LED Grow Lights: The Advantages of LED Grow Light Technology

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There was a time when LED lights were completely unsuited for use with plant. Early light-emitting diodes only produced either solid red or solid blue light. Homeowners who wanted to grow flowers, cooking herbs and vegetables indoors had to use other technologies that still remain more popular than LEDs: high-pressure sodium (HPS), metal halide (MH), high-intensity discharge (HID) or compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Now that LEDs can cover a wider range of light bands (from three-band up to full-spectrum), many growers are discovering their advantages over other types of lighting.

Ironically, while LEDs did need to evolve from single-color bulbs, they don’t need to cover many light bands for to facilitate plant growth. It’s commonly assumed that plants need full-spectrum lighting because that’s what they get from the sun. But sunlight is so abundant that it doesn’t have to be efficient. Most plants only need the red, orange and blue parts of the spectrum to flourish. Experts generally consider triband LEDs to be optimal for plant growth.

LED grow lights specialize in providing the narrow light spectrum of Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR). A high PAR output matters more than a high overall lumen output. Up to 90% of the light emitted by an LED grow light can be used by plants for photosynthesis, compared to only 15% of the light emitted by an HID or CFL bulb. The light produced by LED grow lights are less impressive to the human eye, since we key on lumens of green and yellow more acutely than red, but red is what chlorophyll “sees” and needs.

This spectrum efficiency greatly contributes to the LED grow lights’ energy efficiency. LED lights consume 40% to 75% less electricity than HPS or MH lights for the same yield. A 120 watt LED system can outperform a 600 watt HID system while having hundreds of dollars a year. The greater efficiency of LED grow lights can be seen most clearly in their much greater lifespan. While HPS bulbs for grow lights typically get around 5,000 hours of use before burning out, LED bulbs get anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 hours.

LED grow lights plug directly into standard household outlets without the need for a ballast to regulate the current. They also run much cooler than HPS and MH lights, and often require no additional heat removal system (though some models do feature built-in cooling fans). There’s no need to worry about raised humidity levels or burned out leaves. Most importantly, LEDs don’t burn themselves out from constant use. If you looking for higher performance and lower maintenance, consider an LED grow light.

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