Plasma lighting is one of the best things that technology has to offer today when it comes to the hydroponic scene. Not only does it give out very low heat output, plasma lighting also comes with very efficient lighting with a broad spectrum.
To start things off, let’s have a really short history lesson about plasma. Back in 1894, Nikola Tesla discovered that radio waves can ionize some gasses to a high energy state and light photons are released. Plasma is actually considered the 4th state of matter as it is neither solid, liquid, nor gas!
Plasma bulbs do not contain a metal filament that conducts the electrical charge to the bulb. This actually makes plasma bulbs last longer as traditional lights like HID lights is often subjected to high heat making it susceptible to heat fatigue overtime. Plasma lights often use small quartz size bulbs which is made of different gasses. The resonator in the bulb then directs the radio waves towards the different gasses. This effectively generate light without having electricity passing through the small metal filament in the bulb.
So, what are the benefits of plasma? Well, as stated above plasma lights give out very low heat output and is capable of giving a broad spectrum of light. Its energy efficiency is actually enough of a reason for growers to try plasma lights as it can extend their facilities’ power capacity. Saving is very much evident in facilities and the cost can return in just about a year. Plasma lights actually save up to 50% less electricity compared to the traditional light (with the same area covered). The reason that plasma light is able to save so much is because of the broad spectrum that it has. The energy used is concentrated more on the wavelengths where photosynthesis occurs which makes it save a lot more compared to having wasteful infrared radiation and green and yellow lights.
The whole broad spectrum optimization is actually quite important to note. Not only will this mean that plasma light has the capacity to act as a HID light (spectrum wise) with less electricity consumption, it also produces less infrared radiation which effectively lessens the heat output by a huge amount. This means that the grower can save a lot of money because he or she does not need to invest their money in cooling systems anymore!
Another huge benefit of plasma lights not stated above is their ability to mimic the light of the sun. Part of their broad spectrum capabilities, plasma lights are able to provide UVA and UVB rays. Ultraviolet lights have always been used by plants since the old times and providing the plants with the right amount UV lights can produce certain characteristics that growers can enjoy. For example, UV light can actually bring out certain vibrant colors and taste if the plant is exposed to UV light. This actually means that plasma allows the growers to provide their crops with natural sunlight together with the flexibility of synthetic lights. Additionally, UV lights also reduce the chances of unwanted pathogens like powdery mildew.
Now that you know more about plasma, you’re ready to get one yourself. But wait, before doing going out to get one, here are some things that you should consider:
Sometimes, lights are fixed and are designed to be a supplement to traditional lights while there are some that's designed to completely replace the old lights.
Bulb Orientation or Positioning
Plasma lights are sometimes oriented vertically or horizontally. In general, vertically oriented bulbs have better coverage.
Replacing the Bulbs
Some bulbs are cheaper and easier to replace while some are not. Heck, even some fixed plasma lights cannot be replaced altogether! Be sure to check this one as it can cause a lot of monetary problems.
Although plasma lights degrade very slow compared to other lights, it will still happen. In general, the life of the bulb usually lasts up to 50,000 hours. However, since plasma lights are designed differently, it’s wise to ask the manufacturer about the degradation level of the plasma light and this should determine the replacement time.
Be sure to check out the PAR spectrum graph that usually comes with the bulbs. As stated, most of these plasma lights are designed differently which affects the spectrum that it can contain.
As you can imagine, using plasma lights will change some of the things in your grow space. Variables such as temperature, CO2 supplementation, space, and nutrients will be affected by the new change in light.
Since there is less heat generated from the lights, rooms that are fully equipped with plasma lights can be at higher ambient temperatures.
With the higher temperature, the room can now be sealed which means CO2 supplementation will have more effect on the plants (since the CO2 can’t escape).
Since the lights do not give out much heat, they can be situated right above the plant which effectively saves a lot of space!
Plants that are grown under plasma lights will need more calcium and magnesium because the photosynthesis process under these lights is much more efficient compared to the traditional ones. Additionally, since the light can be very similar to the sun, the light can be used from beginning to end.
Some growers actually opt to combine traditional lights with plasma. HPS lights are often used in tandem with supplemental and fixed plasma lights to maximize yields and quality. This can also reduce the instantaneous cost brought by the transition from traditional lights to plasma lights. Combining lights require a lot of strategic planning as proper positioning is key especially for the supplemental lights.
On this note, it’s easy to see why plasma lighting is getting popular in the hydroponics scene, don’t you agree? The flexibility and the technologically advanced features of plasma lights will probably steer a huge chunk of the future of hydroponics.