Pros and Cons of LED Grow Lights
The high-pressure lamps (HPS, MH and others) used in grow-ops for decades are slowly but surely being replaced by modern LED lights. Why? Simply put, they offer several advantages over conventional lamps, which easily overtrump the slightly higher prices. What exactly is behind the popularity of LED technology nowadays?
How do LED lights actually work?
The light in conventional high-pressure sodium lamps is created when sodium and other elements enclosed in a glass tube are heated with an electric discharge. LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology produces light by passing an electric current through a semiconducting material, which consequently releases photons (light) based on the principle of the so-called electroluminescence. This means that the electrical resistance of the semiconductor filament causes it to heat up and glow with a bright light.
Sodium lamps have been widely used since the mid-20th century and they are predominantly considered a very efficient way of illuminating large spaces. They are installed, for example, in street lights, however they are not an ideal solution in grow-ops. LED grow lights outperform them when it comes to energy efficiency, durability, and they provide optimal light spectrum while also being much easier to handle. What are the pros and cons of LED grow lights?
LED lights save electricity
The most prevalent reason why growers switch (literally) to LED lights is to save electricity, i.e. the money they invest in their grow-ops. All the equipment in any grow room should be as energy efficient as possible. This means it should do as much work as possible for as little electricity as possible. And this is the area where novel LED grow lights excel.
The efficiency of HPS lamps ranges from 1.7 to 1.85 µmol/J. High quality LED grow lights, such as the Lumatek Zeus 1000W Pro, reach almost up to 3 µmol/J. As a result, you can replace a 1000-watt HPS lamp with roughly 600 watts of LED and still end up with the same or even bigger harvest.
Our tip: When growing under very intense light (PPFD above 1000 µmol/s), it is advisable to enrich the air in the grow room with CO2 in order for plants to be able to efficiently use all available light energy.
Lower temperature and longer shelf life
LED grow lights produce significantly less heat than traditional high-pressure or fluorescent lamps. When using them, there is less risk of fires or burned or overheated plants. And what is more, you would also save money on the ventilation system in the grow room, because you won’t have to ventilate the growing area as often as with traditional lamps. There is another advantage we should mention: slighter temperature difference in the grow room between night and day. This is usually good news for your plants.
The lower temperature of LED lights also means they usually last several times longer. The top-notch high-pressure lamps can last for just about 10,000 operational hours and they gradually lose efficiency. Novel LED lamps have a life expectancy of approximately 50,000 hours, while the loss in efficiency is negligible and they are considered so reliable that even some manufacturers (such as Lumatek) provide up to a five-year warranty.
Ideal colour spectrum and light intensity
One of the biggest advantages of LED grow lights is the broad light spectrum they offer. If you choose them, you do not need to worry about switching the source of light every time you switch from the growth stage to flowering stage and vice versa, which is exactly the case of high-pressure discharge lamps.
With the help of diodes, the manufacturers of LED lights are able to produce any light spectrum. Most of the time, they choose a broad-spectrum "white" light that ideally imitates sunshine. Under such light, plants develop more naturally and are not stressed when the colour of the light quickly changes.
Our tip: SunPro Mamasun 100W FAR RED and other special LED panels with additional spectrum can be used to boost the lighting in the grow room with specific wavelengths according to the concrete needs of your plants.
Plants do not grow well under insufficiently strong light, while too intense light can damage or even burn them. Young plants require less light, and as they mature, their requirements increase. In the past, the majority of growers solved this by constantly adjusting the height of the lamps. LED lights from leading manufacturers such as Spider Farmer can be dimmed with the turn of a knob. With the Greenception LED GC and some of the other latest LED modules, sunrise and sunset simulation can be set, offering indoor growers additional, previously unimaginable possibilities.
Less equipment plus more space
Traditional grow lights have always included a ballast, a shade with a socket, a lamp and several metres of wiring. On the other hand, LED modules are compact and take up only a tiny bit of your growing area. Thus, it is easier to move the light around the grow room, also resulting in better coverage of the whole growing area. When working with oval lamps, growers have to use a shade that reflects some of the light back on the plants. Whereas LED modules have been designed to provide precise illumination of a given space. For example, the very popular Mars Hydro TSW2000 Quantum Board is designed for an area of 120 by 120 cm.
Would you like to learn more about the most important details in the field of grow lights? Read our article called Light metrics.