mind, the whole time the HPS system is running it would be producing 3x as much as the LED light with the 3'x3' coverage. So, in reality, you can run a HPS system for about 3 years before it will approach the total costs of the LED system, assuming you have purchased enough LED systems to provide THE SAME light coverage as the HPS system (4'x8'). You can run a 600 watt HPS grow light system for about 2 years before you approach the total costs of a T5 system, again assuming you have purchased enough T5 lights to cover the same square footage as your HPS system.

This is just a rough guideline, but it is fairly accurate. If your true concerns are keeping the electric bill down, or the desire to never have to replace old light bulbs, than you may want to consider going with an LED setup. However, for the vast majority of the indoor gardeners out there, there is a need to get the garden set up and running well as affordably as possible. In that case, my advice will always be the same....purchase an affordable HPS system for the flowering room, use cheap $20 fluorescent shop lights for the clones and possibly a small veg area, and if you really, really want the newest gadgets like an LED light start saving your money while you grow so you can afford the upgrade down the road. I sure hope this helps you out Richard, and Happy Growing!

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(10 week update below)

Find out the cheapest and easiest ways to garden productively in this article.

Hi everyone, Jason from Jason's Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 24 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients....and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden....but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people...

Epic Nutrient Change

I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible....and in the last 24 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!

As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol)...

Homemade Cloner

And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas....like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-Sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.

Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 24 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! If you can master the technique, I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.

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This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 24 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.

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Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!

The Same System/ 10 Weeks Later!

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