Are LED Lights Good for Growing Cannabis?
Feeling the drain from growing cannabis?
That’s why growers are looking at new ways to cut costs and keep expanding. Growing cannabis with LED lighting is a popular revolution set to change the game. But is it any good?
Read on below, and we’ll take a look at how LEDs compare to traditional methods.
Before we dive in, let’s take a look at what sets LEDs and HPS apart.
HPS stands for high-pressure sodium. It’s the traditional growing light. HPS operates by passing an electrical current through a space filled with inert xenon gas, along with a mixed gas of sodium and mercury.
HPS output emphasizes the yellow-through-red areas of the spectrum, but it also outputs light at all wavelengths. Excess energy is emitted as heat, so HPS bulbs run at high temperatures.
HPS lights are usually combined with MH lights. Metal halide lights do a similar job to HPS, but growers prefer them for the plants’ vegetative stage prior to flowering. They then switch to HPS for the flowering stage.
LEDs are the new kid. LED stands for light-emitting diode. Although LED bulbs have been around for a long time, recent advances in LED technology have taken them from niche applications to widespread use.
LED bulbs don’t use gas to produce light. Their light comes from a solid semiconductor when electrons move through it. In practice, this means LEDs are very efficient at what they do — and produce very little waste heat.
Do LEDs Work for Growing?
The answer is a resounding “yes”!
Advances in LED technology have allowed LEDs to take on most of the functions of incandescent bulbs. They’re used in everything from street lighting to car headlights. Growers have found that LEDs now work as well, if not better, for cultivating indoor plants.
The cannabis industry is rapidly switching over to growing cannabis with LED lighting. Higher yields, lower running costs, and greener growing are all on the lips of growers.
What Are the Advantages?
So we’ve answered whether you can use LEDs for growing. But what you really want to know is whether they’re a better option than HPS and MS lighting.
Below, we’re going to take a look at the advantages of growing with LEDs.
HPS bulbs consume incredible amounts of power. They’re around 5 times brighter than your average reading light, drawing on 1,000 watts of power.
HPS energy usage is so extreme that growing cannabis accounts for 2% of all energy use in the city of Denver, where cannabis is legal.
LED lights only produce light in the required wavelength for growing. Compared to full-spectrum HPS, they kick out less light and heat overall. That equates to savings for growers and a sigh of relief for the energy grid. If more states legalize cannabis growing, the demands placed on the grid could be unsustainable.
If you remember your physics schooling, you’ll know that machines consuming fuel give off heat as a by-product. The same goes for light bulbs.
We’ve mentioned HPS are power-hungry. All that energy they consume means they give off plenty of heat, too.
But that’s bad news for growers. Cannabis plants are sensitive to stress. Growers work hard to keep their plants at a stable temperature. When using HPS bulbs, that means cranking up the AC and other cooling technology – consuming even more energy.
LED bulbs are taking over from sodium because they’re so energy-efficient. Growers using LEDs can turn down the AC and add that to their savings.
With the lower energy levels involved in LEDs, you might suspect a lower cannabis yield.
Studies have shown the opposite is true. LEDs are still new technology, which colors public perception. But modern LEDs can yield up to 1.5 grams per watt. That’s while drawing less energy than HPS!
LED lights are still improving, which could see those yields climb even higher by the time LED lights are the universal standard.
What good’s a more efficient system if you’re always replacing the bulbs?
Luckily, that’s not a concern for LED bulbs. HPS lights have a decent lifespan of just over a year. But LEDs smash that with lifespans ranging from 5-13.7 years!
So along with other efficiency gains, LED lighting also stands the test of time.
LEDs low heat output gives you more options for their installation.
For instance, you can grow in more limited setups, such as beneath low ceilings. Or you can install LEDs closer to the plants for maximum exposure. Traditional HPS lighting would fry the plant, but growing cannabis with LED lighting can open up your options.
Many of us try to take some extra responsibility in our lives for our environmental impact.
For growers, this can be a hand-wringer. The carbon footprint and waste from HPS lighting are huge. Until now, growers haven’t had many alternatives.
Growers concerned with their impact are turning toward LED lighting as a perfect solution. The factors we’ve discussed above, from better efficiency through to less required cooling, all mean a great reduction in the carbon footprint of cannabis growing.
Learn How to Do It
Now you know it’s possible and you’ve discovered the advantages, it’s time to learn how to do it.
Luckily, there’s a wealth of information online to teach you the differences between growing with HPS and growing with LEDs. This guide, for instance, covers everything you’ll need to know.
Here are a few things you need to consider:
- Physical setup – you can keep LEDs closer to the plants
- Choosing the right spectrum
- Heating if you’re in a colder climate
- Watering – you might need to do less of it!
Start Growing Cannabis With LED Lighting
The evidence is pretty conclusive: growing cannabis with LED lighting is the future of the industry. Forward-thinking growers are already switching over. Initial costs should be eclipsed by the savings over time.
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