Among the notable improvements in agriculture that have revolutionized the old traditional farming techniques, includes the use of grow lights for crop production. Top of the list includes the LED lights. These fixtures offer an environmentally friendly way of practicing agriculture with minimal effort.
Light-emitting Diodes (LED) technology has been in use for some decades especially in the growth of vegetables. Their application in most cases accompanies other artificial light sources like the HID and fluorescent. When used independently, LEDs are suitable for indoor growing .these fixtures are also convenient to use in greenhouses and other agricultural production techniques like hydroponics. This is because of their vast benefits to both the plants and the farmer. The benefits include:
- The fixtures are energy and power efficient thus saving on the operation costs
- They are durable thus usable for longer periods of up to 100,000 hours, unlike the ordinary artificial lights.
- Easily adjustable wavelength
- Faster growth stimulation of the crops
Types of LED grow lights and how to select the best model
Technology continues to simplify agriculture with the use of different types of grow lights. The most common type of LED grows lamps is the Full Spectrum. This fixture light imitates the real sunlight by comprising the set of wavelength the sunrays have hence offering plants access to a similar light output as the sun.
Other LEDs include the vegetative and flowering LEDs depending on the type of light spectrum they emit. Despite this, most LED light brands in the market are full spectrum. Thus, the process of selecting the best LED grow light becomes more cumbersome. When it comes to choosing an LED fixture for your plants, therefore, among the factors you should consider are your coverage area, plant growth phases and budget.
Coverage area: Your coverage area dictates the type and number of grow lights to install. Where you have a bigger area, you need to go for grow lights with a big coverage. Placing more lights adjacently will also cover a large area sufficiently. LED lens angle also affects the coverage, hence where your coverage area is large; consider bulbs with bigger angles to ensure the maximum light coverage of your plants.
Budget: Your budget is another key determinant in selecting a grow light. If you consider making a high investment in the initial costs of your grow light, chances are that the future expenses will be fewer due to a quality lamp.
The type of plant you are growing: plants have significant differences in the type of wavelength they utilize for growth and wattages. Thus, they will require differently powered LEDs to boost growth. Flowers, for instance, will not reach optimal growth levels at the same wavelength as tomatoes or cannabis.
Plant growth phase: Full spectrums LED grow fixtures are suitable to take your plants through all the growth stages. Alternatively, if you want to plant your crops in two cycles, consider LEDs with either the red or the blue spectrums for the vegetative and flowering phase.
Special Features that we need to consider when purchasing LED lights
LED lights feature special product features, which as a smart buyer, you should consider before making your purchase decision. They include:
Cooling systems: Where your lights are on for longer periods, they will get hot, necessitating cooling. For this reason, purchasing LED fixtures with a high-quality cooling kit will ensure your lamps serve you longer periods. The cooling kit helps in preventing the LED fixture from radiating the heat to the plants. This, in turn, ensures your crops do not burn.
Spectrum: LED fixtures feature the full, clone, vegetative an bloom spectrums. The full spectrum carries your seedlings through all its growth stages starting from the seedling or clone to harvesting. Purchasing the full spectrum fixtures, therefore, comes with an added advantage if you are a professional grower. Vegetative fixtures, on the other hand, feature blue spectrums useful during the vegetative stage while the bloom fixtures have a red spectrum suitable during the flowering stage. For this reason, when making your purchase, check the specifications to confirm whether the fixture you are buying suits your plant needs at their vegetative or flowering stages. To save up, in the long run, consider LED fixtures that have an adjustable output spectrum to enable you to match the spectrums with your plant’s growth stages.
Electronic current circuit/driver: This drive, at the right current and voltage levels converts AC power to direct current. Therefore, to ensure that your LED fixture functions appropriately, ensure that the current electronic driver is constant. Being constant, this driver will promote the constant supply of current, regulating it accordingly depending on the temperature fluctuations.
Metal core printed circuit board (MCPB) mounted fixtures: purchasing LEDs that embrace the MCPB mounting technology guarantees you efficient operation at high power levels.
Chip: LED fixtures comprise a semiconductor chip. This chip partly converts electricity to light. It also affects the wavelength to some extent. Thus, to ensure your grow light’s proper functionality. Consider purchasing one having a 3 watts chip or more.
Budget: As a smart buyer, you have a budget for your LED. When designing your budget, you should note that by setting aside more money for your LED fixture, you stand higher chances of getting a quality LED. Some LED fixtures despite their small sizes will cost more. These variations however come about due to quality differences.
Lenses versus reflectors: LED fixtures with lenses concentrate light more efficiently on the grow space unlike those with reflectors hence convenient for smaller grow spaces.
Brand: the brand reputation when it comes to LEDs is an important specification to consider. Selecting brands from reputable companies that have stayed in the market for many years is not only a safe way of making your buying decision but also saves you on the extra product research costs.
Just like other lighting systems, grow lights feature technical specifications that dictate their output and performance. As a smart buyer, you need to understand the technical specifications to establish how efficient the light you purchase is. Among the technical specifications, including the wattage, warranty, light output and PAR.
Wattage: When it comes to the growth and health of the crops you have, consider 32watts lighting per square foot on the lower end as a thumb rule. The LED fixture wattage you select however will be subject to the type of crop you have planted, the area size and their growth phase. Different plants require different wattage. Cannabis, for instance, requires wattage of 64 while the green leafy vegetables require wattages as low as 32. Once you establish the specific wattage for your crop, establish the exact area covered by these crops in square feet, and then multiply by the wattage to get the total wattages you need to install for your indoor garden.
Warranty: Since LEDs last for a decade, most manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty. For this reason, consider buying only those lights with lifelong warranties for high quality, performance and cost efficiency.
Light output: LED fixtures receive praise for their low heat emission rates. The amount of light output is in terms of the Photosynthetic Photon Flux (PPF). The PPF shows the how much of the used light is emitted by the crops. Another light output element you need to consider is the Photosynthetic Flux Density (PPFD), which shows how much of the PAR your grow light falls on your plants. This feature is important as it will help you in knowing how evenly your fixture distributes the light to the plants. With higher light intensities, you expect more yields. However, ensure that this increase is not above 1500 umol/m2/s.
As part of the light output, you should also consider the color blends your grow light emits. An ideal grow light will feature over six wavelengths to promote maximum crop growth.
PAR: Photosynthetically Active Radiation, abbreviated PAR is the wavelength range from 400 to 700 nanometers. It shows how much light each watt of electricity emits. An efficient LED will release more light per watt hence less consumption. This feature is vital in the process of photosynthesis thus as a smart buyer; you should focus more on this than the wattage. As a rule, the higher the PAR range, the better for your crops. This is because a higher range means the plants can manufacture their food efficiently under the light hence faster growth. However, despite this provision, it is important that you do not exceed the PAR value of the sun for your crops. The sun has a PAR between 1200 and 1400 micromoles. Thus, for your grow lights to be similarly effective in promoting plant growth, consider a PAR value between 800 and 1400 micromoles. Slightly higher or lower PARs will result in stunted growth, as the plants will not be able to make their food.
Choosing the best LED grow lights
Selecting a grow light involves getting the best LED grow light for the money. Moreover, this will call upon you to review some of the leading brands in the market to match your needs in terms of the coverage area, efficiency in operation and crop maturity requirements. Below are the top three LEDs products whose features we will explore to enable you to meet your purchase needs efficiently.
Full spectrum lights for high yields: If you want to grow your indoor vegetation from the cloning to the flowering cycle, then the Diamond Series XML 350, unlike the VIPARSPECTRA brands is the best choice for you. Despite both brands being full spectrum, Diamond Series XML features quality 10w CREE XML LEDs, Bridgelux blue and white LEDs in its model, making it the best quality LED for high yields. These features, combined with its over 11 wavelengths color output make the light ideal for all phases of plant growth. Moreover, these colors are easy to select with its color select dimmable switches to match the plant stage of growth.
Heat and electricity consumption efficiency: LEDs feature a low heat emission unlike other traditional grow lights. However, for maximum heat regulation, Diamond Series XML tops the list. This grow light has a heat output that is 50% less than other LED models, courtesy of the Dual Heat Sink. Therefore, you do not need air conditioners when using this light, saving up on costs in the long run. If your grow space is small, then the VIPARSPECTRA Reflector series 300W LED is ideal. This grow light features aluminum made cooling sinks and high speed but quiet fans for heat regulation.
Regarding electricity consumption, Diamond series XML is ideal for larger grow spaces for its coverage area of 4.5’ x 4.5’, with 4’ x 4’ core space. However, if your grow space is small, go for the VIPARSPECTRA Reflector Series 600W LED. This light has consumption of 269 watts and is perfect for a 3×3’ and 2.5×2.5’ vegetative and flowering coverage at 32” and 22” respectively. Alternatively, you can buy the VIPARSPECTRA Reflector Series 300W LED with a consumption of 136 watts, perfect for 2×2’ and 1.5×1,5’ vegetative and flowering coverage at 24” and 18” respectively.
PAR output and coverage balance: if you want to strike a balance in the PAR output to ensure that all your plants get enough photosynthetic light and grow to maturity, all at a uniform rate, then the VIPARSPECTRA Reflector series 300W LED and 600 LED should top in your priority list. These grow lights have a scientifically engineered design that allows for the even distribution of lumen output eliminating the likelihood of your crops getting sunburns and stunted growths. Additionally, if you want to improve the quality and size of your flowers, then the VIPARPECTRA brands should be your choice.
FAQS about LED grow lights
Do LED lights promote crop growth?
Yes, LEDs generate their lights in the two spectrums: the green and blue which promote plant growth. In addition, their PAR feature stimulates the plants to manufacture their food through photosynthesis resulting in growth. LED lamps also reduce the heat emissions to acceptable levels, preventing the crops from dying due to heat stress.
Can LED fixtures damage my crops?
No, unlike the HID systems, LEDs are grow lights, hence stimulate faster crop growth rather than damage. With the limited heat emissions courtesy of the heat sinks feature, these lamps maintain the indoor temperatures at optimum levels thus stimulating a faster growth.
What safe distance should I maintain between my plant canopy and LED?
An 18 inch is appropriate for the flower spectrum LEDs and about 24 inches for the vegetative spectrum LEDs. Despite this, different LED brands will come with different specifications. Thus, checking the manufacturers manual is important.
Can I use HID and LED together to grow my crops?
Most people prefer to use these lights at different plant growth stages. However, this is not appropriate. Where you do vegetative growth with HID, then shift the flowering bit to the LED, your crops will experience shock, delaying the flowering process. In extreme cases, this delay may result in substantial losses especially where your crop stands are for commercial purposes.
What are the benefits of replacing HPS with LEDs watt for watt?
In real life scenario, plants that grow under the shade take longer times to mature. Similarly, if your indoor plants do not gain access to sufficient light, the growth process slows down. Unlike HPS, LEDs feature a higher light output per watt. Thus, replacing HPS for LED is similar to exposing light deprived plants to the sun. The increased wattage LEDs have not only contributed to energy efficiency but also increase the light output for the plants promoting faster growth.
How do LEDs compare to HID lighting?
LEDs require up to 50% less power to operate compared to the HIDs. Hence, when compared to the HIDs, at the same power level, LEDs produce more light output than HIDs.
Do LEDs require a ballast to operate?
HID lights require a ballast to generate high voltages that are necessary for starting the electric arc. LEDs, on the other hand, embrace a different functionality hence do not need the ballast. Instead, these grow lights employ a direct current for their power conversion.
What is the importance of a beam angle in LEDs?
Each diode on LEDs has a lens that aids in focusing the light from the emitter. The primary lens creates an angle between 30 to 180 degrees of the light cone. This angle, called the beam angle is important in determining the light intensity that reaches the plants.
Finally, as depicted in the above buying guide, it is evident that LEDs offer an ultimate solution in agricultural production. This is especially the case for green leafy vegetables and tomatoes, which have a low tolerance to heat and cold. With an LED light unit, plants can, therefore, thrive during the off and on seasons. Thus as a smart buyer and farmer, to ensure you settle for the best led grow light for the money, consider employing the above guide in your purchase decision. If even after review you cannot find an ideal grow light, liaise with your dealer for further recommendations.