The Indispensable Guide To Choosing The Best HPS Grow Lights For Indoor Growing
Looking for the best HPS grow light? High Pressure Sodium or HPS grow lights are a type of HID lights that provide the plant with the light spectrum needed for its flowering phase, though many do use it for the entire growing process as well. These lights provide a number of benefits that led indoor growers to shift from the traditional incandescent lighting to HPS and which continue to justify their use in grow rooms and greenhouses across the world. Among the most tangible benefits is included greater electricity efficiency, excellent luminosity, ease of handling and greater lifespan. However, browse any HPS grow light on Amazon or another digital store and you’ll be bombarded with products that all possess the same attributes. Now while they may do so to a lesser or greater degree, there is no reason why you should choose the first search result as the angel of light for your plants. Indeed, there are some specific criteria which you need to keep in mind when buying such lights. To reduce the time you spend browsing web pages, we have come up with a comprehensive guide that tells you how HPS grow lights help your plants and how to choose them and even takes the liberty of suggesting the top HPS grow lights for you.
Top 3 HPS Grow Lights In The Market Today
While we have provided you with the choice criteria for deciding on the best HPS grow light, we have also reviewed three HPS grow lights which we believe fit our criteria the best. You are of course free to make your own choice, but these reviews will still give you an idea of the way in which veteran growers decide their HPS lights.
1. Apollo Horticulture GLK400GW19 400 Watt Grow Light Digital Dimmable HPS MH System for Plants Gull Wing Hood Set
Available in three of the most important wattages – 400W, 600W and 1000W, this product offers excellent dimming options as well. Hence, you can dim the bulbs by 50%, 75% or even 100%. Unlike a lot of lights, this dimmability is offered on a product that has both an HPS and an MH bulb. This implies that the sunrise and sunset periods can be replicated in full during the entire lifecycle of the plant using the two types of lights.
Furthermore, there are rope hangars included, along with a time controller that allows you to go to sleep after setting the exact turning on, dimming and turning on timings of the product. This, coupled with a luminosity of 54,000 for the HPS bulb, makes this product an ideal candidate for moderate to large grow rooms.
2. iPower GLSETX600DHMWING20 600-Watt Light Digital Dimmable HPS MH Grow Light System for Plant – Wing Set
Also available in 400W, 600W and 1000W power capacities, this iPower product offers pair of rope ratchets which allow the product to be suspended from greater heights. Further, the bulb is fully dimmable with the dimming levels being 50, 75 and 100%. Further, it offers the special iPower balanced spectrum lighting, which is vital for ensuring that a large range of plants can be grown under the same set of lighting solutions.
Though it comes with a luminosity of 54,000 lumens, it lacks the timer control feature of the previous product. instead, it offers a number of additional safety feature such as current spike guard, ignition failure protection, short circuit protection and end of life bulb protection.
3. Hydrofarm SBM150S 150-Watt Mini Sunburst with HPS Lamp
Made to match high European specular standards, this Hydrofarm product offers excellent lighting options for those looking to invest in a 150W HPS grow light. While it shall be shown below that the 150W category is not the most efficient, it may be the only option for small growers and this light takes care of the growing needs with some capacity to spare.
Though it does not offer the dimming option, it does provide an excellent form factor, allowing it to be installed even in closet grow rooms with minimal space. Finally, it comes with a high quality reflector that enhances the capability of this bulb.
While not all features of the three products may be comparable, we have compiled a short table to provide a better understanding of the various facets of these products.
- Wattage 400W, 600W, 1000W
- Luminosity 54,000 lumens @ 400W, 89,000 lumens @ 600W, 140,000 lumens @ 1000W
- Dimmability (If Yes, Levels Available) Yes, 50%, 75% and 100%
- Included Components Rope Hangar, Time Controller, Reflector, Ballast, Instructional Manual
- Type of Ballast Digital, Included
How Do HPS Grow Lights Work and How Is That Helpful To You ?
As mentioned above, HPS grow lights are a part of a class of lights called High Intensity Discharge or HID lights. While HIDs are used for a number of purposes other than growing (in car headlights for instance), HID grow lights themselves can be divided into HPS and MH, the latter standing for Metal Halide. Though both work in very similar fashion, we shall focus here on the HPS variant only.
The anatomy of HPS Grow Lights
HPS lights have two vital components – an electrode tube and a ballast. The ballast helps moderate and feed the electrical current to the electrode tube. The tube itself is made of glass and contains an electrode of opposite polarity at either end. The area between them is filled with metal salts and an inert gas.
As the electricity is passed through the electrodes, the gas is ionized and becomes a conduit for electrical current across the tube. This causes electrical current to pass rapidly, raising the temperature within the tube itself. As temperature rises rapidly, the metal salts in the tube are vaporized. The resistance of the electrodes falls as this happens, further catalyzing the process of vaporization.
This process produces luminescence, and as the vaporization completes, the arc of light between the two electrodes achieves a stable luminosity. In this process, the ballast shifts to continuous operation so as to maintain the arc of light in its steady state.
The benefits of HPS Lights
Though HPS lights tend to vary a lot in terms of quality, there are certain common characteristics which they all share that help the products beat incandescent and some types of halogen lighting in vital departments. These are –
1. Higher Efficiency
HPS lights are considered the most efficient among various categories of HID lights, being on average about 10-15% more efficient than MH bulbs of the same wattage and ballast capacity. Indeed, HPS lights’ efficiency, if measured in terms of luminosity per watt, is six times that offered by even the most efficient of incandescent lights. The difference is lower in comparison to halogens, but it was (and is) still significant enough to cause the indoor growing industry to shift from traditional halogens to HPS lights within a short span of time.
Further, since HPS lights represent a mature technology capable of producing extremely high luminosities, the extremely high lumens per watt ratio allows HPS lights to reduce the monthly electricity bills significantly while offering adequate lighting to even large greenhouses.
The average lifecycle of HPS lights varies between 2000 and 2500 hours, and may be even longer if high quality ballasts are used. Halogen lights, on the other hand, offer between 450 and 1000 hours on an average, thus making HPS lights’ lifespan more than double that of the average halogen. With the lifespan of incandescent lights being even lower than halogens, it becomes clear that HPS lights can offer the best value for money proposition when considered over a longer timespan.
3. Offer An Entire Package
Due to the way the marketing of HPS lights has evolved over the years, the best HPS grow light kits in the market today offer virtually all the components one needs to install and start using the grow lights. These include the socket, reflector, cords and even hanging hooks. This is in stark contrast to some other types of lighting (incandescent lights for instance) which demand that the grower purchase all the auxiliary components separately.
Further, getting all the components in the same package means that they are all under company warranty. On the other hand, if you get them separately, each may have a different warranty (or none at all).
4. Great For Flowering Phase, But Can Be Used For Both Growth Phases
One of the common complaints that users have regarding MH lamps is that they cannot handle the flowering phase of the plant’s life cycle. HPS lights, on the other hand, can be used to grow plants in the initial vegetative stages as well. This is not advisable, since the plants may become leggy and excessively long instead of bushy, but if you’re cash-strapped, it is better to go with HPS lights than MH ones as they will offer support for your plants throughout the growing season.
Move to the flowering phase, however, and HPS lights truly come into their element. Simulating the late autumn sun, these lights cause rapid growth of flowers and fruits, thereby producing bumper yields in short periods of time.
5. Comparatively Safer
Though HPS lights are not completely devoid of toxic compounds like mercury, they do contain a far lower amount of these compounds as compared to halogens or MH lamps. Indeed, they are even considered to be safer than fluorescent lamps in terms of the danger posed by leaking and damaged lamps to the grower, his/her family and the larger community and environment.
6. Perfect For Growing Cannabis
Cannabis or marijuana constitutes the most common plant grown indoors, and “which is the best light for growing cannabis” is an oft-repeated query on the lips of growers. HPS lights, interestingly, can be used for the entire cannabis plant’s lifecycle since the photosynthetic light spectrum needed by the plant in the vegetative phase is slightly different from the general run of plants and matches that offered by HPS grow lights more closely.
How To Choose The Best HPS Grow Light
We mentioned above that one of the benefits of buying HPS grow lights is that they come with all parts included. This is indeed true, but you may have noticed that we left out the ballast. Now smaller HPS bulbs do have the ballast included in the hood of the HPS bulb concerned, but if you’re going for anything about 200W, you may need to buy the ballast separately. Buying the HPS grow lights therefore hinges as much on buying the ballast as buying the grow lights.
Buying the ballast
1. Power Capacity
Ballasts come in four main power capacities – 150W, 250W, 600W and 1000W. Stores with a great amount of stock, like Amazon, may offer 400W ballasts as well. Below is a table to explain which ballast you should go for –
|Power Capacity||Area Covered||Efficiency||Heating Problems||Ideal For|
|150W||1.5’x1.5’ to 2’x2’||Poor efficiency||Minor, normal ventilation will suffice||Very small grow rooms with average of 2-4 plants|
|250W||2’x2’ to 2.5’x2.5’||Moderately efficient||Exhaust fan may be needed for grow rooms with a temperature higher than 18.5 degrees Celsius||Small grow rooms with average of 5 plants|
|400W||2.5’x2.5’ to 3’x3’||More efficient than 250W||Same as 250W||Moderate grow rooms|
|600W||3.5’x3.5’ to 4’x4’||Most efficient||Require slightly greater cooling than 400W||Large grow rooms and small greenhouses|
|1000W||4’x4’ to 5’x5’||Moderately efficient||Massive heat produced, need specialized cooling assembly/ies||Large greenhouses only|
2. Magnetic vs Digital
Magnetic ballasts represent older technology that has been around since the start of commercial HPS grow light industry. It is heavier, less compatible with various bulb types and generates some amount of heat. However, it is cheaper as compared to digital ballasts.
Digital ballasts offer less heating, are less heavy and come in a greater range of shapes. Further, they are capable of supporting a huge array of bulb types, thus making them more compatible as compared to magnetic ballasts.
3. Support for MH and HPS Lamps
While it is true that HPS lamps can handle the vegetative phase as well, you may want to get MH lights at some later date. Be prepared in advance by buying ballasts that can provide electricity to both types of lamps.
Choosing the Best HPS Grow Light
When buying HPS grow lights, some points to keep in mind are –
1. Ballast capacity
You should only buy products that have a total power output equal to that of the ballast/s. In particular, make sure the ballast capacity and the bulb capacity match exactly, or the bulb will burn out.
It is important to find bulbs that support dimming, as this helps replicate the end of the day period more realistically. Further, they help the bulbs gradually lose heat and so can be switched off and on at a shorter interval without damaging them.
3. Compatibility With Ballast
Magnetic ballasts support only bulbs that are certified to run with them, while digital ballasts run most types of bulbs. If money is a major factor, buy magnetic ballasts and magnetic ballast compliant bulbs. If not, go for digital ballasts and any type of bulb.
Where To Buy The Best HPS Grow Light
HPS grow lights can be purchased from local lighting and/or gardening supplies vendors. However, since the market for such lights is fragmented, it is unlikely that the grower will get a large number of options. If you are such a grower and find yourself constrained in terms of options, head to online stores like Amazon and check out the vast range of goods that are on offer there. Further, there are a large number of customer reviews available, along with advice from veteran growers who have used these products for a long time. Taking your cue from these ratings, you can make an informed choice and have the product delivered at little cost (or none in case of Amazon) at your doorstep.
Being the most efficient of the HID grow lights available in the market today, the best HPS grow lights can easily be regarded as the panacea for a range of growing problems including excess energy consumption, low luminosity, low bulb life and high additional costs for auxiliary components. Hence, even if we discount their extremely beneficial impact on cannabis plants, we can argue that HPS lights are among the best options available for growing plants indoors. Of course, there are qualifiers involved, and as we have seen, the major qualifier in this case is the compatibility of bulb and ballast. Once you have solved this, you can decide upon the right wattage, buy the bulb and ballast of your choice and start growing!