Switching to LED Grow Lights Makes A Lot Of Sense
Growing plants in an indoor environment has many advantages. There are fewer problems with insects and animal pests
Non-LED grow lights produce lots of heat, and can easily scorch your plants
and it is possible to closely control temperature and moisture variables.
Regardless of what kind of plants you are planning to grow, they all have some common needs:
1. Sufficient, but not excessive water.
2. A source of nutrients, either from decomposing organic matter or refined fertilizer
3. Appropriate mineral ratios. Some plants require more or less or certain trace minerals.
4. Appropriate temperature growing atmosphere
5. Appropriate levels of light for at least 8 hours daily.
Note that the term appropriately is used since different species of plant have different tolerances and needs. You wouldn’t try to grow tomatoes in heavily acidic substrate. Note also that hydroponically grown plants are approached a bit differently. Water, nutrient and mineral levels are all closely intertwined for hydro set ups. Hydroponic fertilisers that have been specially formulated take a lot of the guess work out of growing indoor plants, as you generally only need to follow the directions, adding a set amount of either liquid or powdered concentrate to your reservoir.
The last two points, concerning temperature and light are generally the ones that give people trouble. Firstly, raising or lowering the temperature of a room or building is expensive, and secondly, increasing your lighting often means throwing out the temperature again – it’s a bit of a viscous cycle, that can easily result in burnt leaves or excessive evaporation – which in turn can negatively affect your growing atmosphere, because most plants do NOT grow well in overly humid conditions. The problems can continue from there, since evaporation will condense on walls and windows, generally making a mess.
Although conventional HID (High intensity discharge) grow lights do certainly work, LED grow lights are now taking over the market. LED grow lights use Light Emitting Diodes instead of high temperature filaments and high energy ballasts, to produce visible light (and some in the IR/ UV spectrum) at a much more efficient rate. Basically, more light for less electricity.
This has two significant advantages for indoor growers, hydroponic or otherwise -
1. They are less expensive to run because less electricity is consumed to produce a given intensity of light
2. Very little heat is produced when the lamp operates.
Point number (2) relates directly to the above discussion about excessive evaporation and burning. People who have switched to LED grow lights report noticeably lower water consumption of plants, indicating that less water is lost through stomatic vapor exchange (basically the plant sweating).
The advantages of using a cooler running lighting system are compounding. Not only does it consume less power while in operation, it also reduces the need to artificial cooling such as air conditioning, in hot climates. And because evaporation and scorching are no longer an issue, you can stretch lighting periods out for longer. LED grow lights can be safely left running for longer periods, with many growers suggesting an increased cycle of 150%. So if you have been running a conventional system for 8 hours daily, you can safely increase this to 12 hours.
Under LED grow lights it therefore becomes possible to shorten production cycles, and increase crop production. And all this from a simpler, safer and cheaper system!
At this stage most manufacturers are producing replacement lamps in LED guise which can be directly installed into standard lamp fittings. Don’t be thrown off by the weird looking design of LED grow lights, the fitting are all ISO standard. If you have the money to spare, then a full replacement system with controllers and timers does offer you the most control of your grow lights, but if you are relying on manual switches it doesn’t make any difference, you can still set up your own LED grow lights.
You will find that LED lights are naturally quite focused, and that your old parabolic reflectors are not required to direct the light to your plants. And finally, LED grow lights generally operate at low voltages, making them relatively safe for anyone with a bit of common sense to install themselves.