Are Grow Lights a Fire Hazard? How to Stay Safe


Grow lights are a good investment for indoor gardening, but breakouts of fire can be a concern when setting up electricity-intensive equipment with the potential to generate a lot of heat in a residential space. 

So, are grow lights a fire hazard? Grow lights can potentially be a dangerous fire hazard. However, injury, death, and property damage can be avoided if these steps are followed:

  • Check the grow room for things that might cause a fire.
  • Make sure the grow lights are wired correctly.
  • Use grow light bulbs that are least dangerous with regards to potential fire hazards.
  • Have equipment handy to both prevent fires and combat them should they break out. 
  • Know basic fire safety to evacuate a building in case of fire. 

Grow lights can potentially cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and can even lead to the loss of human life if they are the source of a fire. Read on to find out why grow lights can potentially be a fire hazard, and what can be done to make them safe for home use.

Grow Lights Can Be a Fire Hazard

One of the reasons grow lights are such a dangerous fire hazard is because they are usually set up in close proximity to residential spaces. That means in case of a fire, the fire could spread quickly to other parts of a home and trap anyone inside. 

Another reason grow-lights can be dangerous is because oftentimes people will wire them up without having even a basic knowledge of electrical wiring, which can easily lead to overloaded circuits and electrical fires. 

Grow lights are also typically located around water because water is used to water the plants they’re growing, and most people know that water and electricity don’t mix. Not only can water short circuit wiring and cause a fire, but wet electrical equipment can also lead to electrocution. 

Causes of Grow Light Fires

The primary causes of grow light fires can be broken down into two major categories:

  • Electrical fires: The grow lights are either incorrectly wired up or are exposed to water contact, causing them to short circuit and overheat. This can lead to a fire. 
  • Contact fires: Some grow light bulbs get extremely hot, which means if anything in the room that is flammable brushes against them, Residential areas tend to be filled with flammable materials such as fabrics and paper, which make them risky for grow lights.

These factors make grow lights a potential fire hazard, but they don’t have to be. With just a little care taken during setup and some basic fire prevention measures, an indoor grow room can be as safe as any other room wired for electricity in your home. 

Electrical Circuit Issues That Cause Grow Light Fires

Well-meaning hobbyists not knowing how to correctly wire grow lights up is a main reason that they end up shorting out and becoming fire hazards. The danger comes from indoor gardeners not knowing what kind of wattage and amperage their home outlets are capable of handling.

The average wall circuit in a home is only 10-20 amps at 120 volts wattage, and several outlets typically run on the same circuit. Meanwhile, a single 1,000-watt metal halide lamp or high-pressure sodium ballast draws 9 amps at 120 volts. 

That means a single grow light is already maxing out a wall’s circuit, and most amateur growers will tend to not only use both sockets of an outlet with multiple electrical devices, but they also install power strips that further tax the circuit’s load capacity. 

At best, overloading a circuit like this will lead to the circuit breaker throwing constantly when the circuit overloads, sporadically shutting down all your grow equipment. Depending on how fragile your plants on, this can be a major issue. At worst, these overloads can cause a fire. 

Common Wiring Mistakes That Cause Grow Light Fires

Aside from making sure that the circuits being used to power grow lights are strong enough to handle them, people using grow lights need to make sure they know how to correctly wire them in to prevent an electrical fire.

Here are some of the common mistakes people make when wiring up grow lights:

  • Not installing a junction box. Junction boxes are also known as an electrical box or a connection box, the job of a junction box is to protect the hub of all the wiring in a circuit while also containing any sparks or heat that might occur due to faulty wiring.
  • Installing a junction box recessed in the wall. For fire safety, junction boxes should be installed flush with the wall surface to avoid contact with flammable building materials such as wood or plaster. If you need to, buy a box extension to achieve this. 
  • Don’t cut your electrical wires too short. Make sure you have plenty of length. Cutting wires too short means that if they become stretched at electrical contacts, electricity may attempt to arc between the wire and the contact, which can cause a fire. 
  • Don’t leave plastic-covered wiring unprotected. Wiring that is just left willy-nilly is prone to getting jerked loose, frayed, and exposed to water, all potential fire and electrocution hazards. Secure your wires to 2x2s and walls. Loose wires cause fires.
  • Don’t install a three-slot outlet over a two-slot receptacle without a ground wire. If a wall socket doesn’t come with a three-slot outlet, it’s unlikely that the circuit can handle three outgoing electrical devices at that outlet. Install a two-slot outlet instead. 
  • Don’t install electrical wiring without clamps. Using clamps to secure wiring is what keeps it straight and tight, which prevents arcing, short-circuits, and other fire hazards. The main goal of wiring anything is to keep wires well-secured and off the ground. 
  • Know the amperage and wattage of your grow lights and plan your setup accordingly. If your room doesn’t have the circuits to handle a full set of grow lights, you either need to rewire and you need to pick a different location. Don’t force the issue.  

Different Kinds of Grow Light Bulbs and Fire Safety

Older styles of grow lights such as halogen lights were and are a major fire hazard due to the immense amounts of heat they can put off. Thankfully, there are now LED grow lights available, which are not only are less of a contact fire hazard but consume less energy too.

The major kinds of grow lights are as follows: 

  • High-pressure sodium (HPS) lights: 
  • Fluorescent grow lights
  • Metal halide lights
  • Light-emitting diode (LED) lights

LEDs are probably the safest option for grow lights (if one of the more expensive options) because they put out a small amount of heat, at least relative to traditional halide and high-pressure sodium lights, and they also consume less power, which saves on electricity costs.

Here are some other ways to use LED lights in a way to make them less of a fire hazard:

  • Use fire-rated LED fittings. These fixtures are purposefully made to be fire resistant.
     
  • Connect your LED lights with a resistor. Resistors are devices that limit the amount of current able to flow through a lighting fixture and prevent it from being overloaded. 
  • Don’t put your LED lights in encased fixtures. Most of the heat generated in an LED ends up in the casing because it attempts to dissipate the heat of the circuit and the LEDs to keep the emitters cool. LED grow bulbs that are exposed directly to air are much cooler. 
  • Use high quality bulbs. High quality bulbs might be more expensive, but they tend to also be safer in construction and able to withstand both higher amperage/wattage as well as put off less heat during use. 

Room Setup Issues That Cause Grow Light Fires

Along with wiring issues, another major cause of grow light fires is the environments that they are set up in. People tend to set up grow rooms in their homes, which places them dangerously close to living areas. Living areas are full of flammable clutter such as paper, fabrics, etc..

When setting up a grow room, make sure not to leave flammable trash lying around where it could potentially contact either hot light bulbs or sparks from wiring, and before you set your lights up, check for anything in the room (such as curtains) that could potentially catch fire. 

For preventing household fires with grow lights, prevention is the most important thing, because once you’ve accidentally started a fire, there could be thousands of dollars in property damage or even lives at risk. It’s worth going everything carefully to contain any potential fire scenario. 

Ways to Prevent Grow Light Fires

Once you have a grow room completely decluttered so that there is nothing that could potentially catch fire, and you’ve wired your grow lights correctly to the point that they are not an electrical fire hazard, you should turn your attention to fire prevention.

There are several simple steps to take to make your grow room fire-safe and should honestly be performed in any residential building. Here are the ways to make your grow lights less of a fire hazard:

  • Buy a smoke alarm. A smoke alarm is the single most important piece of fire prevention equipment you can own, as it allows you to get out of the building before you succumb to the fire. 

    Have several throughout the building you are using grow lights in, and make sure to check battery function several times a year for safety. Replace batteries as needed. 

  • Consider investing in a sprinkler system. For larger grow light operations, a sprinkler system can shut down a fire quickly. However, in a home setting, a sprinkler system can cause a ton of interior damage, so weigh this option carefully before going with it.
  • Buy a fire extinguisher (or preferably several). There are many varieties of fire extinguisher available so that you can have both automatic and handheld extinguishers on hand in case of
    a fire. 
  • Install a fire-resistant door. Installing a fire-resistant door on your grow room helps keep a grow light fire from spreading quickly through the house and gives you time to get out of the building before being engulfed and surrounded by flames. 

    This is especially important for night fires, which can catch people unawares while they’re sleeping and can be more dangerous than fires during the day for that reason. 

There are several different types of fire extinguishers available that you could keep on hand–some are used manually, while others are set up to go off automatically in case a fire is detected. Here are some of the options available:

  • Hanging extinguishers
  • Aerosol extinguishers
  • Handheld extinguishers

To be fully effective, you should have a combination of automatic fire extinguishers as well as handheld manual extinguishers in case you need the extra help in putting out a fire while it is still small and relatively less dangerous. 

Ways to Combat a Grow Light Fire

There is only one rule to fighting a house fire if it breaks out as a result of your grow lights: don’t. Because of the amount of flammable materials in a home, it takes on average less than thirty seconds for a small household fire to turn into a raging inferno. 

If you have access to a handheld fire extinguisher and the blaze is still small, you can take quick action to try and extinguish the fire as long as you still have an exit available. But if you don’t have an extinguisher handy, your only option is to run away from the fire and call 911. 

It is understandable that someone will want to stay and try to protect their possessions from fire damage in the case of a house fire, but if there is any doubt of your personal safety at all, the most sensible thing to do would be to leave the building and let firefighters handle it. 

After all, losing a few material possessions is not worth risking your life. If you have fire extinguishers ready to go, keep your grow room uncluttered, and wire your grow lights carefully, you need never feel the anguish of seeing your home burn down around your indoor garden. 

Basic Fire Safety Tips in Case of a Grow Light Fire

If there is ever a fire due to your grow lights, you need to know some basic fire safety tips in order to evacuate the building safely. Here are some tips to survive in case your grow lights cause an indoor fire:

  • Make sure you always know at least two exits out of any room in your home in case of a fire, including your grow room. This way, you can still get out if one of the exits becomes blocked by fire. 
  • Don’t just buy a fire extinguisher. Actually, learn how to use it. A fire extinguisher is useless if you’ve never used one in your life and you are suddenly called upon to fight fire with it. 
  • Stay low to the ground while moving out of a burning building in order to avoid the worst smoke. Smoke inhalation can cause unconsciousness and suffocation quickly and kills just as often as actually burning in a fire does. 
  • Feel any doorknobs as you move through the building to make sure they’re not hot. A hot doorknob means that there is fire behind the door. 

What to Do if You Can’t Safely Set Up a Grow Room

If you have accessed your growing situation and have decided that for safety reasons you cannot have grow lights in your home, that doesn’t mean you are limited to growing strictly outdoors during traditional growing seasons. 

One option for keeping plants during the winter, for example, without using grow lights is to set up an outdoor greenhouse. This takes advantage of thermal energy to keep plants warm and with adequate sky-lighting, can allow gardeners to grow tropical plants all year round. 

Another option, if lack of experience is an issue with setting up your grow lights, is to hire an electrical contractor to build out your grow room instead of trying to do it yourself. 

While this is a much more expensive option, it is also safer, as an electrician will know exactly what circuits can handle what lighting setups and can also extend your existing circuitry in a way that is both fire-safe and aesthetically pleasing. 

Grow Lights Can Be A Fire Hazard, but They Don’t Have to Be

Grow lights have a bad reputation for being a major fire risk, but this reputation is somewhat undeserved. It’s a reputation built both on sensational news headlines about grow lights causing massive fires. 

This reputation is not completely undeserved. Due to the carelessness of a few people, grow lights have caused thousands of dollars in damage and even killed a few people in fires, mostly electrical fires or fires caused by a hot grow light coming into contact with flammable material. 

The deciding factor in whether grow lights are a fire hazard is in how they are used and whether they are set up properly to begin with. With a smart setup, good fire prevention tactics, and correct wiring installation grow lights can be just as safe as any other electrical device used around the home. 

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