The indoor gardening industry evolves with the technology that supports it. Lighting is one segment of indoor gardening technology that has major influence. To illustrate, the inclusion of light emitting diode (LED) lights has begun to alter the way in which cultivation operations are designed and operated. In a similar vein, and some years ago, the invention of double-ended (DE) high pressure sodium (HPS) lighting had a similar paradigm-shifting effect.

While advancements in both technology and methodology are doubtlessly exciting, the rapid influx of changing lighting technologies on the market proves both confusing and intimidating for all levels of growers. When designing a growroom, it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed with the complexities of lighting schematics, as well as with sales pitches and marketing gimmicks. Unfortunately, this often leads to illogical impulse buys. To avoid this, cultivators looking to design a system for an indoor garden can follow the simple criteria below to logically plan their growroom lighting.

Initial Cost and Energy Demands

Perhaps the most efficient way to begin planning a growroom lighting system is to consider initial cost versus energy demands. Weighing one’s initial overhead against the light’s intended usage, including both regularity and scale, will give a grower a concrete starting point in choosing the correct system.

A quick financial overview of the three primary lighting systems on the market today—single-ended (SE) high pressure sodium (HPS), double-ended (DE) HPS, and light emitting diode (LED)—provides a great roadmap for making informed consumer decisions. Depending on the shop, a traditional single-ended, air-cooled 1,000-watt (W) grow light retails for approximately $200. Secondly, a 1,000W DE HPS light starts at around $400. Finally, a 550W LED lighting rigs cost about $800 (due to spectral efficiency, a 550W LED light emits a similar amount of usable light as a 1,000W HPS lamp). As one can see, LED lighting presents a far greater initial cost than the first two set-ups.

The regularity and scale of usage of the growroom lighting directly results in the system’s energy demands, which then translates into a power bill. With this notion in mind, growers can make sound consumer decisions based on how much they will use their lighting system. To illustrate, if an individual only plans on producing one or two crops a year in a 1,000W grow operation, it probably makes the most economic sense to opt for either a SE or DE HPS system, as it will take an exorbitant amount of time to recuperate the initial cost of an LED set-up on such a small scale. Conversely, if a grower intends to produce five or six harvests a year, or operate on a commercial scale, LEDs could be a more practical purchase as the regularity and scale of energy usage at this level will quickly recoup the high initial cost.

Growroom Infrastructure

Other important factors to consider when designing a lighting system are the spatial and infrastructural constraints of the growroom. The height of a growroom’s ceiling directly influences the options a cultivator can consider. For example, some DE HPS lights put off an immense amount of heat but don’t have options for air cooling. As such, these lamps should be kept at least three to five feet above the garden canopy so that they don’t burn plant foliage. In gardens with taller plant species, these DE HPS set-ups can require 12-foot ceilings. So, if the ceiling height of their indoor growroom is limited, a cultivator may choose to use an air-cooled SE HPS system or LED lights instead.

Grow lights also affect the ambient air conditions inside a growroom, so cultivators need to consider how they will combat this in the design process. To illustrate, if a grower chooses to utilize an air-cooled lighting set-up in their operation, they must account for the functionality of ducting, exhaust fans, intake ports, and outtake ports. Likewise, an indoor gardener opting for a DE HPS set-up will likely require an A/C system, so they must consider the placement and installation of variables like copper tubing, industrial airflow, exhaust ports, and condensation hoses. Not all growrooms can accommodate these requirements, especially those built inside another room.

The design and build of an economical, functional, and successful indoor garden is a careful balancing act of planning. While lighting systems are crucial elements to consider in the creation of indoor growrooms, they are not always the most logical part with which to start the planning process. Instead, a grower should plan their lighting system around the infrastructural options they already have available in their room. Often, this means growers should think logically when planning their lighting systems rather than automatically latching onto the latest advancements and trends in horticultural lighting technology.