Newbie's Guide for Growing w/ CFLs

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Tutorial to Growing with CFLs by Doctor Chronic

What is a CFL?

A Compact Fluorescent Light is a type of fluorescent that was originally designed to replace the standard E26 Edison Incandescent Lamp. The reason being, CFLs will put out the same amount of visible light using much less power and a significantly longer rated life span. Even though the price of the CFLs is higher than Incandescent bulbs, they are generally rated to run anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000 hours. There many advantages of using CFLs. Maybe you are growing personal smoke, or you cant afford an HID system, or an HID system just isnt practical. For some, HID lights arent available in their area. However, CFLs are sold almost anywhere (Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, etc). CFLs are in general a much cheaper growing solution, and their just plain simple to use self-ballastedand it screws into a regular light socket. Im NOT saying CFLs are better for growing than HIDs, but in some cases its the only thing that will work.

CFL Wattage

Now sometimes there can be a lot of confusion when it comes to power of the light due to poor labeling but we will do our best toclear all of that up. Normally light manufacturers that make CFLs generally will put two numbers on the box your CFL comes in. One is Actual Wattage and one is the Incandescent Equal. As you can see here on this CFL the Actual Wattage is 23 Watts, and its Incandescent Equal is 100 Watts. You need to totally ignore the Incandescent Equal and pay attention only to the Actual Wattage of the Bulb.

Color Temperature

You might see a lot of different labels when shopping at the store for CFLs. Labels including Soft White, Warm White, Cool White, Bright White, Halogen White, Daylight White, Full Spectrum. And also labels like 2700K, 3000K, 3500K, 4000K, 5000K, 6400K, and 6500K. These are all the color temperature of the light you are using. This is a measure of how warm or cool the light given off by a lamp appears, with warmer colors having a yellowish tinge and cooler colors being tinged with blue. What confuses some people is that the warmer a color is, the colder its color temperature is. (ex. Warm White = 2700K). Bulbs ranging in the 2700K-3000K spectrum are usually labeled Warm White or Soft White, bulbs ranging in the 3500K 4000K spectrum are bright white or cool white, 5000K is labeled Full Spectrum, and finally 6400K 6500K is labeled Daylight. You can grow an entire crop with CFLs if you chose the right spectrum of bulbs. For Vegetation you will want to use 6500K or 5000K, and when you flower you will want to switch to 2700K or 3000K . The reason being, throughout the year the plants outside receive more 6500K light because the days in summer are long and hot and as Autumn/Winter gets closer the day gets shorter, and gradually receives less 6500K light and more 2700K light as the plant flowers. Do what you can to avoid bulbs within that 3500K 4000K because they emit very little light that Is useful to your plant. Notice here the difference between the CT of these lamps

How to use CFLs?

In order to efficiently use CFLs to grow your MJ you will need to position the lights around 2 4 inches from the foliage of the plant. If you place the light too close, then your plant will have nothing to vertically stretch to and it will remain short and stocky. (Ex. My First Grow and FarmingTorontos) Some people combat this by addingCFLs to the side of foliage instead of on top of it. On the other hand if the light is too far away from the plant, the stem will suffer elongation (stretching), which will result in loose and fluffy buds.It is very important to note that when using CFLs its a daily battle to have lights in the right spot. Many of us are in our grow areas at least once a day anyway, so to move your bulbs a bit really isnt that big a deal. Also many people wonder is it better to have many low watt CFLs or just a few high watt CFLs. Both ways are capable of provided you a good harvest but I suggest you chose the configuration that is easiest for you and your grow area.

Where can I get these CFLs?

Many low wattage (23-42) CFLs can be bought at locate retail giants , such as Wal-mart, Lowes, Home Depot, and just about any hardware store you can find. If you are looking to purchase higher wattage (42 200) CFLs I would recommend ordering them online. has very good prices on CFLs ranging from 2 200 Watts. has a good selection ranging from 5 200 Watts in a wide range of spectrums. I have used both of these sites several times and I would recommend them to anyone that plans to grow with CFLs.

In the end there are many different GOOD setups so dont set your mind on the ONE perfect CFL setup. Just apply these basic tips when starting a CFL grow and you WILL see success. If you have any questions or comments I would greatly appreciate it. I want to thank the one and only, FarmingToronto for editing this Tutorial. Sincerely

Last modified: 09/2008  

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