Getting Down in the Details with Indoor Grow Lighting and Grow Tents
LED grow lights and grow tents have really grown in popularity over the past decade, and there is a good reason for that. Grow tents are a great, effective way to enclose your plants so light is focused on the canopy while protecting the plants from the ambient (and sometimes uncontrollable) environment and pests. Some plants are delicate, and tents help protect them while lights create the perfect growing conditions. We’ll take a look at the benefits of LED to grow lights and grow tents, using VIVOSUN products as a great example of this kind of growing.
What Is a Grow Light?
A grow light is any type of electric lighting that uses an electrical current to create light in the spectrum, the same exact requirement that plants need to process photosynthesis. A grow light should be hung above a plant canopy so that light is distributed evenly across plants. This allows plants to absorb as much light as they can. Grow lights are optimized to use the “useful” part of sunlight in the visible spectrum – all the grow light colors from red to violet, also the fringe colors that aren’t visible to human eyes like ultraviolet and infrared light.
When growing indoors, we usually encounter three kinds of lights: High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps, including Metal Halide, also known as (MH), Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH), and High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) bulbs; Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), and T5 fluorescents.
Types of Lights
- High Intensity Discharge (HID)
HID lighting continues to be a popular choice for growers because components are inexpensive, results are consistent, and technological development has been relatively stable for these lights. HID bulbs use an electrical current to heat a pressurized tube filled with a specific chemical. This heating process emits light. Different chemicals produce different colors, which is important for plants because they prefer specific colors at specific periods of growth.
High Pressure Sodium (HPS) bulbs dominate the HID industry and are one of the most commonly used lights today. They produce some great results but they can be difficult to use because they get hot – if you’re in a cold climate this is very useful, but if you live in places like California or other warm climates it may cause some problems. High temperatures also raise humidity levels so that should be something to watch for.
Metal Halide (MH) bulbs are similar to HPS bulbs except they utilize metal halide as the interior gas. Generally, though, MH bulbs have fallen out of favor especially in comparison to HPS and now, LED bulbs that have become the most popular light on the market (more on that in a minute). The reason a grower might choose MH bulbs is because they produce a blue light, which helps plants grow foliage and keeps plants from stretching and elongating. However, MH bulbs don’t produce much red light so they often cannot keep up with the demands of a growing plant without switching to another system.
- T5 fluorescent
T5 fluorescent bulbs are another popular option for growers that simply do not live up to the needs of high energy plants. They use low energy and have a long lifespan but their light output is a white-blue color and the intensity and temperature is too low for any plant that is not a low-light plant. That said, T5s are great for lowlight plants and for starting seeds, or even for your home, but they won’t be a great option for growing any demanding plant.
- Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
LED grow lights are the newest technology on the market and are quickly taking over as the most used grow light both recreationally and professionally. So why is this? LEDs are extremely efficient and, with an upfront cost higher than other systems, they still function for longer periods, they are more efficient in regards to electrical usage, they produce a full spectrum of light (and can be easy to set up), they don’t produce a lot of excess heat, and they are extremely reliable.
The major drawback to LEDs is that there is no industry standard for production and for quality control – unlike HID bulbs, which have been in production for decades, LED systems are relatively new in the grow industry so there can be a lot of variation between brands.
Because LED systems use computer chips, they can be expanded into “smart” systems. Smart systems are digitized, programmable functions that can control any electric equipment in a grow tent. Included are ventilation fans, oscillation fans, and LEDs. Unfortunately, HID systems and other types of lights cannot be controlled in the same way LEDs can because they cannot be integrated with the hardware required to digitize operation, so you’ll have to use an old-fashioned timer to control any timing.
Intelligent systems are extremely reliable and capable. They usually include temperature and humidity probes that measure changes in the environment – in turn, these measurements are tracked and recorded either on the device itself (usually some sort of controller) or through an app. As changes in climate occur, the smart system makes adjustments to the equipment to ensure a balanced environment. Smart systems control temperature, humidity, timing, spectral range, and even specific powerful modes that can be adjusted to whatever need. What makes a smart system (and LEDs by extension) so powerful is that they can control multiple types of equipment simultaneously, meaning climate control works in unison.
|HPS||Produce a lot of lightIndustry standard. Cheap start-up cost. Excellent results. Dimmable. Excellent flower production.||Require more electricity and is less energy efficient than other options. Requires excellent airflow and ventilation. Emits a lot of temperature, controlling temperature in a space can be difficult. Higher cost in the long run. Requires a reflector and ballast. Decent lifespan but brightness dims over time.|
|MH||Great for seedling and vegetative growth. Produces a lot of usable light. Very cheap to purchase and operate. Dimmable.||Requires a reflector and ballast. Decent lifespan but brightness dims over time. Poor results during flowering. Weaker performance than HPS or LED bulbs. Requires a ballast and reflector to operate. Coverage area can be weak.|
|CMH||Last twice as long as HPS or MH. Burn hotter and create light closer to natural sunlight. Produce sufficient light to support vegetative and flowering growth. Dimmable.||Requires a ballast and reflector. Still relatively expensive when compared to HPS and MH bulbs. Emits more UV light than other bulbs meaning growers need to wear long sleeved shirts and sunglasses. Brightness dims over time. High temperatures can be difficult to control and can damage plants.|
|LED||Energy efficient and produce more light per watt than HID or T5 (usually). Operate at lower temperatures. Longer lasting than other lights. Full spectrum that can be fine-tuned for different growth stages. Dimmable. Cheaper to operate. Can be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Can be entirely automated. Easiest to growth with requiring no extra equipment.||Expensive initial cost. Cheap LEDs can cut corners on performance. Sometimes not strong enough for flowering. No reflector included. No industry standardization so quality can vary wildly.|
|T5||Less expensive than other grow lights Great for low light plants Great coverage area Last longer than other grow lights Low operation temperatures||Can only be used for specific situations like low light plants or for seedlings Are not useful for flowering Are not useful for vegetative|
What Is a Grow Tent and What Should You Look for in a Grow Tent?
Now that we’ve covered a variety of different kinds of lights and have made a case for LEDs let’s take a look at grow tents. A grow tent is like a greenhouse for your plants. However, it’s very popular because it is easy to set up with all the strong frameworks that are covered in plastic, metal, and fabrics. The foundation will not rust as it has coated metal or plastic poles.
Grow tents and grow spaces are different from each other. A grow space is any space where you can place and grow your plants. It could be in your bedroom, garage, basement, or any space in your area. On the other hand, growing tents are more effective than growing spaces because it contains the three most important plant needs – light, humidity, and temperature. It creates a greenhouse benefit in small indoor tents.
So what kind of things should you look for in a grow tent?
The size of your grow tent will be decided by the amount of space available: larger space means you can have a bigger tent. Regardless, ensure that every side of the tent has about six inches of space from any wall. Six inches is a good amount because it is enough to fit wires and allow for heat to dissipate.
Remember, every plant requires a certain amount of space when it reaches its full size – for smaller plants, you can likely grow many of them in one space. But larger plants may require you to invest in a larger tent or restrict the number of plants you’re able to grow in that specific size of space.
If you buy Vivosun Grow Tent Kit, all the tools match the size of your grow tent – this means you’ll need to circulate the specific volume of air that is within the tent, and you’ll need a fan that has the capacity to do so. So if your tent is 100 square feet, your fan should be able to move 100 square feet of air per minute (you’ll also need to factor in any extra equipment as adding about 30% more airflow requirement per equipment to the base requirements).
Quality is another important consideration when purchasing. In this case, let’s take a look at the tents and lighting quality. A reliable tent should have a thick, Oxford canvas material for the exterior. “Oxford” is the rating type for weaving, which is also considered a basket weave. It is tight enough to be pierce-resistant as well as better at containing light. We recommend a canvas with at least a 600D rating. Here, the “D” stands for “denier,” the density of fibers in a given area. Pro tip: The higher the number =, the higher the quality of the fabric.
Mylar lining is our topmost recommendation for the inside cover. This type of fabric lining is very flexible. It is also made of highly reflective material that reflects the light back to your plants. Note that the higher reflectivity, the better.
What Kind of Equipment Is Necessary for a Grow Tent?
Grow lights are any kind of light that produces a visible light spectrum and a wattage that is high enough to cause a plant to grow. If you purchase a grow kit, you’ll probably be buying an LED system – they’re a great value and probably the best choice on the market today. As we mentioned, HID systems like HPS or MH systems are great options, but we prefer LEDs because their capabilities are much better than other light systems. For grow tent, we suggest the right LED light with “full spectrum” light.
It means the LED board has enough variety of diode colors to create the light required for all stages of growth. Plants use blue light during leaf growth and structure growth (blue light helps produce Chlorophyll for structural growth) while red light helps a plant develop flowers and also grow large.
LED fixtures should cover the entirety of the space beneath a lamp, and the spread of light should be as evenly as possible from the center to the sides. This coverage is measured in a PAR map, which illustrates the light brightness distribution on a surface.
LEDs should also have adjustable light brightness, so you can adjust the intensity throughout the life of a plant to match how it is doing. Additionally, it should have a “tunable” spectrum – a spectrum that can be adjusted to meet the stage of growth of your plant.
Like a house, grow tents needs ventilation. This refers to any kind of device that circulates air through an open space. Usually, it includes oscillation and circulation fans and inline duct fans. It could also have other accessories that are included in the regular ventilation system at homes, such as ducting, carbon filters, and booster fans.
Grow tent ventilation is an extremely important part of your kit because airflow controls temperature and humidity – each plant has its own climate preferences, and ventilation equipment helps balance and control the environment. Since you’re creating a growing space for your plans, it is essential to control the humidity. Too much humidity can cause fungus or attack pests.
In addition to controlling the environment, ventilation refreshes carbon dioxide. We all know that carbon dioxide helps with the process of photosynthesis. Circulation fans have the added benefits of helping bend plants as they would in nature, encouraging the emergence of auxin, an important regulator of healthy growth, cell division, stretching, root and stem health, and transition into growing flowers.
The ideal ventilation kit includes fans like an inline duct fan and ducting, but a great kit will include an oscillating fan and carbon filter. An oscillation fan might sometimes be thought of as an unnecessary accessory. However, research shows it is crucial for controlling your tent’s temperature and balancing humidity. Thus, improving your plant’s overall growth.
There are different types of grow tent kit accessories, and they’re all useful. We, however, recommend adding trimmers or pruning shears, grow light glasses that will protect your eyes, grow bags or pots for planting, hangers to hang equipment, ducting, temperature and humidity meters, and if you get a smart tent, you’ll get a lot of extra equipment specifically designed for smart growth.
While accessories are not necessary to grow plants, they are great for creating healthier plants than you could grow otherwise. They help add some extra important components that will be able to make balancing an environment a little bit easier.
We hope this is a good introduction to LED grow lights and grow tents. They’re a great addition to any home if you’re planning to grow indoors. The major drawback we see is that you won’t be able to spend time with your plants like you would if you were to have your plants decorating your house, but grow lights and grow tents totally change the way we grow – it turns it more into farming rather than simply growing for decoration. You can grow anything – from berries to flowers to trees, the only limit is the size of your tent!