Ask a Question forum→Grow lights $7 vs $40 vs $850

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Name: Doug H
Sausalito, ca (Zone 9a)
rdy2grow
Aug 8, 2021 1:51 PM CST
I started looking for a simple light to assist seedlings/small plants I'm growing in an almost clear plastic bin near a window.

The price range is certainly amazing. The mechanical, quality and build differences are obvious. If my only goal is to grow plants (primarily seedlings and some annual flowers), is the light on these significantly different?

I can't believe plants will grow 100x with the $850 than the $7 (assuming plants to be planted in the front yard, not sold out the back door)

So, could I get 60% of the benefit of a $850 from a $7 light strip?

Thanks


Links (oops, as a new member I could not have links)
$7 AliExpress LED light strip, waterproof(!), color "purple/pink"
$40 Amazon Red Full Spectrum T5 with timer
$850 640W Full Sunlike with all the bells and whistles
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Aug 8, 2021 2:13 PM CST
Welcome!

Its not the price that counts, its the lumens. The optimal number 7000 - 8000 lumens per square foot minimum. The sun has 10,000 lumens per square foot.

Its okay to use red/blue light but plants also need white (full spectrum) light. The red and blue lights will have a very low lumen count while the white light has a higher lumen count.

I don't bother with LED or red/blue. I use cheap shop light fixtures with 6500k full spectrum T5 tube lights. Plants have been sorting out what color light they need for millions of years - I figure my plants can do it too. Smiling

Whatever you choose to use, you will have to adjust the lights nearer or farther from your plants to find what makes them happiest. The light is measured directly below the light source so plants on the edges won't be getting the full benefit.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
American Orchid Society Judge
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
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BigBill
Aug 8, 2021 6:48 PM CST
I will admit to having three plant stands, 8 shelves total, 18 T-5 skinny tubes. I just love them!
I have been using them primarily for growing orchids. I do start veggies and annuals under them every year. I have had them for just over 3 years!
I also grow a few succulents as well.

But it is sound advice to buy in the middle some where. My economic situation is such that results mattered the most. I needed full spectrum, high intensity to flower a sun loving type of orchid. Cheap lights just didn't give me enough confidence that they would work like I wanted.
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There is an old expression, you get what you pay for.

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Rodney Wilcox Jones, my idol!
Businessman, Orchid grower, hybridizer, lived to 107!
[Last edited by BigBill - Aug 8, 2021 6:49 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2571178 (3)
Name: Ed
South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Container Gardener Birds Beekeeper Bee Lover Butterflies Enjoys or suffers hot summers
Garden Procrastinator Zinnias Vegetable Grower Region: Alabama Seed Starter
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Intheswamp
Aug 8, 2021 7:14 PM CST
I basically only use lights to start vegetable and herb seedlings each year. I use a bank of three 48" shop lights with mostly 5000k-6500k tubes in them...some LED, some florescent. There are usually two rows of 20oz Styrofoam cups running the length of these. I use Sterilite containers to hold the cups and to catch any water that drains from the cups. I could squeeze more under the lights but some plants would be out at the edges and I really don't need that many seedlings, at least not at one time. For seedlings intended to be transplanted outside you really only are looking for vegetative growth and the light temperature mentioned above works well for that. For flowering you would want lower kelvin temperatures.

If money is no obstacle go for some nice lights. If you're testing the waters regarding growing plants from seed you might want to start inexpensively and see how it goes. Some florescent shop lights will definitely grow what you're talking about growing. Two or three shop lights plugged into a power-strip that is plugged into a $10 dial-timer and you've got a grow-light setup that will do the trick. For growing my seedlings I run my lights 16 hours a day.

Best wishes with your project and welcome to the forum!!!
Ed
The poorest of the poor, a nation of children taking care of children - https://handsofloveusa.org/

South Alabama Weather
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Aug 8, 2021 8:45 PM CST
Sorry but price does not determine quality. I am blooming orchids and cactus under my cheap T5 shoplights. Look at output numbers, not the price tag.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
American Orchid Society Judge
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
Image
BigBill
Aug 9, 2021 4:53 AM CST
I spent the money because I wanted a neat, tidy, well structured area to hold all of my plants. And that has worked out just wonderfully. (I was not about to let Rube Goldberg visit my home)!

But I agree, it is the lights that make the difference. These T-5 tubes @ 6,500 k seem to be doing the trick.
But the whole package is what I was after!

I have a 48" T-5 tube that is in a bay window where I grow Phragmipediums and they are doing very well. 2 of the 9 plants have recently produced bloom spikes, and I am hopeful that more will follow. My experience with plant lights and orchids in general tell me a $7 light strip would have yielded the results I am seeing. Oh sure anything is possible BUT is it likely?
That fixture with chains to hang it and a reflector cost me around $32. A nice contrast between $775 and $32.
Rodney Wilcox Jones, my idol!
Businessman, Orchid grower, hybridizer, lived to 107!
[Last edited by BigBill - Aug 9, 2021 4:56 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2571375 (6)
Name: Ed
South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Container Gardener Birds Beekeeper Bee Lover Butterflies Enjoys or suffers hot summers
Garden Procrastinator Zinnias Vegetable Grower Region: Alabama Seed Starter
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Intheswamp
Aug 9, 2021 6:53 AM CST
Bill, I agree with you in something nice for in the house where your growing and displaying plants such as your orchids. The plant stands become pieces of furniture. Definitely nothing wrong with that! I guess it will depend on the OP's level of aesthetics that he desires that will determine what he buys. For a budget setup for someone just getting their feet wet in seed-starting or testing to see if this is something they want to stick with, I really think the 48" shop light fixtures can't be beat. You and Daisy are so correct....it's the light that matters. Do I wish I had better, brighter lights...of course!!! But, I grow my seedlings in an old mobile home with my plant stand being an old beat-up merchandise stand from an old Gulf Gas Station...ugly orange stand and white wire shelfs. Even my shop lights are of three different brands, styles, and ages. The only ones seeing my seed/seedling starting area besides me is when the deer peer in the window, the occasional timber rattler slithers by, or my gardener buddy drops by (wait a minute, I just mentioned him Rolling on the floor laughing )...anyhow, none of them have given me a thumbs down, yet. Hilarious!

To me, it is the end results that matter but it's highly understandable that someone desires something both functional and aesthetically appealing. Thumbs up

Sari Sivri Corbaci on the left and Craig's Grande Jalapeno on the right...started beneath my cheap shop lights.
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The poorest of the poor, a nation of children taking care of children - https://handsofloveusa.org/

South Alabama Weather
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
American Orchid Society Judge
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
Image
BigBill
Aug 9, 2021 7:07 AM CST
Hey, it is the end result that is important. No matter what the set up. If we are happy, the plants are happy, everybody wins!!!
Thumb of 2021-08-09/BigBill/af2f80

Paphiopedilum leucochilum
Rodney Wilcox Jones, my idol!
Businessman, Orchid grower, hybridizer, lived to 107!
Name: Ed
South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Container Gardener Birds Beekeeper Bee Lover Butterflies Enjoys or suffers hot summers
Garden Procrastinator Zinnias Vegetable Grower Region: Alabama Seed Starter
Image
Intheswamp
Aug 9, 2021 7:47 AM CST
And there you have it!!! The end result....which is *really* nice, Bill!! Thumbs up
The poorest of the poor, a nation of children taking care of children - https://handsofloveusa.org/

South Alabama Weather
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
American Orchid Society Judge
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
Image
BigBill
Aug 9, 2021 8:17 AM CST
Thanks Ed!
Rodney Wilcox Jones, my idol!
Businessman, Orchid grower, hybridizer, lived to 107!
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Image
DaisyI
Aug 9, 2021 10:57 AM CST
You guys are too funny! Here are the shop lights I'm using:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C75SLG9/

I found one without bulbs and added those separately. If these are tacky looking, I'm not sure what to say. Also this is an LED light fixture but mine are Florescent. I was trying to show the overall look of what I've got.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
[Last edited by DaisyI - Aug 9, 2021 10:59 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2571620 (11)
Name: Doug H
Sausalito, ca (Zone 9a)
rdy2grow
Aug 9, 2021 11:31 AM CST
Thanks for all the insight. I didn't see anyone recommending the $850 lights...but I wish someone would (not that I'd buy one). I didn't see many comments on the LEDs. I might try a combination of the "burple" and white (5500-6000 degrees) simply because they're lightweight, easy to install and inexpensive.
Name: Ed
South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Container Gardener Birds Beekeeper Bee Lover Butterflies Enjoys or suffers hot summers
Garden Procrastinator Zinnias Vegetable Grower Region: Alabama Seed Starter
Image
Intheswamp
Aug 9, 2021 11:57 AM CST
You done gettin' fancy on me, Daisy!!! Those things got covers over the tubes and everything!!!!

I've got one LED fixture that was bought with the tubes permanently (I guess) installed, it's probably two years old. The second fixture is a florescent fixture with LED aftermarket bulbs in it, meh, four years old. And the third is another florescent fixture with one daylight and one cool white tube in it...this one is 20+ years old that I had stuck back in a shed. I rigged up two rails from some aluminum angle stock that hangs by chains at each end of the stand and the ends of the fixtures rest on this rails. I raise and lower the fixtures by adjusting the chains. I'll try to get a picture of it so ya'll can be slap amazed at the ingenuity and scientific approach used to construct this work of engineering genius!!! Rolling on the floor laughing Shoot, it's even got a fan!!!! nodding
The poorest of the poor, a nation of children taking care of children - https://handsofloveusa.org/

South Alabama Weather
Name: Ed
South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Container Gardener Birds Beekeeper Bee Lover Butterflies Enjoys or suffers hot summers
Garden Procrastinator Zinnias Vegetable Grower Region: Alabama Seed Starter
Image
Intheswamp
Aug 9, 2021 1:10 PM CST
rdy2grow said:Thanks for all the insight. I didn't see anyone recommending the $850 lights...but I wish someone would (not that I'd buy one). I didn't see many comments on the LEDs. I might try a combination of the "burple" and white (5500-6000 degrees) simply because they're lightweight, easy to install and inexpensive.


Ok, I recommend you get the $850 light...I like spending other people's money. Green Grin!

On a more serious note, we're spit-balling ideas at you. It's up to you to make a choice. Personally, the only light fixture that you listed that I would even consider is the $36. The $7 one just seems to cheap/weak to me. I'm more utilitarian-minded so the $850 one would just be a waste of money for me when some shop lights would do the job of starting seedlings.

If you want to get into researching some premium lighting systems you might want to search some of the marijuana growing websites. Through the years they've gotten grow-lights down to an art it seems.
The poorest of the poor, a nation of children taking care of children - https://handsofloveusa.org/

South Alabama Weather

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