Compact Fluorescent Grow Lights

Compact Fluorescent Grow Lights - CFL

Everything You Need to Know About Compact Fluorescent Grow Lights


If you’ve been looking to purchase fluorescent grow lights for your hydroponic system, it’s highly likely you’ve come across compact fluorescent grow lights. They are often abbreviated as CFL, which stands for compact fluorescent lamp. If you’re wondering what compact fluorescent grow lights are, what benefits and drawbacks they have over T5 fluorescent grow lights, and whether they are a good fit for your system, all these questions will be covered below.


Fluorescent lights are typically used for starting seeds and growing lettuce, salad greens, and flowers. Fluorescent grow lights have a few benefits over high-intensity discharge (HID) grow lights, such as metal halide (MH) and high-pressure sodium (HPS) grow lights. They produce much less heat than HID grow lights, and they are also considerably more energy efficient.


They are two types of fluorescent grow lights: compact fluorescent grow lights (CFL) and T5 fluorescent grow lights. Both of them have their own benefits and drawbacks, which will be discussed below.


Compact fluorescent grow lights look like energy-efficient bulbs you would use at home, and they use a typical bulb socket. They come in a variety of colours and different wattages. Many people think that compact fluorescent grow lights are pretty weak, but some CFL bulbs have wattage rivaling that of a small HID grow light. 


The main benefit of compact fluorescent grow lights is that CFL bulbs are easy to find. You can buy CFL bulbs even in some grocery stores. Due to their compact shape and size, you can place them in interesting ways and deliver light to parts of plants that would typically be shaded. You can use a lighting fixture, or you can provide individual sockets for bulbs and arrange them in a way you see fit. I would recommend using reflectors because otherwise a lot of light would be pointed away from plants. Compact fluorescent grow lights can fit in small spaces, so if your growing area is not that large, compact fluorescent grow lights might be a great choice for you. And while compact fluorescent grow lights don’t produce as much light as HID grow lights, they produce very little heat, so you can place them closer to plants and won’t have to worry about cooling your growing area.


T5 fluorescent grow lights look like tubes. T5 comes from two attributes of these bulbs: they are tubular (T) and they have a 5/8” diameter (5), hence the designation T5. T5 fluorescent grow lights usually come in an array of bulbs that are arranged parallel to each other in lighting fixtures containing multiple bulbs. Since T5 fluorescent grow lights require having a fixture to place the bulbs in, they will need to be hung in a similar fashion to MH or HPS grow lights. However, they produce very little heat and can be kept only a few inches away from your plants without causing harm.


Compact Fluorescent Grow Lights - T5


T5 fluorescent grow lights run very cool and are very energy efficient, just like CFLs, so you can keep them close to your plants and won’t have to worry about exhausting heat from your growing area. T5 fixtures can be rather bulky, so if you have a small growing area, it might be difficult to fit T5 fluorescent grow lights into it, and compact fluorescent grow lights would be a better choice.


I’ve used both CFL and T5 fluorescent grow lights, and it all really comes down to the size of your growing area and the space you have available. If you have a small growing area, you should consider getting CFL grow lights because they are really compact and can easily fit in small spaces. But if you have a larger growing area, T5 fluorescent grow lights would probably be a better choice for you. T5 bulbs come in 2 foot and 4 foot lengths, and T5 grow light fixtures come in a variety of different sizes, from small fixtures with 2 bulbs to massive fixtures with 16 bulbs, which makes it quite easy to choose grow lights that fit your growing area.


For more great content check out the Proponics YouTube channel below!


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By Max Barnes

Max Barnes is a long-time homesteader and author. Max grows the majority of his own food year-round using a variety of different methods, including hydroponics. Hydroponic gardening plays a huge part in his homestead and self-sufficiency goals.

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