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LED Grow Light Buying Guide

LED Grow Light Buying Guide

With the rise of indoor gardening, no doubt grow lights are becoming more popular every day. But with so many types, quality, misleading wattage, manufacturers, complex terminology & grow space calculations, it’s definitely hard to find & buy the perfect grow light that suits your needs. Even more so if you are a beginner.

If you are wondering where to buy grow lights and which grow lights will be perfect for your needs, this article simplifies everything including true wattage, coverage calculations, type of grow lights, efficiency, warranty, and best place to buy grow lights from.

There is a lot of marketing around LED grow lights. But great marketing does not make a great LED grow light. Performance does. So, how do you choose the best LED light for your grow space?

What are LED Grow Lights?
LED grow lights are specialized LEDs with a full spectrum designed to aid in photosynthesis an allow plants to grow with little or no sunlight.

LED grow lights are ideal for all types of indoor grows and for supplemental lighting for outdoor and greenhouse grows. Opposed to regular lights, they do not require gas to operate within a bulb, but are limited to a small diode of light. LED lights last longer than standard incandescent bulbs or HID bulbs like metal halide and high pressure sodium (HPS), due to the fact that they have no filament, meaning they are not susceptible to burning out. This also helps over the lifetime of an LED lamp with less maintenance and repair costs such as replacing bulbs as you would with old lighting technologies. Where an HPS or metal halide bulb may last up to 20,000 hours, most modern LED chips are now rated at 100,000 hours, 5 times the life of older technologies. LEDs also hold their brightness much longer. An HID lamp can lose half it’s brightness by the time it is halfway through it’s life. A DLC Premium rated LED light will hold 90% or greater of it’s lumen output for 36,000 hours, long after that HID lamp has burnt out. Another benefit to LED Grow Lights vs HID grow lights is the higher efficiency ratings. LED lights do not create nearly as much heat, which in turn lowers overall electricity consumption costs while still offering a powerful lighting option. This brings about another huge advantage of LEDs in horticulture lighting, the savings due to not needing expensive cooling systems and the electricity those systems use to keep grow areas from overheating and destroying crops. LED technology is able to closely replicate light coming from the sun, offering solutions for the indoor growing of all types of plants. LED technology from innovative companies like CREE continues to advance and current LED horticulture chips are designed with full spectrum lighting covering a wide variety of light wavelengths, making them ideal for growing at any stage in a plants life. It’s time to get rid of those old HID lamps and step into the future of horticulture lighting with LED full spectrum lights.

How many lights will I need?
What is the coverage area of lights and how do I plan it out? Probably the most common question we get for grow lights. The ideal amount of light for growth of different types of plants is below:

Cannabis is 7150 lumens (65 watts) per 2 square foot.
Vegetables = 4400 lumens (40 watts) per 2 square foot.
Plants = 2750 lumens (25 watts) per 2 square foot.

For this reason, the first step in factoring how many lights you will need is to determine your grow space. Once you have determined your grow space and the amount of plants you intend to grow, you can figure how many lights you will need to cover the entire area. The amount of lighting you will need per square foot is also dependent on the type of plants you intend to grow, as some plants require more or less lighting.

The other factor to keep in mind is how high to install the lights. Some basic standards to keep in mind are below:

For lights under 300 watts, start at a height of 18-24″.
For lights over 300 watts, start with a height of 24-36″.
Most growers will lower the their lights over the lifecycle of the plant bringing them closer to the plant in the flowering stages.
The higher the power of the light, the higher the light needs to be over the plant. Using an adjustable cable or chain to hang grow lights is always a smart idea so you can easily adjust the height as a plant grows. This also allows you to easily make adjustments based on signs the plant gives off to let you know if you need to raise or lower the light to find that perfect height.

Why Should You Get LED Grow Lights?
LED grow lights are energy efficient. Compared to CFL lights, you get more light for the same amount of electricity. It also emits less heat and have better heat management.

LEDs work best when used between 12 – 18 inches away from your plant. If you use CFLs, that would mean finding the right amount of height without putting too much heat on your plants.

Now, LEDs are not exactly the best options for the flowering stage, as HPS lamps shine here. But, with the improvement of technology, LED manufacturers are starting to develop LED fixtures that can work for the flowering stage.

It’s only a matter of time when the horticulture industry will have LEDs designed for each phase of growth.

LEDs may be a bit pricier upfront, but you will reap the benefits later on. But don’t get too bothered also with the price, as some LED brands are becoming more competitively priced.

LED grow lights are often plug-and-play devices. That means you do not need a ballast, and these fixtures are ready to shine out of the box.

Things To Consider When Buying an LED Grow Light

Power
The first thing you need to look at is the power the LED fixture provides.

When it comes to power, this aspect does not just cover wattage, but other specifications, such as Photosynthetic Photon Flux (PPF), the efficacy, and average Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density (PPFD).

PPF
PPF refers to the amount of light produced by a source, in this case, an LED grow light, per second; measured in umol per second.

Now, if you have a grow area that measures 36 square meters, and your strain needs around 500 umol per square meter, you need 1,800 umol/s of light for the growing area.

Thus, you will need an LED grow light that produces 1,800 umol per second. You can use several in tandem to get the required PPF.

Note that PPF does not automatically equate to the amount of light a plant receives, but rather how much is produced by a source.

PPFD
PPFD, meanwhile, is how effective your plants can use the photons from the light. You would want something that distributes something evenly across the grow area.

If you run a commercial-sized facility, you will need a PPFD of around 1,500 to 2,000 umol/s per square meter per second, which can be supplemented by a CO2 enrichment system and other environmental controlling systems.

But, if you only have a small grow area, 1,000 will be too much, as it would be a waste of energy, since small-time or personal growers rarely use control systems for environment and CO2 enrichment.

Lastly, Efficacy deals with how much photons you can get on the same power consumption.
Spectrum
Some LED grow lights are full spectrum, which gives it adjustable properties to adapt to different phases of growth.

Ideally, you would want to get a full spectrum, which includes UV lighting. That will help you save more, as you can have one set to do most, if not all, the growing phases.

Conclusion
LED grow lights can help a grower save up to 75% in energy consumption. They have a smaller heat signature as well, which saves even more.

Their incredible efficiency and their improved yields make LED light the horticultural lighting of the future. And for the countless growers who have made the switch already, they are the grow lighting choice of the present, too.
Investing in LED grow lights is a smart decision to make, especially if you see yourself taking on indoor gardening for a long time.

If well taken care of, the LED grow lights can last you more than five (5) years before they start showing signs of wear and tear.

While the cost might be a bit steep upfront, the returns you get from this investment pay for itself in no time.

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