There are many differnet choices when it comes to artificial sunlight for your indoor Hydroponic Garden. I am currently using two standard fluorescent light bulbs that can bought at any store that sells lights. Fluorescent lights are ideal for IHG's as they are extremely energy efficient, generate a lot of light for their size, and do not generate a lot of heat - taking out the possibility of burning your plants. Of course, if you are going to be a serious gardener and grow multiple plants it is a good idea to invest in some specialized grow lights that will generate large amounts of lumens (the measure by which lights are described as far as artificial sunlight is concerned). The more lumens per square foot of garden, the better! It's just like air in you DWC system, you can never have too much. In this post i will present the best kind of light for your money, making your Hydroponic Garden as cost and energy efficient as it can be.
An important way to contain light is to place the gardening system inside a relatively small, enclosed space (like a large closet or specially designer "grow room"). The walls of the "grow room" should be painted matte white, or, preferably lined with reflective materials such as mirrors - aluminum foil is one method that people use, yet it is not a very ideal since it is more of a temporary fix.
Another important factor to consider is the spectrum of the lights which you are buying. As plants naturally grow outdoors where the sunlight changes in many ways (from the length of the day to the spectrum of light emitted), it is necessary to consider theses factors as you purchase lights. For my small indoor garden (consisting of two 5 Gallon DWC systems), i have recently purchased three 8U fluorescent lights - two in the "red" spectrum (2700K) and on in the "blue spectrum" (6500K). It is important to use more light from the blue spectrum during the vegetative phase than it is to use light from the red spectrum. During flowering, both spectrums of light can be used, although more light from the red spectrum will yield better produce for all species of plants.
8U Fluorescent Lights - The Best Option for Energy Efficiency and Growth
After many weeks of research, i have come to the conclusion that high intensity 8U Fluorescent lights are the best option for plant development. They are not too expensive (around $50 per light) and are sold as "self ballasting" lights (meaning that it is not necessary to purchase a separate ballast to run the light). Each bulb produces an incredible 19,500 lumens and does not generate a lot of heat in the process - meaning that you can place the lights as close to the plants as you'd like without having to worry about burning the produce. Placing lights close to plants will encourage extremely fast growth - as much as 3-4" a day in some cases! Posted at left is a picture of these bulbs. Each bulb runs at 250w of energy, saving you a lot of money on your energy bill compared to other forms of artificial lighting.
In conclusion, the 8U Fluorescent lights are definitely the best option for a small, home gardening system. If you are gardening as a hobby or just for the taste of home-grown vegetables, the 8U lights will serve the purpose and not break the bank in the process! Check back for more information on Hydroponic Gardening for the hobbyist and for updates on pictures of my crops.