Grow lights are a necessity when it comes to growing plants inside. Growing plants inside has been around for a long time as it enables people to be able to grow some fresh food, fresh herbs for cooking and just to enjoy the cleaner air that can be enjoyed by sharing a home with plant life.
Are grow lights expensive to run? The short answer is no, it is not expensive. The monthly cost to run grow lights can range from less than $10 a month for LED lights to more than $50 a month for 1,000 watt sodium lights.
Looking at the different varieties in growing setups and lights, in general, it can make a huge difference in electricity cost, but the initial costs may be a factor to think about as well. Are you willing to pay a little more up front for the setup if it will save you more in the long run or are you trying to save as much as you can initially? This is just one of many questions to answer.
General Cost of Running Grow Lights
The cost to run grow lights is relatively low, when you consider the end savings. In a normal home for a small to medium sized garden, it would probably cost between $5 to $25 per month to run grow lights. Now some different factors may come into play:
- Type of lights
- How long they are running every day
- How large of an area you are growing in
All of these factors can affect the ongoing cost of your grow lights. Obviously more lights or having the on longer will increase your costs.
Different Setups for Grow Lights
There are a number of things that you need to take into account when deciding on what type of set up you will be using to grow plants in your home. All of which need to be considered before making a final decision on your lights. Some of the things to take into consideration is:
- Your location and outdoor climate year round
- What kind of budget you have available
- What kind of space do you have available
- What type of garden you want
- What you plan to grow and how much
Location and Local Climate
You may not think that the outdoor temperature would affect your indoor garden, but it can very much have an effect your indoor garden, and this will also play a part in the type of set up you plan to use. As humans learn to live with climate change, it can become more difficult to maintain the right temperature year round in our homes.
Warmer locations like the southern part of the US get very hot in the summertime. In southern Texas, it is said to get so hot that the devil won’t even visit. While I am not sure this is entirely accurate, I know from experience, it can get dangerously hot for about four or five months out of the year.
This means it can get too hot for most plants in the summer indoors, so cooling will need to be taken into consideration, as the roots are more vulnerable indoors than they are outside. The cool earth outside can protect the roots, but indoor plants do not have this luxury. Roots are vulnerable to extreme temperatures, which is why frost can be so dangerous.
As to colder climates, such as the northern United States and especially states like Alaska, the colder months need to be considered. Young plants can be killed by temperatures that humans can easily survive in. So the grow area you plan to build may need to be kept warmer than you normally keep that particular part of your home.
Climate and Grow Lights
You may be wondering what the temperature has to do with grow lights, and that is an understandable question. Some lights put off heat, a lot of heat, so this is something to keep in mind when considering your setup. Do you need extra heat or will that extra heat kill your plants? How much can that extra heat affect humidity levels around your garden?
If it gets too warm, you would then have to invest extra into a cooling system as well. If it gets too cold, maybe buying lights that would help with the heat would be a better option for you. Year round outside environment will affect your plants so you will need to take measures to counteract these temperature issues.
The Budget You Have Available
Money is a huge factor in what type of setup you will be using. Maybe you have thousands of dollars to utilize for an indoor garden setup; this would expand the options that you have available. You may even be able to afford professional help in setting up the best environment for your indoor garden. A larger budget means more options all around for your garden.
Unless you are building an indoor garden strictly to be able to know where the food you eat comes from, you are probably more limited on your budget. This does not mean that you can’t do it; it just means you may need to be more handy with tools and knowledge. An efficient indoor garden can still be built on a budget.
When considering your budget, keep in mind the money you will be saving through indoor growing as well. It will cost pennies on the dollar to grow your own food as compared to store bought fresh fruits and veggies. Herbs can also save quite a considerable amount, and a healthier growing environment means healthier food in your body too.
Your Available Space
Once you know what kind of budget you are looking at, you want to consider how much space you have to build your indoor garden. Whether you only have a space the size of a shower stall or an entire room to build in, the space you have will make a huge impact as well. You don’t need to dedicate a bunch of space to have an indoor garden, depending on what you grow.
If you only have enough room to build a grow tent in your bedroom (not advisable due to the lights) or can stash a vertical garden in a corner of your kitchen, you would not need a huge lighting setup and probably would not have to be as concerned about temperature control. More limited space may mean just a small herb garden on your counter, but they need light too.
Utilizing an entire room to build an indoor garden, which can actually produce quite a lot of food, can bring up the maintenance energy cost besides the size of the build.An entire room may need more help with temperature regulation than a small area in your regular living space would. You would also need more lighting for a room, even a small one, than just a garden tent.
What Type of Garden You are Planning
There are a wide variety of garden setups that you can use and play around with. Just a few of the varieties are:
- Countertop garden:A countertop garden would be the smallest and a perfect setup for someone with very limited space, such as a small apartment. This would be the smallest area and the smallest budget needed, but shouldn’t be dismissed either. More than just herbs can be grown in a countertop garden, such as a variety of leafy greens, like lettuce, for example.
- Garden tent: A garden tent may be a good option for someone with a limited budget and but a bit of space that can be utilized. A garden tent is good, especially for seedlings giving them the extra humidity that they need, but can also work well for growing more mature plants as well. Once established, this would be able to provide enough food for a couple on a regular basis.
- Horizontal plate garden:The horizontal plate vertical garden is as it sounds. The basics of this would be a bunch of flat horizontal shelves with plants on them stacked to make for more room in a desired space. The major downside to this is that it would require more lights, but it does seem to take up less square footage when it comes to the set up as it can be placed right up against a wall.
- Vertical plate garden:The vertical plate vertical garden is significantly different. This setup would have the plants looking like they are hanging from the wall on vertical plates. While this may take up a bit more room as far as square footage to set up, but it has the advantage of needing fewer lights for a larger number of plants. This is also good for climbing plants like grapes.
Vertical plates are set up more like a hallway rather than shelves with plants going up the “walls” from floor to ceiling. Lights attached to the ceiling would ensure that all of the plants got even lighting.
What You Plan to Grow and How Much
What you plan to grow can make as big of a difference as your budget does, when it comes to an indoor garden setup. Certain plants require too much room to be grown efficiently indoors. Some of the varieties that would not do well indoors would be:
- Sweet potatoes
There are also some plants that are possible to grow indoors, but it just may not be practical due to the size of the plants and limited food you would get. This would include things like:
- Any type of fruit tree
Then you need to look at plants that can be grown indoors, but not in any special type of setup, such as any kind of vertical garden. This is a very wide variety of different fruits and vegetables that you can grow indoors:
- Leafy greens like lettuce
- Carrots or parsnips
- Onions or garlic
The list really can go on with how many different things you can grow indoors.
Different Light Setups
You may be wondering why everything I have mentioned so far from size to setup and budget to the type of plant you want to grow matters before taking your lights into consideration and that is actually a very good question.
Since plants absolutely need light to survive, let alone thrive, the light they receive and how much they receive can make a huge impact on them and how well they thrive indoors. The type of light you use can make the difference between a plant that grows and one that thrives in the artificial environment you have designed for them.
HID (High Intensity Discharge lamps)
The reason that other issues need to be considered first is that some lights just will not work for certain gardens or certain plants. For example High Intensity Discharge lamps (or HIDs) put off a considerable amount of heat in addition to light. Plants do not use the heat for growing, they only need the light. So this can be a huge electricity expense if the extra heat isn’t needed.
Now for a room in a cold climate, this may not be a big deal, but if you place a light too close to a plant, it can actually burn it. This can cause the plant to wilt and possibly die if not dealt with soon enough. Plants can suffer from burns just like humans can, which is why the general setup needs to be determined before the lights can.
In a warmer environment, this could cause issues with keeping a stable, suitable temperature in your garden. You would then need to employ ways to lower the room temperature as well, which can also increase the operating costs. HIDs start around $100 requiring replacement bulbs every year at a cost starting around $25 each.
The operating costs could be as much as $75 a month in electricity (this would include the cooling to combat the heating aspect of the lights). This would obviously depend on the size you need for your garden. It would also require new bulbs once a year or so, depending on the quality of the bulbs.
Add into this the fact that HID lights, which include both LPS (Low Pressure Sodium) and HPS (High Pressure Sodium) type of lights, are omnidirectional. This means that at least 25% of the energy spent to power them is wasted.
These types of lights, while a bit cheaper in the start up costs, can usually cost quite a bit in the long run between wasted energy and cost of replacement bulbs. They do tend to have a larger area of coverage. There is, however, the risk of mercury issues if the bulbs get dropped. Plus disposal of the burnt out bulbs can be a bit of a hassle too.
LED (Light Emitting Diode)
An LED light, on the other hand, is highly efficient and costs very little to run each month in electricity. LEDs have very little wasted energy because of the fact that they are designed for maximum efficiency and minimal energy waste. LEDs, in simplified terms, are a bunch of little lights that make up a larger light. Although calling them lights is not entirely accurate; they are diodes.
The start up cost is a bit higher for an LED, and it doesn’t usually cover the same amount of square footage as an HID, so depending on the size of your garden, you may need more than one LED. The cost of a commercially sized LED grow light can range as high as $1,500 per light. Though you can purchase much smaller ones for less than $100
If you do a search through Amazon, you can find some for a smaller indoor garden. It all depends on what your needs are. If your just starting out with a small garden, then you could easily start with a total budget of less than $300, including the lights.
Considering just the energy saved, in terms of electricity costs, a LED light would pay for itself in savings in a matter of months.
LEDs also have the advantage of being able to more closely control the light spectrum that your plant or plants may need. Some plants do well with full spectrum, but others thrive better with blue and/or red, which you can purchase LEDs that are more concentrated this way which would allow for a bigger plant. It is kind of like growth hormones for plants in light form.
When you consider that the cost of LEDs is dropping, there may be little difference in the initial start up may disappear, though this was certainly not the case ten or even five years ago. The biggest cost will be how much electric either one uses, and LEDs will beat sodium lights hands down every time.