Talking Shop! This Week – Fluorescent Lighting!
This week we are going to look at high-output T5 fluorescent lighting and the best applications of this technology. Undoubtedly, most growers are familiar with fluorescent lights. With the possible exception of millennials, I would even go as far as to say that most growers’ first attempt at gardening indoors involved using some form of fluorescent light – I know mine did! Fluorescent technology has definitely seen its advances over the years, from the antiquated T12 and T8 shop lights your dad used in the garage all the way to the ultra-efficient High-output T5 lamps which have become the premier option for fluorescent grow lights. High-output T5s vary from their T12 and T8 ancestors in a number of different ways. For starters, T5 lamps have a smaller diameter at 5/8” vs. T8 lamps at 1” and T12 lamps at 1 ½” diameter. High-output T5 lamps also boast higher wattages per lamp (54 watts) and generate more PAR and lumens per watt than their predecessors. Manufactures like AgroMax and Hortilux offer T5 lamps in a considerable variety of enhanced spectrums. All of these lamps are designed from the ground up to be more conducive to horticulture as opposed to what T8 technology currently offers, or what the now discontinued T12 may have ever offered. Although T5 Fluorescent technology has taken a bit of a back seat to the likes of HID and LED systems, there are still plenty of applications where T5 lighting really shines. Pun intended.
High-output T5 lighting is still one of the best options for propagating seeds and rooting clones. Specifically, T5 lamps in the 6400K spectrum deliver the ideal light for starting strong and healthy seedlings. This spectrum works equally well while trying to root freshly cut clones. HID lights tend to be too intense and hot for seedlings. High-wattage HPS and MH lights frequently cause seedlings to stretch too much, causing the sprout to topple over. HID lights also typically consume more energy than T5 fluorescent fixtures – thus costing more on the electricity bill. There are definitely some nice LED fixtures available that do a great job at seed starting, but LED technology is easily two to three times more expensive to buy into vs T5 fluorescents. Immediate affordability is a huge advantage of fluorescent lighting; a four-foot-long four-lamp T5 fixture can comfortably power a 2’x4′ propagation area and will only cost you about $130 total for the fixture and the lamps.
When comparing Fluorescent T5’s side by side to Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium, it’s no secret that you can achieve heavier yields by utilizing HID lamps as your driving force in vegetative and flowering cycles. However, you can really bolster your crop quality and yield by adding supplemental T5 lights! Fluorescent T5’s can be used on the outskirts of a grow plot to illuminate the shadowy areas, and can be run vertically up the sides of your grow area to help get light through to the under-canopy growth. Some growers will even run T5s facing upward underneath their plants. Plants’ photo-receptors are actually located on the top of the leaf, so this last type of supplemental light will only offer marginal benefits, but there’s very little harm in covering your bases. 6400K Veg, 5500K Pro-Veg, 10000K and Pure Par Veg lamps can all be used to supplement leafy greens or vegetative cycles. AgroMax 3000K Bloom, 10000K +UV, and Pure Par Bloom lamps work fantastically for any fruiting and flowering stages. AgroMax even offers a PURE UV lamp with the highest amount of UV-B (75%) available in any T5 lamp! Supplementing your plants’ growth with light from PURE UV T5s for a few hours each day during the final week or so before harvest has proven to significantly increase the amount of essential oils a plant will produce. This means improved flavors and exceptional aroma!
Fluorescent T5 lighting can certainly take a plant from seed to harvest all by itself, with some decent results in quality too, but you won’t be shattering any records in terms of yields. Fluorescents are an accessible and affordable form of lighting that is best used on your youngest plants or as supplemental lighting to a more intense light source in the garden/greenhouse, but whatever you do with them just know that they’re excellent lights with a lot of uses and benefits.
Thanks for checking out this week’s Talking Shop with High Tech Garden Supply in Prospect Park. Always feel free to join the discussion by posting your comments below and be sure to like/follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter! Also, don’t miss out on the Harvest Sale happening all month long on HTGSupply.com – just enter CASHCROP17 to get 10% off select harvesting supplies at checkout!
Good luck and Happy Growing!