Lettuce and leafy edibles about 25 watts per square foot.
Tomatoes, Peppers, Cannabis about 40 watts per square foot.
Standard fluorescent lights, spaced a foot apart will only supply approximately 10 lamp watts per square ft.
In addition to only supplying a portion of watts per sq. foot necessary, another disadvantage of fluorescent lighting is that the light intensity decreases the farther away the light source is from a plant.
The lights rated capacity also shifts depending on orientation, the rated capacity is only measured form the light source, the bulb, in a straight line - right on down to the plant. If the plant is not directly below the light source, intensity diminishes and the equation shifts.
To be effective a standard fluorescent light would need to be only a few inches from the plants top. As plants are growing organisms this distance will be continuously changing. Adjustable height lights are advisable.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) are a relatively new form of fluorescent bulb. They include those spiral shaped energy efficient light-bulbs which are quickly replacing incandescent bulbs for household lighting. They are cost effective and useful for smaller hydroponic projects. They donít require professional wiring or a ballast, simply a socket to screw them into - same as incandescent in that respect.
Florescent works well for germination of any seeds. It also works well with leafy nonflowering crops such as lettuce, leafy greens, most herbs, even strawberries with a diminished yield. They do not meet the optimal requirements of flowering and fruiting vegetables.
They can also work well as supplemental lighting used in conjunction with HID, HPS or even LED systems.
Standard Florescents, T12 and T8 are not powerful enough to light an area more than 10 inches below the light source.
T12 lamps typically emit about 30 lumens per watt, and T8 slightly more.
T5 florescent lights are the best available , they are great for seed starting and cuttings. Because of their low heat output, they can be relatively close to the plants peak to maximize the light output. T5 linear fluorescents will put out about 90 lumens per watt and run cooler.
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