- Home Improvement
LED grow lights have many advantages over traditional HID and Fluorescent lights
Different Hydroponic Lighting Systems and Plant Growth
Gardening enthusiasts who have limited or no outdoor space can enjoy planting different crops regardless of the season with a hydroponic garden. Plants can be grown indoors using such a hydroponic system, and the correct type of lighting. Good lighting which mimics the suns rays provides indoor plants with an energy source, and allows for effective growth. Two important factors to consider when growing plants indoors are the light intensity and the correct light spectrum, or color of light that is delivered.
Lower cost and DIY home hydroponic systems traditionally have used fluorescent lights. The intensity of lights was once measured in candle power, but today light level is measured as lumens. To put light intensity and requirements into perspective, indoor plants need about 2,000 lumens per square foot to effectively grow. Regular florescent lights must be quite large and draw a large amount of energy to achieve such intensity. In addition, fluorescent lights give off light that is concentrated towards the blue end of the visible spectrum. While this can be good for certain types of plants (such as herbs and seedlings) it does NOT encourage maximum growth rate, and for this reason can limit foliage and fruit production
It is generally accepted that red and orange light wavelengths are best for budding and blossoming. Fluorescent lighting can still be used for growing indoor gardens though, as it is a fairly low cost option to set up.
For the past 30 or so years, professional growers have mainly been using high intensity discharge lamps (HID). These lamps look somewhat similar to the incandescent lamps you have in your home, but are more efficient and a lot brighter for their size. HID lamps essentially use a pressurised tube or globe, containing a “ballast” of metal and gas vapour. A high voltage arc is passed through the ballast to produce exceptionally bright light. HID grow lights are great in many ways, BUT they use a lot of power and they produce a lot of heat. Heat is bad in an indoor growing environment – it scorches plant leaves, it heats up your growing room, and thereby can necessitate air conditioning and more and more power usage. In many cases though, HID is really quite good, ideal for growing many different kinds of plants. A 250 watt HID light produces 29,000 lumens, which in theory could grow 14-15 sq feet of plants indoors.
Light emitting diodes (LED) are slowly gaining popularity among hydroponic gardeners. LED grow lights are not exactly new, but it is only recent that they have become an advertised and sought after alternative to fluorescent and HID lamps. Early LEDs were used in display panels and toys, and although people recognized that they were extremely energy efficient (they convert over 90% of electrical energy into visible light), the total power handling capacity was simply not there. However, modern LEDs are a different story – you will now find superbright 1W, 2W, even 5W diodes in torches, downlights and more. And as we will see, using them in LED grow lights makes a lot of sense.
Firstly, LEDs use a lot less power to produce the same intensity of light as any other source. The advantages compound form here. Less energy used and less energy wasted as heat means no scorched plants, and no excessive heat, no aircon, no unwanted attention resulting from unusually high power bills…not that you will be growing anything illegal of course!
Secondly, LED grow lights for indoor plants have an incredible life span. A good LED grow light should be rated and guaranteed for 50,000-100,000 hours, or between 5 and 10 years of use. Compare this to HID lamps, and you have a clear winner.
Overall, LED grow lights are without a doubt the way of the future.
Electricity is becoming an expensive commodity, and worldwide there is mounting
pressure for everyone to go green, so to speak. Do be warned however, that
there are plenty of scams out there as is always to be expected when a new
technology rises. You get what you pay for, so super cheap LED grow light
panels that claim to replace your large HID or Fluoro system are probably NOT
going to cut it. Good quality lights will never be dirt cheap, but they will
pay for themselves relatively quickly in terms of low power consumption and
long service life.