Grow lights for general living space
September 27, 2020 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for nice (color value, design, lack of buzzing sound) grow lights for general living space?

I have shop lights with 4 T9s of 2 each K3500 and K6000 bulbs and two existing set-ups with this and this.

The CFL reflector set up emits a terrible buzz, so I can run it at night or in a room I am not in. The T9 set up is in my office and where I do seed starts and overwintering of herbs; bonsai experiments; or propagation. Plants flower and grow beneath including rosemary, pepper starts, basil eggplant starts...etc. So the color values are good, but it is not something I want in my living room.

I need grow lights of both blue and red color values for different purposes:
-Floor lamps for lemons (both)
-Table top kind of lamp (either flowering or vegetative)
-Maybe a stand or something for orchids (flowering). Four phals, two oncidiums.

If you are interested the color values and spectrum details are here

"As a general recommendation, choose a full spectrum grow light with a color temperature in the blue range (5,000 - 7,000K) to promote vegetative growth and choose a color temperature in the red range (3,500 - 4,500K) to promote fruiting and flowering."

The thing is I want them to not radiate hideous light -- so I want to target the plant, not the room, and I really need them to not buzz constantly. And we are uptight about overbright LEDs.

The amount of advice that can be found about this is overwhelming so I really want to focus on a) it works and b) it's pleasant and enhances the room and experience of having houseplants.

Open to LEDs, CFLs, Sodium whateveritis, etc. especially if you too are persnickety about light values.

Do you have grow lights you like?
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Should checked the links.

posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:23 PM on September 27, 2020

The hard part is that grow lights are really intense, because they're largely mimicking sunlight; if a plant needs a grow light, it typically needs some level of direct sunlight to be kept as a houseplant. Sunlight is tricky because when it's abundant, it feels far less bright than it actually is.

I have two of these Roleadro LED buddies, and they're really fantastic. One is for a coffee tree that's 6 years old and as tall as me, the other is for our cacti/suculents that prefer to be overwintered indoors. They're relatively quiet, (they do make fan noise, so that is a thing. Its not a buzz, but it is noise). They're white/yellow light instead of the awful magenta/blue colors. I wouldn't necessarily say that they're a pleasant light, but necessary. These fuckers are bright. However, I went to a local HVAC manufacturing place and had a baffle made our of sheet metal to sort of keep the light 'contained' to a smaller throw area and this approach works really well because it keeps us from accidentally seeing the goddamn sun of LED's and it frames and spotlights the plants really well. A plywood version of this 'baffle box' is on my to do list, but the metal works well enough I'm not in a rush.

I also use a couple of these in the darker months for certain plants, but I'm more and more content to crowd everyone around the big'uns when its closer to the winter solstice. The light they give off is again, not super pleasant, but this could be aesthetic preference.

Friends have used these, and a couple of these for more aesthetic setups; performance wise they've been happy. I have another set of plant friends who just end up putting full spectrum bulbs in all sorts of homemade and vintage sconces and that makes them happier.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:39 PM on September 27, 2020

I’ve got several Mars Hydro lights in my living room. I chose them because they present balanced daylight visually but also incorporate LEDs targeting those narrow blue / red spectrum points. I’ve had fruiting plants bear fruit, and tons of blossoms and generally happy plants. (I’m fending off aphids right now but that’s not the lights’ fault.)

They also don’t have fans, they use the body of the light as a heat sink / radiator. So nice and quiet, no buzzing and no humming or whooshing. The units are warm but not hot or burning to the touch — so I made sure they have plenty of clearance and good ventilation, which your plants will like too.

You’ll want some kind of masking to block direct view of the LEDs from the places where you sit, but the diffuse / indirect light is not a bother.
posted by sixswitch at 8:14 PM on September 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've got a Mars Hydro, but it's setup in a tent. I love opening up the tent and getting the blast of moving air from the fans, and the bright light escaping the tent. The light is absolutely silent, no fans and no whine from the drivers. Additionally, I believe that all of the MH lights have dimmers, so you can adjust to the brightness that you want. They are very bright, but the light I find pleasing.

Pay attention to wattage, because heat can be an issue. The drivers of my 310w light get warm enough to be uncomfortable to touch for more than a few seconds, but they also have ~5 feet of wires from the driver to the light, so one doesn't need to mount the drivers on the light. The light is thus much less warm which means 1) you can touch the light comfortably, and 2) less warm LED's will have a longer lifespan.

A bit more cost effective solution if you're OK with a slower shipping method is to search ablibaba for brands "kingbrite" or "meijiu" and they have various options from 120w-480w. There will be ~3 weeks shipping and customs/duties involved, but generally for people in NA it will come out cheaper. Again, there should be absolutely no buzzing and all air-cooled non-fan models. There's options to choose the color temperature - albeit I'm mostly aware of 3000k-4000k , but they might have some cooler options as well. These brands are very well regarded in the reddit growing forums I follow.

The mars hydro light that I have (TSW 2000) doesn't have any UV, but kingbrite and meijiu have options with (and some of the other options linked above might as well). I would absolutely not get anything with UV for where you might be exposed to when you're not wearing UV blocking lenses.
posted by nobeagle at 6:20 AM on September 28, 2020

Yeah I don’t think quantum board LED lights like Mars Hydro are suited for a living space at all. They are bright enough to where you’re supposed to wear special sunglasses working under them. They generate a fair bit of heat too. And the ones with UVB spectrum added can be dangerous for humans.
posted by spitbull at 10:44 AM on September 28, 2020

That said, fluorescent grow lights like T8s are designed to be used quite close to the plants they’re feeding. Unless you have the plants up high most of your light will be down low. Any that reflects back up is wasted from the point of view of grow light design. And if you put them high above the plants you get very little useful growth. Quantum board and blurple LED grow lights, on the other hand, are designed to sit like 12-20 inches (variables are complicated and differ with different lights) above your plants.

I would also stay away from HPS. Way too much heat.
posted by spitbull at 10:47 AM on September 28, 2020

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