For quite some time, there has been a debate within the growing community about LED (light-emitting diode) grow lights. Some growers swear by the LED, citing decreased power usage, increased longevity, and enhanced color-spectrum customization as some of the main reasons why LED is king, while other growers remain unconvinced, and vow to stick to their loyal HPS (high-pressure sodium) and MH (metal halide) bulbs. I have been a loyal HPS/MH user for years, and can admit to a certain level of prejudice toward LEDs, but recently I have been rethinking my opinion.
My LED aversion was originally formed when I first set up my grow, and was deciding on my lighting setup. I liked that LED lights used much less energy and generated significantly less heat, but at the time there was a severe lack of companies manufacturing quality LED lighting systems; and HID (high-intensity discharge) systems, like HPS and MH, were the clear favorites among the growers I had spoken. So, I invested in my HPS/MH grow lamps and ballasts, along with some nice bulbs. This method has served me very well.
But with advances in all kinds of growing techniques have come advances in LED grow lamps. So, in the interest of fairness and to explain a technique which is not quite as well known and understood, here is an overview of LED grow lighting as it exists today.
Not Your Grandma's LED Lighting
As we have discussed in previous articles, green plants — like marijuana — have a specific light spectrum that they absorb, which changes based on whether they are in vegetative state or flowering. This is something that has been in their genes for a long time as the plants evolved to respond to our sun and its seasons, which cause changing light conditions.
The best LED companies have taken this into consideration, and created broad spectrum grow lamps, with multiple-colored diodes which are specific to the plant and its current growth period. These new LED lamps have greatly improved the results in marijuana and other crop growth versus previous models. Just make sure that you are buying from a reputable buyer, hopefully with a warranty, just as I recommend with any other lighting accessories.
The Benefits of LED Lighting
LEDs are more energy-efficient and release less heat.
According to a pro-LED website, "In HID lighting, up to 95 percent of energy is wasted as heat radiation." Because LEDs do not create the heat that HID lamps do, grow rooms utilizing LED grow lights do not need the exhaust fans and ventilation that the others do (though proper ventilation is still needed in any garden).
Not needing to pump hot air from your garden solves a number of grower-related problems, from needing an exit point for the hot air or, if you do have one, getting your heat signature noticed by planes or drones with aerial infrared. Even when you are following all the rules and doing things by the book, it's never fun to be raided.
LED lights run at about 15 to 20 percent of the average electrical cost of HID lights, which can save large amounts of money for growers who are used to the high price of running HID lamps.
LED lamps can be situated much closer to your plants.
Because LEDs are so much cooler than HID lamps, they can be placed much closer to your plants (as close as 12 inches). This allows more light to get to more areas of the plant, and helps to avoid what is known as "stretch" (when the plants become taller than they would naturally be because they are trying to reach the light). By adding reflective hoods, LED lamps can be quite bright and achieve bountiful harvests.
LEDs lamps have the lifespan of a tortoise
If it isn't clear, that means that these suckers last forever compared to their HID counterparts. Many of the better brands are rated for 50 to 60 thousand hours of use, whereas the average life of an HID bulb is about 2400 hours.
So, Why Don't All Marijuana Growers Use LED Lights?
A big part of the problem for LED lights is the large amount of poor-quality products coming from China and other countries with less-stringent rules about manufacturing. HID lamps are not immune to the same problems, but it seems that LED lights are the most-frequently sold without proper quality control.
In addition to possible safety issues, many imported LED lights (usually found on the internet) do not typically contain the correct ratio of colored diodes and don't have the finesse of some of the newer, higher-quality LED lights that I mentioned earlier. If you do decide that LED lighting makes sense for you, I can't say this enough: make sure you do your homework and make sure you are buying from a top-notch company.
So, LEDs sound great. Why doesn't everyone just buy those high-quality, broad spectrum lights? Well, they aren't exactly pocket change. High-quality LED lights are expensive (up to a thousand dollars a pop) and you often need more than one for the average grow-rooms. They do, of course, save growers money in the long run in the form of lower energy bills.
There are also plenty of hold outs who will never leave their HID lighting. MH and HPS bulbs really do mimic the look and feel of the sun, and many growers like the idea of staying as close to natural gardening as possible. Plus, there is certainly an argument to be made that HID lights are brighter and more able to provide enough light to grow the largest and post potent buds.
As for me, I certainly am intrigued by these new broad spectrum LED lights, but I think I will wait for the technology to perfect itself and the prices to drop, as they inevitably will. Until then, at least my expensive-to-run HID lamps can serve double duty — I can spend time with my plants and tan all at once. That's a win-win.
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Monday, 14 January 2013
Article by Catelyn Snow, on Jan. 14th 2013