Do you know that plants perform photosynthesis to grow? To do photosynthesis plants need three ingredients: Light, Water, and Carbon dioxide (CO2). During this process, plants combine the molecules of CO2 and water to make sugars that are vital for their growth while releasing oxygen into the air. Without photosynthesis plants, won’t grow and will eventually die. I hope now you understand the importance of light and the role it plays in growing your plants. In this article, we will tell you how you can choose grow lights for indoor greenhouse.
If you are growing in an outdoor greenhouse (i.e your backyard greenhouse) you don’t have to worry about grow lights for your greenhouse plants. However, if you are growing inside your indoor greenhouse then the selection of grow light is one of the most important and essential task.
When you are choosing a grow light for your indoor greenhouse you will have to consider the following points:
- Plants Type: The type of plants that you want to grow in your indoor greenhouse will determine the spectrum (colors) and intensity of grow light that you will choose. For example, if you want to grow leafy greens inside your indoor greenhouse you can just go with blue (single wavelength) grow lights. But, if you want to grow indoor greenhouse veggies like peppers and tomatoes then blue colored light is not a good choice. (We will explain it in detail later but for now, keep this in mind that the type of plants you want to grow in your indoor greenhouse will affect the choice of the grow light )
- Availability of the Sunlight: The amount of sunlight that reaches your indoor greenhouse will also affect the type of grow light you wanna choose. For example, consider if your indoor greenhouse is situated near a large window towards the south and it gets 3-4 hours of direct sunlight then you can just supplement sunlight with only 4 hours of artificial lighting and the cheap led grow light alternatives like fluorescent will also work fine in this case. Again, we will discuss it in detail.
- Your Budget: The selection of grow lights greatly depends on your budget because the best grow lights are expensive at the same time they might not be the optimal choice for you.
Do I need a Grow Lights for my indoor Greenhouse?
Of course, you do! Following are the reasons why you need grow lights for you indoor greenhouse.
Your indoor Greenhouse Plants Need Light
The majority of people think that grow light just helps a fraction when growing plants indoors. But that’s not true, you really need an artificial light source for your indoor greenhouse because plants in such greenhouses are generally too short of natural sunlight. Furthermore, selecting a grow light is not too much, you just have to choose a good grow light once, and then you are all done for the upcoming months and years of growing.
Your indoor Greenhouse Doesn’t have access to Sunlight
An artificial grow light enables you to grow veggies and plants inside your indoor greenhouse in various situations and it makes you completely independent of the sunlight.
Consider, you want to grow veggies inside your office room but it doesn’t have any window, so it has no access to sunlight. Now, you can only grow veggies inside your office greenhouse by using grow lights.
Due to the amazing technology of Grow Lights, the majority of the gardening enthusiasts have converted their basements into an underground vegetable garden all because of the power of artificial lighting. You can also convert your basement into an underground greenhouse where you can grow fresh veggies for your family.
If you have Grow Lights you don’t have to worry about the sun you just need access to the power socket.
Grow Lights Beats Seasonal Constraints:
It is not an easy task to grow outdoors, many of the environmental factors will fight against you. Outdoors, the temperature is variable, and huge temp variations can happen from one month to another month.
The growing seasons are also very short outdoors, especially in colder regions and the duration of the sunlight also varies greatly from season to season.
You see! you have to consider a lot of things when you are planning to grow outdoors.
What if you are growing in your indoor greenhouse? You don’t need to worry about any of the above-mentioned factors. You can grow your favorite veggies and plants throughout the year without worrying. Sweet 🙂
Grow Lights Provides you more control:
Depending on the type of plants in your indoor greenhouse you can adjust the intensity of the grow lights. Therefore, based on the light required by the plants you can adjust it accordingly. Cool Na!
If your grow light doesn’t have an intensity control knob then you can move the grow light closer or even farther away from your indoor greenhouse plants to increase or decrease light intensity. Grow lights do their best to mimic the sunlight, however, you have to keep a regular check if the grow lights are providing sufficient light to your indoor greenhouse plants.
Grow light provides you better controls of light intensity and heat and will be a perfect choice for your indoor greenhouse if you want to have full control of the temperature and light intensity.
Are there any drawbacks of Grow Lights ?
I have been praising Grow lights technology as discussed above but now the question is “are there any downsides of grow lights?”. Actually, there are a few disadvantages of using grow lights lets discuss them in detail.
Grow Lights are Expensive
Unlike incandescent bulbs modern grow lights are expensive and you will have to spend money to buy a good efficient grow light for growing plants and veggies in your indoor greenhouse.
Grow Lights Consume Power
Unlike sunlight grow lights have high running costs. On average a grow lights have a power rating between 500-2000 watts and will be consuming a lot of energy when it runs 12-15 hours per day.
You should also calculate if you can afford to pay for the electrical bills for running grow lights for your indoor greenhouse. Don’t get too worried now, in this article I will share ways by which you can decrease this cost.
How to Decrease Running Cost of Grow Lights
If you want to decrease the cost of running grow lights for your indoor greenhouse, you can follow the following ideas.
Provide Your Indoor Greenhouse with Maximum Sunlight
This is the best thing that you can do to save money on your electrical bills. You should place your indoor greenhouse in a luminous room near a window (especially towards the south) where it gets around 3-4 hours of direct sunlight.
You can then supplement your indoor greenhouse with 6-8 hours of artificial lighting. This will save you around 30-50% on your electrical bills.
Of course, natural sunlight is best for your indoor plants and nothing can replace sunlight. Actually, sunlight contains the entire light spectrum (All light wavelengths (colors) are included) making it easier for your plants to absorbs the wavelengths they require for their best growth.
However, during the cloudy or rainy days sunlight would not be available for your indoor greenhouse plants. So, you will have to run artificial grow lights the entire day for the best growth of your indoor greenhouse plants and veggies.
Power your grow lights using solar panels
This idea may sound dumb and most of you might consider me stupid for suggesting it. but think about it for a second.
If you are in an area where the cost of running grow lights is too much and the monthly electrical bills are comparable to the price of a single solar panel. Then why not spend some money and buy a couple of solar panels and operate your indoor greenhouse grow lights on the electricity generated by these solar panels.
However, if the cost of running an indoor greenhouse grow light is just a couple of bucks for your case, then there is no need to spend money on buying solar panels.
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So far we have discussed about grow light, Now lets discuss what indoor greenhouse actually are?
What is an indoor Greenhouse ?
I am sure you know what a greenhouse is? In simple words, a greenhouse in an enclosed environment warped around by a glazing material ( plastic, polycarbonate, or glass), used for growing plants.
But this is a general definition of a greenhouse. A greenhouse can be a glass windowpane building, A small enclosed transparent plastic box, a room with rows of grow lights above the plants. You might have got the idea, greenhouses can vary greatly in their looks.
Now you know what a greenhouse is, But do you know what an indoor greenhouse is.
Your Apartment/Home Windows are not indoor Greenhouse
The majority of gardeners consider windows as an indoor greenhouse. Even if your window is on the south (Means you will have sunlight entering through the window for a long period of time) sun-loving plants like veggies and herbs won’t grow well.
They will become leggy and will bend towards the window trying to reach for the sun. On the other hand, windows are prone to temperature fluctuations caused by the winds resulting in weaker plants and poor plant growth.
So, I will say again! The windows of your home cannot be considered as an indoor greenhouse.
Then what an indoor greenhouse actually is?
An indoor greenhouse is an enclosed structure, that is confined and isolated from the external environment and has abundant access to light which is either from artificial means or a combination of both artificial and natural lighting.
How Small or Big an indoor Greenhouse Can be?
An indoor greenhouse comes in many sizes and they can cost from nothing up to a lot.
An indoor greenhouse can even be a coke bottle
You can easily start herbs in small DIY greenhouse planters indoor by cutting a 2-liter coke bottle in half and placing the top part of the bottle on your herbs pots. This will make a small confined environment (a greenhouse) with high humidity and will greatly help in seed germination. After the seeds have germinated you can remove the bottle cap to allow fresh air to enter.
This was just an example to give you an idea of how simple a greenhouse can be. There are a lot of seed trays with a transparent dome (see on Amazon) that are being sold in the market for starting seedlings and they actually are tiny indoor greenhouses.
An indoor greenhouse can be your entire basement
You can even turn your basement or an entire room into an indoor greenhouse. You can stack up a series of growing shelve with grow lights and run an indoor growing project on a large scale. Definitely, you can call this room as your indoor greenhouse. I really love this idea, but it’s an expensive operation to run.
An indoor greenhouse can be a cool looking enclosed plant shelve
See this picture below, this is a cold frame greenhouse shelve, it looks cool Na. You can turn this cold frame plant shelf into an indoor greenhouse by placing it inside your house and installing grow lights in it.
Such a cool looking indoor greenhouses will not only help you with your indoor growing project but also it will increase the beauty of your home, apartment, or office. It’s is a cool option to consider.
I hope you got an idea of the size of an indoor greenhouse. Now, let’s dive a bit deeper into the topic.
Best Indoor Greenhouses that I should Buy?
If you are willing to spend money on buying a commercial greenhouse for starting your indoor growing project then let me help you.
Table Top Indoor Greenhouses:
The following cold frame greenhouses would work great if you want to have a small table top indoor greenhouse.
This is a really great looking greenhouse with a foldable top and will work great for growing plants indoors. I would love to place this greenhouse on the table near the window. (see its current Price)
IKEA Socker Greenhouse:
This cute looking small greenhouse will look great when placed on a table inside your home/apartment. You can mount a grow light on to the top of this greenhouse and start a mini indoor greenhouse growing operation or you can even place it near a window. (see its current Price)
Indoor Shelf Greenhouses:
Shelf greenhouses are my favorite because of the less space they occupy and the overall neat look these greenhouses have. They can easily be added to a room without affecting the looks, I will say it will even enhance the looks of your apartment, home, or office. Furthermore, you can have a large indoor growing experience because of the multiple shelves these greenhouses have.
I will recommend the following cold frame shelves in this category.
This cool looking greenhouse has 3 shelves making it a great choice for an indoor growing project. I really like the way this greenhouse looks and with a small amendment (installing grow lights) this cold frame greenhouse can be turned into a perfect indoor greenhouse for growing leafy greens, herbs, or even for starting seedlings. (see its current Price)
This shelf greenhouse also has 3 shelves just like the one I mentioned above. It has neat looks and will enhance the beauty of the room where it is placed. By installing grow lights for each shelf you can convert this cold frame into an amazing indoor greenhouse for growing plants. (See its current Price)
The indoor greenhouses that I have mentioned above are actually cold frame greenhouses that can be modified (installation of grow lights) to run a successful indoor growing operation. You should follow my advice if you want a neat looking greenhouse in your living room or office.
But if you are planning to install an indoor greenhouse at a corner of your basement where it’s dark and you are not concerned with the looks but you want to have a good growing experience then I will never recommend you buying these greenhouses that I have mentioned above. I will strongly recommend growing in grow tents.
Grow tents are great for running an indoor growing operation and you can grow any vegetables, fruits, or herbs you want using these tents. They have a reflective inner surface maximizing the availability of light to each and every part of the plant. Here are some of the grow tents that are worth buying.
VIVOSUN Grow Tent:
The 98% reflective inner surface of this grow tent stops the light from escaping and boosts the growing efficiency. However, you will have to add shelves if you want to grow vertically. (see its current price)
OPULENT SYSTEMS Grow Tent:
If you have a large area in your basement for growing indoors then I will suggest buying this huge grow tent. You can install metallic racks in this grow tent and grow loads of herbs and veggies for your family. (see its current price)
How to make a DIY Indoor Greenhouse?
Commercially available indoor greenhouses are costly and they can cost a few hundred bucks. However, if you cannot afford it you can also make a DIY greenhouse for growing plants indoor.
I really love the indoor greenhouse with shelves because it takes very small space and you have multiple vertical shelves for growing many plants. If you have a wooden shelf in your store you can take it out, wrap plastic around it to make an enclosed space, install a grow light for each level, and start growing your favorite herbs and veggies in it.
If you don’t have a wooden shelf you can just build one, it’s very easy to build and I am sure you will love the experience. Think of a DIY greenhouse as the beginning of your adventure with your plants.
Indoors Greenhouses FAQ’s:
Can Indoor Greenhouse work for Me?
Indoor greenhouses are great for people who are living in one-bedroom apartments or an apartment with multiple rooms. Even if you have home with a large backyard you can still grow indoor as a refreshing hobby. Indoor greenhouses will work in any living situation.
Where should I place my indoor greenhouse?
You should keep your greenhouse at a place where they get minimal encounters with pets and children. If you are planning to use the available sunlight then make sure your greenhouse is close to the window so it can get maximum sunlight.
Are indoor greenhouses good for learning?
Definitely, an indoor greenhouse is great for a family looking for learning more about gardening and it can be a refreshing hobby. Especially for children, it can be a great learning opportunity and they will experience love for their plants while they keep watch and take care of the plants.
Why should I choose indoor greenhouse over outdoor greenhouse?
If you have plenty of space in your backyard, then you can just build yourself a backyard greenhouse. You can also see this article “How to build a DIY greenhouse” for more details on building a DIY greenhouse.
if you are living in an apartment and you don’t have any backyard or you want to grow inside your office or your home then an indoor greenhouse is the only choice. Even if you have a huge backyard an indoor greenhouse is more fun and an awesome experience. Definitely, give it a try.
Now Lets discuss indoor greenhouse lighting.
Grow Lights for Indoor Greenhouse
After you have selected your indoor greenhouse the next step is to choose Grow Lights for your indoor greenhouse. This is one of the most important decisions in growing indoors so it must the taken seriously.
The choice of a grow light mostly depends on your budget, the growing goal you have in mind, and your indoor greenhouse setup. The following are the grow light options that you should consider.
Incandescent Grow Lights:
You might have seen or heard about incandescent bulbs, these bulbs have tungsten filament in a vacuum wrapped by the glass and it glows when current is passed through the bulb.
Because the filament actually acts as a resistance to the flow of electrons and it dissipates a large amount of heat. In simple words, it means, if you are using incandescent grow lights then you are wasting a large amount of energy in the form of heat.
This is the reason why incandescent grow lights turn red hot when power is supplied to it and these bulbs need time to cool down when turned OFF.
Are Incandescent Grow Lights inexpensive?
Yes, incandescent grow lights are very cheap and you can buy them for 2-3 $ only. But, an incandescent bulb will last only for 1000 hours (It will last 2 months if you run incandescent grow lights 16 hours a day). Therefore, you have to replace it quite often which is a huge headache with these lights.
Are Incandescent Grow Lights Cost Efficient?
No, you won’t save any money if you use incandescent grow lights. You will be replacing them every 2 months, so you will be buying these grow lights 6 times in one year. Furthermore, as they have low efficiency, so you will be buying more incandescent grow lights for growing your plants and you will be wasting a lot of energy in the form of heat. Additionally, you will have to pay high electrical bills. therefore, you will be losing money if you choose these grow lights.
Should I go for Incandescent Grow Lights?
Never, you should never waste your money and time on buying incandescent light bulbs there are other great options to consider.
One thing I really like about incandescent light bulbs is the quality of light. The quality of light is comparable to that of natural sunlight (just like sunlight the light from incandescent bulbs includes the entire visible spectrum) and it is good for plants.
High Intensity Discharge (HID) Grow Lights:
HID grow lights are another option that you can consider for your indoor greenhouse. However, you cannot install these lights in any big or small greenhouse. There are a few constraints.
HID grow lights contain two electrodes encapsulated in quartz crystal filled with noble gases and metal salts. When this bulb is turned ON the electricity arcs between two electrodes inside the bulb to produce light.
Are HID Grow Lights expensive?
Yes, they are expensive when compared to incandescent light bulbs, and also they will last for only 2,000 hours. Which is too less compared to the money you will spend on these lights.
Are HID Grow Lights Cost Efficient?
Yes, they are efficient if compared to incandescent light bulbs and they produce high intense light. However, they also produce a large amount of heat. If we compare this grow light with other lighting technologies, they cannot be considered to be efficient.
Are there any drawbacks of HID Grow light?
Yes, let me explain. No doubt HID grow lights produce very luminous light but it doesn’t mean that it is good for your plants. Especially if you are using HPS (High-Pressure Sodium, a type of HID) you will notice that the light is very bright. This is because it contains a large proportion of green light and humans see green light 10 times better than blue or red light (see the graph). And plants require very minimal green light compared to red and blue light. So, Yes, most of this green light is wasted.
Additionally, HID gets very hot and you can only use it in large indoor greenhouse.
Should I go for HID Grow Lights?
personally, I am not a big fan of installing HID grow lights in my indoor greenhouse because of the reasons I have mentioned above. But for plants with medium and low light requirements, this can be a great option.
Fluorescent Grow Lights:
You might have seen these lights with long white tubes that glows when current is passed through it. These are actually fluorescent light bulbs.
The long white tube is filled with gasses and low pressure and these gasses ionize when current is passed through it. During this process of ionization, they emit ultraviolet (UV) light which is then converted into visible light by the white phosphorous coating on the inner side of the tube.
Are Fluorescent Grow Lights Expensive?
Yes, compared to incandescent grow lights fluorescent grow lights are more expensive but they last long. Normally, Florescent grow light may last 20000 hours which is more than 2 years of indoor growing experience.
Are Fluorescent Grow Lights Efficient?
Yes, compared to incandescent and HID light bulbs fluorescent grow lights are very cost-efficient because of the low losses these lights have. You will be paying less money at the end of each month if you are running fluorescent grow lights in your indoor greenhouse.
Do you know about the different colors of lights that plants needs?
There are two most dominant light colors that plants need, the first one is blue and the second is red color.
Most of the leafy greens, green shrubs, herbs need blue colored light in abundance. This is the reason why people grow seedlings under blue lights because they are all green.
Whereas, Vegetables and Plants that produces flowers and fruits requires both red light and blue light.
The statements that I have given above doesn’t mean that plants disregard the other colors of light. they actually absorb light of all colors but some colors are taken up by the plants in abundance and others in trace amount. Therefore, if you provide your leafy plants with blue color and your fruiting and flowering plants with blue and red both then they will grow just fine.
Are there any drawbacks of Florescent Grow light?
Yes, Most of the fluorescent grow lights emit light of a very narrow spectrum. In simple words, it means that florescent lights emit lights of only one color (either blue or red). So, the quality of light that your plants get is poor compared to the incandescent and HID light bulb.
Furthermore, a blue-colored fluorescent light blub will work fine for growing leafy greens, herbs, and seedlings. However, if you want to grow flowering plants and vegetables you will have to buy both red-colored fluorescent light and blue colored fluorescent light.
Additionally, the intensity of Florescent grow lights cannot be changed (you cannot dim or increase the intensity of florescent grow lights) and they have harder time lighting in cold temperatures.
Should I go for Florescent Grow Lights?
Around 10 years ago Florescent grow lights were my favourite for growing plants in my indoor greenhouse, but due to the amazing advancement in led grow lights technology, LEDs have taken the first place now.
I will say if you cannot afford led grow lights, go for it, and install T5 fluorescent grow lights in your indoor greenhouse.
T5 Florescent Grow Lights:
T5 fluorescent Grow Lights are more efficient (emit very little heat) and more cost-effective. They produce more light as compared to normal fluorescent grow lights. Because of the reason that these light don’t get hot, you can install these grow lights very close to the plants and it is very effective for light hungry plants.
The prices of T5 florescent grow lights differs depending on the amount of light these grow lights produce. Furthermore, you should note that you cannot install T5 grow light in any fixture. You will have to buy a high output fixture that is designed specifically for these grow lights.
If you want to grow flowering plants and veggies under the florescent then I will suggest using 2 blue-colored fluorescent tubes with one red-colored tube in the middle (make the ratio 2 by 1 ). Because the requirement for the blue light is much greater than the red light.
LED Grow Lights:
LED grow lights are becoming more and more popular these days because they save you a lot of money and give a lot of light. These are my favorite grow lights, not only just mine but they are the favorite of many other greenhouse gardeners like me.
Are LED Grow Lights expensive?
Yes LED Grow Lights are the most expensive compared to all of the other grow lights technology. But with time the prices of LED grow lights are going down and also the quality of light from LEG Grow Lights is improving day by day.
Furthermore, the Life span of LED Grow lights is 11 years and most of the other technologies of Grow Lights need replacement within 2 years. If you can consider these numbers LED Lights will turn out to be much cheaper.
Are LED Grow Lights Cost Efficient?
LED Grow lights are the most efficient grow lights that you can find right now. These lights have highly efficient and have minimal wastage in the form of heat. Therefore, you will be saving a lot of energy and money if you stick with LED Grow lights.
What is the best thing about LED Grow lights?
The best thing about LED Grow Lights is that they are designed to emit the required colors of light (Especially the modern full spectrum LED grow Lights). This is a huge plus because now we are providing the exact wavelengths (colors) that the plants need. This makes an indoor greenhouse growing operation even more exact and efficient.
You might have noticed that plants under LED Grow lights look dark, this is because these grow lights emits a very small amount of green light (as required by the plants) so there is no extra green light for the plants to reflect back and to appear green.
Another thing that I like about Led grow lights is the control that these lights provide. You can easily change the intensity of led Grow lights by just turning a knob.
Check the spectrum of light emitted by different light sources on slide 20 from CS184 Course, Berkeley University.
Which grow light do I need for my Indoor Greenhouse?
Now, You might be wondering which type of grow light should you choose for your indoor greenhouse plants. Let’s discuss different indoor greenhouse situations and see where you fit.
Low Light Indoor Plants:
Plants like Pothos, Ivy, ZZ plant, aidenhair Fern, taghorn Fern, Snake Plant etc, are low light plants and they can be easily grown in your indoor greenhouse.
I personally use low wattage (around 100-200) led grow lights for these types of plants because I save a lot of energy and it will cost me less. Also LED grow light does not heat my indoor greenhouse.
Some people recommend incandescent bulbs for such a scenario and they work OK, but why waste a lot of energy when you have a more efficient option.
Wide Area with Medium Light Plants :
If you have a large indoor greenhouse with plants that are fine with moderate light and your greenhouse plants span over a large area then you can use High-Intensity discharge grow lights.
The light from the HID lamp will span a larger area and will cover your indoor greenhouse plants. Make sure to install this grow light at a considerable height from the plants because this light tends to get hot.
Leafy Green Vegetables:
If you are planning to grow Kale, Microgreens, Collard Greens, Spinach, Romaine Lettuce, Swiss Chard, etc, in your indoor greenhouse then I will recommend growing it under fluorescent lights or under LED grow lights.
If you have an existing idle fluorescent light fixture setup then just use it, add only blue colored grow light tube, and start growing.
But, if you want to buy a new grow light for starting your leafy greens indoors then I will strongly recommend you buying full spectrum LED grow lights because you can use the same grow light for growing veggies and fruits if you change your mind later. You will not be required to spend more money on buying new grow lights.
Light Demanding Vegetables and Flowers:
If you want to grow light hungry vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, then you should definitely go with full spectrum led grow lights.
To wind up this article, I will say I am not an expert, I am just a learner, I learn from reading and experimenting with different options. I have shared what I have learned over the years. Greenhouse grows lights is one the most fascinating and at the same time confusing topic. I will advise you the same, Learn, and experiment with different things.
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