What are the best T5 fluorescent lights to start my pepper plants indoors?


I am looking at purchasing a T5 light to start my pepper plants indoors before transplanting outside. I came across an article by Charles Winslow where he stated: “Last year I completed tests in conjunction with several lighting scientists. We ran controlled tests with multiple light sources—metal halides, high pressure sodium lights, induction lights, T5 lamps and LEDs—and measured plant growth and quality… ” I would like to know what T5 came out the best. Any suggestions on what light to purchase would be great.


Peppers are one of my favorites to grow. We have grown 10-inch Thai chilies and 15-inch Habs. They were just downright mean! For the T5’s, all of the following choices will work fine for your application: HO 54W, VHO 95W and XHO 105W. The VHO and XHO put out the most light by far for the plants. The only lamps that tested well on the VHO and XHO were the Himalaya lamps. The other lamps in the 6,500 K range on the market put out 28 to 33% less lumen on testing. The Phillips tested well but they were the wrong color for the application. The HO 54W will easily do the job and do it well for you.

The most important detail to check for is that the lamps have 6,500 K Niche tri-phosphorous in the lamps. This phosphorous comes out of Japan. Many of the lamp suppliers sell the Chinese phosphorous lamps because these are much cheaper to manufacturer. They will not hold the lumens for long and will drop off quickly. Just confirm with the store that the lamps they sell use Niche tri-phosphorous before purchasing. If the employee doesn’t know, see if they can find out. It is a big deal and it is important for everyone to know what they are selling and purchasing.

The big difference on the HO 54W you want to watch out for is the milliamp (ma) the ballast runs at. An example of one of the best would be the Fulham Race Horse 450 ma ballast. The Bad Boy is an example of a fixture that uses the 450 ma. I would stay away from fixtures using the cheaper ballasts.

The Fulham workhorse works on 350 ma and puts out significantly less lumen and is used in the vast majority of T5 HO 54W fixtures. The light drops off quickly running 350 ma at 1-foot increments, as much as half against the Race Horse 450 ma performance. With small starts (4 to 8 inches), even the 350 ma will work just fine for your application.

If you plan on going with bigger starts, I would suggest using a fixture with the 450 ma ballast. A lot depends on what you want to spend, but again, I would stay away from the cheaper phosphorous lamps entirely. If you want the super lumen fixtures, go with the VHO or XHO.

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Written by Charles Winslow
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Charles Winslow, CEO of GW Worldwide LLC, has a BS from Cal Poly. He has been principal in multiple start-ups and expansions including BWGS/Sunleaves, Penhall International, Furrows. He currently works with international companies developing JV’s, co-ventures, and new technologies for energy reduction for horticulture, lighting and building. Contact [email protected]  Full Bio