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It’s the same type of technology that’s used in, say a ruby laser and it’s also why LEDs use up to 75% less electricity. You see, in a gas light like a metal halide or sodium vapor lamp the light is generated by the electricity causing molecules to generate friction by moving around quickly.
It’s this ‘friction’ that in turn generates heat that in turn creates the light and it just takes less energy to pass through something than it does to have to stick around and force things to run around bumping into each other. So then let’s talk about LED lighting technology, what it can do for you as a grower, and whether or not it’s worth the extra cost.
Just All Around Better Light for Growing
First off without going into too much complex detail, in terms of optimal light spectrum output LED lighting is by far the better choice. Yes your plants primarily require light in the red and blue spectral range but those aren’t the only colors that they need and use.
They require a complete light range to thrive and it turns out that LED lights do a better job of providing that than all other forms of standard lighting currently available. They also ‘watt for watt’ produce substantially more light in the red and blue range, so they are for sure the better option in this respect.
It Spreads Out Better Too
LEDs also disperse the light that they produce more evenly than standard lighting sources. That is that they don’t have a weak outer area and a strong inner light zone that you’ll see with metal halides and sodium vapor bulbs.
This is why for instance that you may have already heard or read that LEDs eliminate the need for a rotating light fixture like the popular Sun Circle Light Mover. Now while this may true in smaller indoor grow-ops, none the less there’s something else to consider here if you’re considering switching over to LEDs in a larger room.
That is that one of the big selling points of LEDs is that because of their low heat output you can lower them right down right on top of your plants to keep them from growing tall and spindly. Once again no rotating fixture required.
You May Still Need a Rotating Fixture
The deal is though, that if you have, say an 800 watt LED light system dropped down directly on top of the plants in the center of your room, even with LEDs wide dispersal rate it will still leave the plants growing on the outer edge lacking. So yes you can and should get as close as you can to the tops of the plants, but in a larger room unless you’re using a series of smaller LED lamps you’re still going to need a rotating fixture.
Better Disbursement Means Outer Plants Won’t Lean
Then there’s another big ‘plus’ here for LEDs that needs to be taken into account. That is that anyone who’s grown in a decent sized room with 1000 watt bulbs on a rotating light fixture knows that because of their limited dispersal rate the plants on the outside edge will still lean in.
They lean in about 6 inches or so. So if you do the math here, a full 6 inches of empty grow space along the outer edges of, say a 10 foot by 10 foot square room comes out to be about 20 square feet of wasted space. That’s a lot of space!
LED lights on a rotating light fixture, due to their more even light dispersal rate, eliminate that wasted growing area. In a well managed grow room that’s about 20 square feet total translates into about a pound of additional finished product. Bud that you otherwise won’t have with standard thousand watt metal halides.
Cooler Lights are Not Always Better
Then a lot of talk has gone on about the fact that LED lights run substantially cooler, and anyone who has grown indoors knows that heat can be a big problem. At the same time though, during winter months in a colder region the heat generated by metal halides and their ballast can be a plus.
This is particularly true if you’re venting system is blowing a lot of air. So in this respect the low heat factor of LED lighting can work for or against a grower depending on the time of year and where they live.
Another thing that’s rarely mentioned about LED’s is that they’re for sure far more durable so they’re less prone to damage. Now anyone who’s moved around in an indoor grow knows that things can get a little bit cramped. So this eliminates the risk of possible damage from bumping up against your light source. Now granted this isn’t a huge deal, but none the less, if you have yet to set up your room you’re going to find out when you do that it’s something to think about.
They Also Last a Whole Lot Longer
LED lights also last substantially longer. How long? As it turns out exact figures are hard to come by in this area but generally speaking they’ll last about twice as long as a metal halide, but there’s something you need to consider here.
That is that metal halide and sodium vapor lamps die a ‘slow lingering death’ and what that means is that they gradually fizzle out. So while you’re busy crunching your numbers you need to take into account that for the serious grower a metal halide or sodium vapor bulb exceeds its ‘viable’ usefulness to a grow room long before they exceed their actual rated service life.
The Bottom Line
In terms of cost, while being more costly to buy on the ‘front end’, over their service life with the electricity savings alone LED lights do cover that extra cost when compared to metal halides and sodium vapors.
More even light dispersion works to eliminate plant leaning on the outer edges of the grow room for more efficient use of grow room space. So LED lights can pay for themselves with the first crop in a larger room.
Because LED lights generate less heat they are by far the preferred choice in a warmer climate. They’re also hands down the better option in smaller spaces and rooms where carbon dioxide enrichment is used because lower heat allows for a lower ventilation rate
In terms of light spectrum range and rate of production, and most particularly light in the red and blue wavelengths, LEDs dominate over all other grow lights currently in use, so your plants will grow thicker, faster, heavier and healthier.