Hydroponic lighting technologies for cannabis cultivation have come a long way over the years. Advancements in cannabis grow lights have brought us closer to the goal of recreating natural sunlight in a controlled environment. A grower’s biggest concerns are maximizing their yields while conserving as much energy as possible. The lighting systems of yesterday were expensive, inefficient, and limited on color spectrum. Today, a new generation of lighting systems have swept the market and are helping growers maximize their yields while saving power and money.
The Introduction of Digital Ballasts
One of the biggest shifts in the technology of cannabis grow lights has been the abandonment of magnetic ballasts for digital. A ballast regulates the amount of power that is fed to the bulb. Old school ballasts were magnetic, meaning they consisted of a wire wrapped around a coil in order to regulate wattage. They were big, heavy and there was no way of adjusting output. Digital ballasts are modern pieces of electronics that are ten times more efficient on power usage and are adjustable. They were the natural evolution of the magnetic ballast. One thing that can be said about magnetic ballasts is that if you happened to buy one in the ‘70s, odds are it is still working today.
The Evolution of Bulb Technology
Bulb technology has also stepped into the 21st Century. Traditional lighting systems have primarily used single-ended high pressure sodium or metal halide bulbs. Metal halide bulbs have been used mostly in the cannabis plant’s vegetative state. Good for providing warmth in the blue/white color spectrum, metal halides would then be switched to high pressure sodium for flowering as their spectrum falls more toward the orange/yellow side. High pressure sodium bulbs were the standard for both home cultivation as well as large scale commercial grows. They work great, but as with all things, newer more efficient products have been released that make them one step closer to being yesterday’s technology.
The Efficiency of LED Lighting Systems
When it comes to cannabis grow lights, LEDs, Plasma and ceramic metal halides are all the rage these days. The use of LED lighting technology really makes it feel like cannabis is progressing into the future. LED lighting systems are made of hundreds of tiny LED circuits that are often customizable to the spectrum you want your plants to grow under. This is an incredible advantage for cultivators. However, on the downside, LED’s don’t seem to have the penetration power of other new bulbs. That means a tight prune is in order to maximize energy absorption. The best thing about LED lighting systems is that you can really maximize your output with minimal energy input making them the most efficient lights around.
Other Bulb Options for Cannabis Grow Lights
Ceramic metal halide bulbs are the next step for traditional metal halides. They are far more efficient than their predecessor and have about double the lifespan. They are a solid upgrade to the technology. However, the real winner in spectrum and output are plasma bulbs. They have a maximum output of around ten times the lumen capacity of traditional bulbs and they come the closest to covering the full range of spectrum emitted by the sun. They have been on the market for some time but have only recently started finding their way into commercial and home grows.