Q: I’m a dummy when it comes to LED grow lights. What can you tell me about them?
A: These are a modern form of plant lighting using light-emitting diodes as the light source. LED grow lights are less bulky, cooler, lighter and more energy conserving than High Intensity (HI) discharge lights, the former favorite for indoor growers.
You can use LED grow lights to grown anything from watermelons to pot (where legal!). We grow tomatoes and jalapeno peppers indoors, and the results are phenomenal. The scale of LED use varies quite a bit. Large commercial greenhouses utilize LEDs for supplemental lighting. The extra lighting helps plants grow taller, larger, greener and plusher. The additional light also improves the flowering and reproductive cycle of the plants. Since greenhouses operate 12 months a year, the extra LED lighting comes in handy during the winter months when sunlight is weakest.
In states like California and Colorado, people can get licenses to grow medical marijuana. Although these permits allow outdoor planting, nearly all pot growers prefer indoor cultivation for privacy and security reasons. Thus the LED grow light industry has found a major customer in the hundreds of legal indoor pot farms that dot the country. LED lights are by far more preferable to HI lights in this application, as they are more efficient and create a bushier, taller result. LED lights use less electricity and generate little heat, which means that you also save money on temperature control.
Another reason LED lights are so efficient is that they predominantly cast red and blue light, which are the wavelengths needed by plants. No energy is wasted on green light, which surprisingly is not used by vegetation. That’s why plants are green – they reflect the green wavelengths they don’t use. And you can actually tune the output of LED lights to exactly match the needs of your particular crops. As far as lifetime is concerned, an LED light typically lasts about 55,000 hours, compared to 17,000 hours for an HI light.
HI lights are so hot they’ve been known to start fires and wilt plants. LED lights are much safer, because they are essentially cool to the touch. If you order LED lights and ask “where’s the ballast?” when you open the package, relax – LEDs don’t use them. You just plug an LED light into a normal wall socket, no muss, no fuss.