LED grow lights: will they grow cannabis?
and more importantly, will they flower them?
LED grow lights have exploded in the last few years with more advanced versions seeming to appear monthly. But among marijuana growers there is heated debate on the subject, with traditionalists yet to be converted to the new technology. For newbies the problem is often wading through the techno talk to get to the truth. Lets get back to basics.
LED lights: a brief history
As early as the beginning of the 20th century a British scientist, experimented with a solid state light emitting diode (LED), but it wasn’t until the late fifties before his research was taken seriously. In 1962 the first practical visible spectrum LED was developed by American Holynak, “the father of the light-emitting diode”. Initially used in a variety of settings, from TVs to watches, it has only been in the past 10 years that problems with reliability, stability, strength and spectrum have been resolved. Where once LEDs were used mainly for red indicators in electronics, they have now moved into all wavelengths, including visible, ultraviolet and infrared.
Research by scientists such as those at NASA and corporate development aimed at horticultural businesses worldwide have refined the specifications to the point where LED lighting is not only a viable form of alternative grow lights: it is possibly the future of grow lighting technology.
So how do LED grow light systems work?
An LED grow lamp looks very different from an HID grow light. Whereas the latter looks like an oversized industrial light bulb capable of kicking out a lot of brightness and power (which it does), the LED systems are self-contained boxes full of tiny bulbs. Each grow bulb is small in area (less than 1mm2) and uses integrated optical components to shape its radiation pattern and reflection.
In its simplest form, the plant uses blue light for growing, and red light for flowering.
Today’s more sophisticated LED grow lighting systems produce light at the correct wavelengths of growing and flowering cannabis by combining four separate LEDs into clusters, each bulb emitting light at one of the four chlorophyll absorption peaks.
For cannabis growing, you want to see lights aimed at 439nm, 469nm, 642nm and 667nm.
The Advantages of LEDs for growing cannabis[su_list icon=”icon: heart-o” icon_color=”#1cb82f”]
LED grow lights emit light at optimum wavelengths
A good LED grow light provides almost only the spectra of light that the plant needs, with hardly any wastage. In theory this means bigger, better plants.
LED grow lights produce virtually no heat. This means that less investment, energy & thought has to go into dealing with heat extraction. Assuming that your grow room is located within your home environment, you probably keep the ambient temperature at around the ideal growing temps.
Low running costs
- Electricity bills are said to be between 40% and 75% less than an equivalent HID or CFL system (including reduced amounts used for smaller extraction equipment, no air con etc)
- LED grow lights have no filament system to burn out, and have an expected lifespan of 50,000 hours
- There are no ballasts, reflectors and so on to be replaced.
- Because there is no heat, it is not necessary to spend a lot of time, energy and expense dealing with it: only a small extractor system etc
Of course, we all believe that readers of this article possess medical marijuana growing certificates. But just in case you don’t, this aspect of growing cannabis using LED grow lights is a compelling one. As more and more marijuana grows are discovered due to either suspicious increases in electricity usage or as a result of heat signatures, any system that creates neither of these has to have a large stealth bonus. LED growing also produces virtually no noise – there’s no give-away electrical “hum”
Size of grow room
OK, so we’ve all measured up in a new location and had to factor in space for distance from plant at maximum size, size of reflectors, sturdy mountings for ballasts, fans, extractor fans with tubing and so on. With LED growing none of these elements need to be considered. LED grow lights can be much closer to the plants, and without all that excess equipment needed, it really is possible to grow in a small space, discreetly. See here for more information on constructing your own LED grow box.
What must be remembered is that the science of growing marijuana indoors is not to replicate the natural environment, but to optimise it to the nth degree. Hydroponics produce great results because they enable the cannabis grower to define exactly the correct amounts of certain nutrients available directly to the plant through water, which is itself kept within a certain pH range. Similarly he/she controls the ambient temperature, introduces carbon dioxide, sets the length of time light is available. With LED lighting, it is possible to exercise even more control over the quality as well as the amount of light available for the plant
Do LED grow lights work as well as HPS for cannabis grows?
See here to read about our comparison grows
We’ve been growing weed indoors for 16 years now, moderated on forums, and as this blog shows, been quite obsessive in our quest for quality. Two years ago we started using Fero LEDs .. why? Well for all of the above reasons .. and because they work. We’d recommend using LED grow lights to any small grower who wants to be discrete.