Alright, let's talk grow light reflectors. If you ask 100 growers what their favorite reflector is you'll get 100 different answers. Some growers love wings because they're cheap, others like the focus cool hoods give you, some growers love umbrellas, and so on and so on... No two reflectors are made the same, so we're here to help you figure out what's best for you. Here we'll discuss what makes the most popular grow light some grower's favorite (and some growers' worst nightmare): umbrellas, wings, hoods, and air-cooled reflectors.
What is a Grow Light Reflector?
Reflectors help reflect and focus the light coming from your bulb. Without one a light bulb would just shine into the open environment. The light's energy wouldn't be focused on your plants, and while they would get a little bit of light, without a reflector there's a good chance they won't get the intense light they need to grow.
One of the most popular grow light reflectors in the game are wings. Also known as "bat wing" reflectors, they're known to help give a focused yet wide spread of light over your plants. Whether it's a DIY wing you built or a professional double-ended wing, they're used by first-time growers and pro's alike. The theory of how a wing works goes like this: when the light from your bulb shines it will hit multiple points of the wing and bounce back down on to your plants (and even a little further). Wings with a high arch give you a little more focus, whereas wings with less of an arch give you a widespread. What makes them so appealing is their cost. Most are pretty cheap, and for the reflection, you get it's a pretty good value. While they give you a good spread with decent focus, both spread and focus are slightly sacrificed with these types of reflectors. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you're a beginning grower who's not too sure what they want out of a grow light or you're growing in a confined space- like a closet. Pro's: Very inexpensive, simple to install and use, good coverage for the price Con's: Limited lighting area, non-air cooled (not a huge deal, but know that exposing the bulb to your open environment will raise temperatures and humidity levels) Best for: Beginners and Experienced Growers on a budget
Umbrella reflectors may be falling out of fashion in some grow rooms, they're still used to cover big areas. They may not pack the biggest punch, but what they lack in intensity they well make up for in coverage area. Instead of the bulb running along the length of the reflector, the bulb from an umbrella comes out from the center of the reflector. With its circular shape, these reflectors allow the bulb to shine in a pretty open environment. While they may not give off lots of focused light, they're pretty useful in the grow room- especially big ones. Umbrellas don't offer lots of canopy penetration, but that just means they can fill in lots of gaps in light your other lights aren't getting. Big co-op indoor gardens will use hoods directly over their plants for intensity, and they'll have umbrellas above those to help fill in gaps of light their hoods aren't getting to. Say you're working in a big greenhouse and you're utilizing natural light: umbrellas can help give you similar light on cloudy days and give your plants light they may not get when the seasons change. That's not to say you can't get intense coverage. In fact, the lower you hang the reflector the more intense the light from the reflector will be. It sounds like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people rule out umbrellas without thinking of moving the light closer to their plants. Just be careful if you do, because HID's are still pretty hot no matter what reflector you have so don't hang them too close when you're using umbrellas. Pro's: Huge coverage area, lightweight and easy to use Con's: Low grow light intensity, physically large so you'll need lots of room Best for: Growers with lots of room and in need of a wide coverage area; Warehouse/large greenhouse growers that need a less-intense light to fill in gaps of coverage
Hood reflectors offer the best intensity for plants out of all the reflectors around. Big or small, wide or narrow, hood reflectors help direct the light from your bulbs down on to your plants to give them the best light they can get. Hoods are great for really any type of indoor garden. From a closet to a warehouse, hoods give you intense light and good canopy penetration for good growth. What's better is that there are two types of hoods depending on what type of light you're going for: squat and wide, and tall and narrow. Both offer square coverage over your canopy, but they offer different benefits. Wide, squat hoods are great for giving you a wider coverage area than narrower hoods will. Though the light may be less intense, wide hoods can be hung lower to your plants to increase intensity without sacrificing coverage. Taller, more narrow hoods don't give you a large coverage area but they pack a punch- so much so that you need to hang them higher than most other lights. Given the shape of the shell and the contours of the reflective material inside, these types of hoods project an intense light directly down on to your plants. Pro's: They come in a variety of shapes and sizes for lots of needs Con's: They offer a limited coverage area directly down on to plants (not a lot of spread) Best For: Beginner and Advanced growers in small spaces or large grows with supplemental lighting
Air Cooled Reflectors
Ah, everyone's favorite reflectors: air cooled reflectors. They can lower the heat your bulbs give off, they're pretty compact, and being hybrids of other reflectors they offer something for everyone. Air cool reflectors have two key features: a glass lens and air ducts. The glass helps a lot of the heat generated from your bulbs stay confined inside of that reflector. Air ducts let you connect high output fans to the reflector for you to move the air in the reflector out of the reflector. That helps reduce heat stress to your plants which allows you to hang your lights a little closer for more intense light on to your plants. One of the great things about them is their versatility. Except for the umbrella, there's an air-cooled version of any type of reflector you'd like. There are air cooled hoods for hood lovers, cool tubes have small wings to help spread light a little like wings do, cool tube hoods for growers who want the best of both worlds, and in loads of sizes. There are no drawbacks to using an air-cooled reflector, especially if you're already used to growing with the non-cooled version. The only thing is that they don't usually through a big coverage area, so if you have lots of plants to grow you'll want multiple lights Pro's: Keeps your bulbs cool and limits direct heat down on to your plants Con's: Their glass shells take lots of the heat from the bulbs, so they will need some distance between themselves and your canopy Best for: Any type of grow room and any level grower! What's your favorite grow light reflector? Drop us a comment and let us know your favorite type of reflector!