Apartment Gardening: Fluorescent and LED Grow Lights Compared

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Apartment Gardening: Fluorescent and LED Grow Lights Compared

Staff Writer · Feb 23, 2010

With more and more people turning to indoor gardening, they’re wondering which to buy: Light -Emitting Diode, or LED grow lights or Fluorescent grow lights. In the fluorescent grow lights category, you have two options: High Pressure Sodium lights and Metal Halide lights. Gardening enthusiasts have drawn the lines and chosen sides, but now you have to make a decision. Here’s a comparison of both technologies to help you make a decision on what to buy:

Which Lights Costs More?

Fluorescent grow lights are cheaper than LED grow lights, by far. The investment for your LED grow lights initially may equal a significant portion of your rent, as they can cost several hundred dollars, which turns many people off. However, proponents of LEDs argue that in the long run, it’s more efficient than fluorescent lights and that you’ll make your money back. It will also cost less to run, making your electricity bill lower if you go with LED grow lights instead of fluorescent grow lights. Consider your finances carefully to determine if and when you should purchase LED grow lights. Take into account what plants you want to grow and see if it’s worth the initial investment.

Which Lights Grows Plants Faster?

Various studies show that LED grow lights are a superior technology when it comes to growing plants, better and faster. For example, the University of Minnesota, Department of Horticultural Science conducted a study which compared High Pressure Sodium lights, one type of fluorescent grow lights, and LED grow lights. They measured the mean height of two plants over seven weeks that were grown under both lights. The plants that grew using LED lights, ended up growing much higher than fluorescent grow lights. The difference in height were not tremendous, but when you’re growing an indoor garden, every inch makes a difference.

Which Pose a Mercury Risk?

Fluorescent grow lights do pose a mercury risk if the bulb breaks. It uses mercury as a part of its technology, but LED grow lights do not.  One fluorescent light bulb breaking in your apartment can cost you in the thousands to have it cleaned up and disposed of properly. If you factor a huge clean up bill into the costs of buying fluorescent grow lights, LED grow lights are cheaper and safer. The mercury factor is a huge consideration, especially if you have children and pets living with you in your apartment. Even if you don’t, you’re at risk.

Which Should You Buy?

If you can afford LED grow lights, then that’s the better option. Your plants will grow faster, higher, longer and more efficiently than either High Pressure Sodium lights or Metal Halide lights. When you’re not able to afford a lot of upfront costs for gardening, then fluorescent lights are the way to go. However, when you factor in the mercury, which is a major health risk, LED grow lights might be the best and only option for most apartment renters.

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