LED (light emitting diode) grow lights have recently flooded the market and many growers are now looking at the technology that promises less energy consumption and less heat, in an easy space-saving solution.
Originally they were far too weak to be used for growing purposes, despite the over the top claims made by the Chinese manufacturers. However recent developments in technology have drastically amplified the power of the lights to the point where they can now be used to grow plants.
LED grow lights emit a narrow band of light within the specific frequency range required by plants to produce chlorophyll. They give off considerably less heat (because they use considerably less electricity) and generally have a more compact form factor than HID grow lights
With considerably lower energy consumption and less heat when compared with standard HID (high intensity discharge) lights, LED grow light manufacturers promise reduced running costs and increased yields. Most LEDs can also be plugged directly into a standard power outlet without the need for specialized switching gear and ballasts; another potential benefit for growers with limited space.
These energy and space saving advantages are attractive for many growers, so it’s no wonder that these lights are causing a stir. However, there are also many disadvantages with using LED’s...
LED lights have received much press in the recent years. The low power consumption and cooler temperatures calculated by manufacturers have turned many heads, however these claims are often simply dodgy marketing from the Chinese manufacturers and their resellers in the West.
When it comes to growing your own produce the bottom-line is quality and yield and LED’s still fall way short of HID in both these departments.
This is because the current technology has still not been fine-tuned enough to produce the same results as standard HID lights. Many LED grow light panels claim to cover all the spectrums required for each stage of growing; however it’s very rare these claims are true.
Often, manufacturers state these lights can improve the quality of the final produce, but from all the feedback we get from growers (and as you can imagine we get a fair bit…) this is not the case - flower formation is normally less dense, and customers that have tried them report that Brix (sugar) levels in the plant seem to be down compared to HID lights.
Even when used by very experienced growers who we know to be very competent, most that we have talked to who’ve managed to achieve acceptable quality using LED grow lights have then reported lower yields as a tradeoff. These lower yields often come in the form of less dense vegetation and flowering, and plants that looked slightly “wrong”.
Another common issue is that positioning the plants too close to the lights - within about 15 inches - can cause the leaves to develop signs of heat stress. This negates the space saving benefits somewhat, especially as CFL’s don’t tend to cause the same problems.
Sure, the heat and energy saving benefits are indeed a step forward in grow light technology, but currently they are way overpriced and under-performing. So the question becomes - are you willing to sacrifice quality and quantity for a few minor improvements to heat and efficiency and spend way more than you need to in the process?
Perhaps if space is the most important factor, then the answer could just be starting to swing towards be ‘Yes’. However, any experienced grower will tell you that spending that little extra on ventilation and temperature control will produce much better results then switching over to LED lights. As noted above plants placed too near to the lights often show signs of stress, so there’s only so much space saving you can do without starting to reverse any heat benefits you may be getting from growing with LED’s in the first place.
Of course, this may all change in the future, in fact we all hope it does as the more choice in the market the better for both consumers and retailers. No one can deny the benefits of better spectrum efficiency and more compact growing spaces, however as it comes at the cost of sacrificing quality and yield we won’t be selling them anytime soon.
Of course, we know that there’s nothing like a bit of visual proof to really show you how LED lights compare to HID lights. So, we’ve been busy at work creating a video diary growing chillies under both LED lights and HID lights. We kept the environment and other variables the same to ensure it's a fair battle, and the results speak for themselves. Check out the LED vs HID grow light battle below: