LED lights were first introduced to the market to replace the traditional incandescent and fluorescent lights.
People eventually made that switch, although it costed more than the traditional lights.
It was only a matter of time when LED lights became affordable for households. They became competitively priced when compared to the usual lights, with the bonus of lasting longer.
With LED becoming a standard for lighting in homes and offices, the horticulture industry wanted the same features and sustainability.
Thanks to technology, we now have LED grow lights making a niche of its own in growing. Manufacturers are also on their way to drive down prices to make it more competitive versus the traditional grow lights that use HPS or CMH.
Should you want to invest in LED grow lights, you may want to read further on what you need to know in choosing a fixture for your indoor garden.
What makes LED Grow Lights different from standard LED lights?
LED Grow Lights are different from the usual LED bulbs in your household. The everyday light only illuminates, while grow lights have a broad spectrum of red and blue that stimulate growth.
LED grow lights come in many shapes and sizes. But as the most needed units of LED grow lights, LED chips have most of the effect on the quality of the lighting, such as spectrum (colors) and photon flux (“brightness”) produced.
Since LED grow light manufacturers can choose the LEDs they use in their lamps, it is crucial to understand which kind of LED grow light best fits the specific application.
One of the advantages of LED grow lights compared to traditional lighting solutions is the ability to match the lighting to the needs of plants.
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
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 vs PPFD
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, 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.
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.
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.
Grower's Choice ROI-E720 Spectrum Chart
1870 umol/s - 2080 umol/s. Max 800W
Full-spectrum LED grow lights have both red and blue spectrums, as well as infrared and ultraviolet lighting. These light colors matter, as they help in different stages of growth, inducing photosynthesis, and blooming of buds.
Choosing an LED Grow Light
LEDs are the most crucial components of the grow light. These produce the light itself and help stimulate the growth of your cannabis.
There are many options for LEDs from different grow lights. That is one of the most advertised specifications of a grow LED, as it says a lot about the quality of light it can produce.
Some of the notable LED manufacturers used by leading LED grow lights are Samsung and Cree. They have been known for their colors, often producing deep reds to stimulate photosynthesis.
A great example of an LED grow light that uses Samsung or Cree is the Optic LED Bloom Enhancer Array. It features both brands to produce reds, blues, and white.
Having an efficient cooling system onboard your LED grow light is crucial, as well.
While LEDs are much colder than traditional lightings, remember that growing cannabis emits more heat than other kinds of plants.
That is why a lot of manufacturers of grow lights emphasize heat-dissipating systems built into their products.
For the most part, modern LED grow lights have built-in passive cooling. There are a lot of good options for LED grow lights that boast of superb cooling designs.
LED grow lights come in different form factors, each with respective strong points. There are three (3) kinds to choose from, with most having a variety in design.
A Traditional LED grow light panel uses small or medium wattage diodes and compact lamps. Most of the LED grow lights use a panel-design for better distribution while keeping costs lower. There are also more modern panels that mix both big and small lamps in one panel. These are designed for more versatile applications in the growth of a plant. Panels also contain a mix of some features of Quantum and Chip on Board (COB) LEDs.
Spread-style LEDs are fixtures that have small LEDs placed that are meant to cover a large area.
There are two (2) kinds of Spread-style LEDs: Quantum Boards, and Spider LEDs.
HLG 650R utilizing highly efficient quantum boards
Quantum Boards, started from the Horticulture Lighting Group, although this term has been used for LEDs that use this design. Quantum Boards use low wattage diodes, and have become popular options, as it produces good yields at less power.
G8LED C3 has a powerful growing capability of 1700 mMol/s (PPF)
Spider LEDs refer to the multiple arm design of the fixture in spreading out smaller LEDs. Since this fixture uses arms, instead of a single board, Spider LEDs look more compact and can be lighter than Quantum Boards. These LED fixtures may cost more but produce better results
Chip on Board (COB)
COB LED grow lights are known for their intense brightness. COBs get this brightness due to the less spread layout of LEDs in a small area. These grow lights were designed to work in a small place, which is why it has a higher light concentration. COBs, while meant for smaller areas, use more electricity than traditional or spread-style LED grow lights.
Aside from having a good driver and LED chipset, it helps if your grow lights are synchronized through a compatible controller.
While LED grow lights usually plug and play, having a controller helps you synchronize the transition of your lighting.
Let the light turn up gradually to simulate the sunrise and let dim at the right time to emulate the sunset.
Also, check on the drivers that come with your LED grow lights. Check if they can be upgraded and maybe consider going for an upgraded one to improve your energy usage.
What are the best LED grow lights available?
If you are looking for an LED grow light for medium or even large-scale indoor gardening, then this one is for you.
The NextLight Mega is a 650-watt LED grow light but capable of replacing 1000-watt DE HPS grow lights.
The NextLight Mega has a footprint that’s good enough for grow tents measuring 4 feet on each side. In an ordinary grow room, it can provide lighting for a floor area of up to 5 feet on each side.
The NextLight Mega also does a superb job of scaling up your harvests. The NextLight Mega can provide lighting to stimulate the growth of buds, with some growers getting an extra 40 percent yield in one harvest.
With all the benefits it brings, the NextLight Mega should be on your upgrade or shopping list.
The Optic 8+ from Optic LED works best with small to medium-scale growers.
Despite being a COB LED, the Optic 8 can provide lighting inside grow areas measuring up to 10 feet on each side.
Its light concentration helps you produce buds with better density and has the potential for a harvest of up to 3 pounds.
If you want to make the most out of your harvest, but work in limited spaces, then you will enjoy the benefits of having an Optic 8+ in your grow area. It also works with different growing mediums, such as hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics, soil setups.
For a more budget friendly option...
The Optic 6 is the smaller brother of the Optic 8+.
It features the same capabilities, with the number of COB LEDs being the only difference.
If your budget is a bit too steep for the Optic 8+, consider getting the Optic 6 instead.
The Horticulture Lighting Group 650R (HLG 650R) is a Quantum Board that is designed for large-scale growers who have enough room to spare.
The lights on the HLG 650R are so powerful, you need to hang it higher than most LED grow lights. While it works best on higher grounds, it has a built-in dimmer that you can use should you not have enough headroom.
Given all the power the HLG 650R can churn out for your plants, you can expect more potent yields during your harvest.
Since this is a full-spectrum LED, the HLG 650R covers the grow phases from start to end, which makes it cheaper in the long run.
The Electric Sky ES 300 is a viable option for those who have limited spaces but are looking at scaling up later on.
The ES 300 is the flagship LED grow light of Electric Sky. It features a wideband color output that helps your ramp up the growth of your plants, speeding up the blooming process.
On its own, the ES 300 has a footprint that can illuminate up to 15 square feet of space. But if you are looking to scale up your operations in the future, you can chain the ES 300 with other units and control them through a single controller.
Another good thing about it is its ability to adjust the light angle. You can focus it any way you want, so light gets in the right places.
So, if you are a commercial grower, or someone very passionate about indoor growing, the ES 300 is a worthy addition.
For a more budget friendly option...
The Electric Sky ES 180 is the smaller brother of the ES 300.
It gives you the same benefits, but in a smaller package.
A single ES 180 can cover up to 8 square feet of growing area, which is great for four (4) plants. It can also be chained with other units to cover larger areas.
So, if you are on a tighter budget, you can consider the ES 180, especially if you have plans of scaling up soon.
If you own a small to medium-scale indoor garden, then the California Lightworks SolarXtreme 1000 is another LED light you should check.
It can cover grow areas of up 25 square feet in size and is full spectrum.
The SolarXtreme 1000 has a low heat signature, which is ideal if you do not have enough headroom to mount the lamp. The minimal heat means your plants are protected from day one of its growth.
The full spectrum capabilities of the SolarXtreme 1000 make it ideal for all stages of growth without many adjustments. So, if you are also new to the world of indoor garden lighting, this fixture can help you get oriented with the ins and outs.
For a more budget friendly option...
The California Lightworks SolarXtreme 500 is a downsized version of the SolarXtreme 1000.
While a smaller version, the SolarXtreme 500 does not scrimp on features yields. You get the same performance as the SolarXtreme 1000, only in a smaller footprint.
The SolarXtreme 500 works best in grow tents of up to 16 square feet. If you are looking at a more energy-efficient fixture, the SolarXtrme does it well, as it consumes only 50 percent of electricity when compared with other LED grow lights.
The Optic 1 by Optic LED is a COB LED that does a great job of focusing on small spaces.
If you have limited space, the Optic 1 is a great option to consider, as it can illuminate grow tents of up to 9 square feet.
The Optic 1 also works in large grow rooms, should you decide to scale up. You can upgrade its lens for a wider angle and chain it with other Optic 1s to get better lighting.
If you plan to cycle different growing mediums, the Optic 1 will work wonders, too. It can work on soil, hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics.
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.