This article is part of a series.
You can catch the rest of FAB’s Indoor Grow Guide at the link below!
If You Know, You Grow
Let it be known – buying cannabis on the black market is a pain in the arse. Even if you have a reliable plug, you may feel like a bit of a schmuck after having spent all your big bucks on a plant. The privileged and wise ones among us set about growing their own cannabis. Let’s be honest – this is the ideal. If you home grow, you never have to deal with ‘dealers’ again.
So, You Want To Start Growing Indoors…
First thing’s first: regardless of how you proceed, you will need some growing lights. Light is a basic precondition for plant growth; making artificial lighting a mandatory purchase for cultivation in low-light, indoor environments.
Only you can decide which grow lights will be right for your operation. There are a few factors to remain aware of, in doing so:
- Power Bills will pinch with those lights on, everyday – and some lights are much more energy efficient than others. Aussie electricity is some of the most expensive in the developed world.
- It gets hot as balls in Australia. Our hot and humid summers can place massive stress on plants growing static, indoor environs – especially when paired with a lack of ventilation. Here, the heat efficiency of your lights will be an important factor.
A lot of old school people swear by HPS, or ‘High-Pressure Sodium‘ lights, for flowering. They are well-known to produce the best yields… but they come with a few costly negatives… because they get flipping hot!!!
HPS lights require a duct to filter away all their heat, and pose a pretty large fire risk. It’s much easier to manage a garden when heat isn’t as much of an issue.
Light Emitting Diodes are incredibly versatile, and have made a massive splash on the growing scene. With a wide range of wattage/s, at various levels of the colour spectrum, with many different price points; you’re more than likely to find an LED setup out there that’s right for you.
We’ve fallen in love with HLG lights. Particularly the HLG 260W Quantum Board. They’re not cheap… but boy oh boy, are they efficient.
The HLG 260W Quantum Board is special. It uses a flat heatsink to do all of its cooling. It uses no fans, and stays very cool. With only 260 watts of power, the manufacturers also claim that these lights are equivalent to HPS emitting at 550-600w.
HLG vs HPS
Do I think this is true?
Probably not quite; at least in my limited experience, thus far. They’re probably closer to 450-500w lights.
How do I figure that? Well, I’ve taken a look at many grows that use HPS lights, observing their yield sizes. Generally, their goal is at least a gram of cannabis per 1 watt, if not a lot more. Beginners may get closer to 0.5 – 0.8g per watt with HPS lights.
The heat efficiency of the HLG lights allow your plants to grow a little closer to your LEDs, in comparison to traditional HPS lights. My setup with HLG 260W yielded 10 ounces (280g) for me. They flowered for 8 weeks in a pretty small tent. With a bit more room, they could have easily produced much more. That works out to over a gram per watt! The next time, with a bit more training, I produced 14 ounces (392g) – pretty incredible for only 260 watts of energy!
There are alternatives, though. Let’s break it all down into some of the popular light options:
Metal Halide (MH) Grow Lights
Metal Halide lights are typically used during the vegetative stage of your cannabis grow. They produce a light-blueish colour, which plants prefer in their earlier stages.
You can use a MH light for the duration of your entire grow… but it’s not an ideal situation. MH Lights don’t produce dense, big buds in the flowering stage like HPS lights…
The OG: High Pressure Sodium (HPS) Lights
HPS Grow Lights are a the stock-standard for when your plants are in the flowering stage.
These popular lights produce a yellow tinge, which enhances bud production and produces professional yields! These are honestly some of the most energy-efficient lights available today… but, as we’ve covered earlier, they aren’t very heat efficient. HPS Lights need an exhaust to run through their reflective hood, in order to stay cool.
You can pick up a 600w HPS light with a hood and ballast (which powers the light) for only $140 on eBay!
The lights need to be kept a fair distance away from your plants. Ensure your grow tent is at least 1.5m tall. HPS Bulbs also die over time. Expect to replace the bulbs every year or so.
Other LED Lights
Overall, FAB recommends LED Grow Lights – especially for the newbies, out there. Your yields may end up being slightly smaller than with a HPS light… but this is a very reasonable tradeoff, once you consider the heat and energy efficiency of these beauties.
LED Lights will also last a LOT longer than HPS lights. We strongly recommend investing in some high quality LED lights – think of them as a long term investment.
Commonly recommended LED lights include the “blurple” (blue and red lights). These are usually quite cheap. Viparspectra is a renowned brand. They range from 300 watts to 1200 watts.
There are also the Meizhi lights, which cost around $400 on eBay for 700 watts. This looks great on paper, but is not anything near equivalent to a 600W HPS light. The actual power draw of this thing is only 269 watts. They’re a little deceptive.
They also run fairly hot – but have fans inbuilt, to help with cooling.
We do not recommend the ‘blurple’ lights. They claim one thing in their marketing and provide another.
But alas; not all is lost for LED’s!
Once again: we STRONGLY recommend the Horticulture Lighting Group (HLG) LED lights.
These lights use a Samsung Quantum LED board, which allows for the use of highly efficient LED lights that actually provide the wattage they state on the label.
You can use the code “hlg55075” for a $75 discount on the HLG 550W light!
You can also use the code “hlg26015” for a $15 discount on the HLG 260W light!
Viparspectra: How Does It Perform Against HLG?
Take a look at the YouTube video, below. It compares the HLG 65 to the Viparspectra 300. You’ll see that the results are the same.
The Viparspectra uses around 136 watts of power. It only receives slightly better results than the HLG 65W light.
The Major Benefit of HLG Lights
You might be thinking: HOLY CRAP, THAT’S EXPENSIVE… and you would be correct… but, just for a second, put that to the side. Let FAB explain to you why it actually makes heaps of sense to consider these lights.
These lights use the exact amount of power that they say they do. They’re also bloody strong and powerful grow lights. Why is this important? Well – your electricity bill, of course!
We have created a tool to calculate your electricity usage for when you grow in Australia – check it out at the end of this article.
It’s important to know that if you can replace a 600w HPS light with a 320W LED light, you would be saving a lot of money on your electricity bill. After just a few grows, these lights manage to pay themselves off!
They won’t get anywhere near as hot as Blurple LED’s and HPS lights. The lights are also dimmable; if they were too strong or hot, you can lower their power draw. Additionally, since they only have a heatsink, they take up less space in your grow tent.
Where to Purchase
You can purchase these lights directly from HLG in the US. They DHL courier to Australia within a week. You can also talk to Quick Bloom Lights; Australia’s distributor for HLG lights.
It’s worth having a look at the conversion costs between the two sites. It may work out cheaper to buy them from the United States. However; know that you’ll have to adapt the power cable (which is a little bit of rewiring).
Quick Bloom Lights are good to chat to. They even consider dropping the price if you have a conversation with them. They’re a good group of folks!
When you pick your light, you’ll have two options when it comes to what spectrum you want them to run at – 3000k or 4000k.
4000k is ideal for vegetation, and 3000k for flowering. If you only want to purchase one light (which is the smarter option) just grab a 3000k. You’ll be sweet.
Choosing A Size For Your Lights
The appropriate size of your lights depends entirely on the size of your grow tent.
If you are growing in a 90cm x 90cm tent, you should look to grab a 400W HPS light, or maybe a 700W-900W Burple LED light. You could also grab a 300-320W HLG light.
If you are growing in a tent of approx. 1.2m x 1.2m, you could grab yourself a 600W HPS light and at least a 900W burple LED light. A 550W HLG light will blow you away with its sizeable yields!
You can check specifications for recommended growing footprints on the respective light manufacturers’ websites. Look for what they recommend during the flowering stage, not the vegetative stage.
If you have an odd shaped tent, or are just unsure, feel free to leave a comment or send a message through our contact form or Facebook. We’ll try to help you out.
“How Long Should I Have The Lights On For?”
That entirely depends on what stage your plant is at – along with unique plant genetics.
For photoperiod (i.e: normal) cannabis plants, you want to provide them 18 hours of light when they start growing. This is known as the vegetative phase; it is meant to simulate the plants. This stage is a simulation of the sun being out in Spring and Summer; the longest periods of light in the year.
Then you have the flowering phase. This is when your plant starts to produce buds. It also begins moving closer towards its impending death. During this period, you want to provide 12 hours of light to your specimens, which simulates Autumn going into Winter. With shorter days, the plant will begin to reproduce such that it may survive again for the next season.
For Sativas, you will want to flip them into flowering rather quickly. Make sure you have a tall tent for the old mother! Flip your plants when they’re about 1/3 of the height of their final form. Sativas grow 100-150% taller in their flowering phase, taking between 2 and 3 weeks.
If they are Indicas, you can let them get 30-50% taller before flipping.
With regards to Hybrid strains… you will need to look up their makeup, as well as research how large they grow. If you have auto-flowering plants, they can receive any amount of light you give them. They will flower regardless around the three-week mark. We suggest giving your auto-flowers 20 hours of light per day.
Remember to never let your plants get closer than 30cm to your grow light!
Timers: Ensuring Your Lights Run When You Need Them To
Thankfully… you don’t have to manually turn your lights on and off every 12/18 hours!
You will just need an electrical switch timer! These are pretty cheap, running at about $15 on eBay.
These little buggers work incredibly well for turning on appliances when they need to be turned on. It’s a simple technology that works; just push down the little tabs for the hours you want your light to be on, and the light will be activated within that range. This is a must buy item for all growers. It will make your life a lot easier – trust me.
Calculating Your Electricity Costs
We have created an easy to use calculator for you to calculate the expected electricity cost of your lights… this does not include other things in your tent, such as the exhaust fan. You can change the “power consumption” to get an idea of your own grow.
Take a look at the difference in cost between the HLG 260W and a Viparspectra 900W – about equivalent results. The price difference is around $29 per grow! So around $100 a year! Think long term when deciding on your lights!
That just about sums up what you need to know about lighting for your cannabis grow.