Light-emitting-diodes (LED’s) are quickly taking over the consumer market as the government has put restrictions on U.S. industrial and consumer energy consumption levels. With the emergence of policy comes industry upheaval and the influx of cheaper, more efficient materials to make these new technologies. As the price becomes cheaper to build this new technology, other areas of the industry open up. Some of these areas are the home-gardening sector and the commercial gardening sector, proving that that advancement in lighting has only begun to get started.
By now you have all heard of either how LED (light-emitting diodes) lights are going to change the face of growing or of how they cannot grow a plant. While there is some validity into the arguments of both, there is a lot of misleading information out there. This month I attempt to explain the emergence of LEDs — along with other advanced lighting–into the indoor-growing arena and provide some first-hand experience of working with them.
In this article you will be hearing a little about PAR (other writers and growers waste waaaayyyyy too much time on nanometer ranges, etc.)….for all intents and purposes in this article PAR is photosynthetically-active radiation. The PAR value as stated in this article is a standardized rating for the amount of usable light that a bulb can emit. Most horticulturalists agree that proper cannabis growth happens in the spectrum between 380 nanometers – 750 nanometers(nm). As a cultivator, I work within that range and do not concern myself much with specifically targeted nm’s.
LEDs have been said to be comparable, watt for watt, to HID. This is false, as my experience has shown me that a 1000 Watt HPS bulb will be outmatched by 1000Watts of mixed/’full’ spectrum of LED (I hate using full spectrum, as we cannot recreate the sun in PAR rating—yet). However, as any serious LED user can attest, 1000W of mixed spectrum LED setups are quite expensive initially but far outpace HIDs in the field of quality.
As for quantity, therein lies the rub. In my experience, LEDs produce, watt for watt, 20-30% less yield than their HID counterparts when grown with genetic clones in a controlled environment utilizing my organic program alongside control groups. This is strain dependent but regardless of strain, you will receive on average in the range of 20-30% less yield.
Since heat is not as much of a contributing factor with LEDs, you tend not to water as often, as water is not lost through dissipation as quickly when compared to the HID. This is big news for the commercial sector.
As far as HVAC systems are concerned, you do need some minor ventilation when you get around or over 400 watts of LEDs. For those people and companies saying you do not need ventilation or cooling for larger setups, they are lying to you. In some of my larger 2000-3000 watt LED gardens, I utilize both ventilation and cooling, albeit the heat is not nearly as strong as HIDs.
I cannot recommend LEDs exclusively for anyone the same way I cannot recommend HIDs exclusively for anyone. Each technology suits a grower better than another, and each situation is different. However, there are some better ways of utilizing the technology that is currently available to us as growers. I implore you to stop thinking of one or the other, and begin thinking of mixing the technologies together.
For small, at-home setups (4×4 tents and smaller), I highly recommend using LEDs over HIDs. You will not need to HVAC to the extent you would with a 400-600 Watt HPS light. The minimal, less-than-100-watt draw a 90-180 watt LED will take to power will increase your electrical bill by maybe a few dollars. The quality of the finished product will be unmatched for your own personal use. The only negative to going this route is the LED market is expensive, and will cost you more in upfront costs than going the HID route.
LED technology has not progressed enough to fully outfit a warehouse with it exclusively when compared to the yields of HID. Commercial growers will not spend the initial upfront costs for, what they consider, a decreased yield. Smart businessmen and cannabis growing connoisseurs will lead the way with these new technologies. And that is exactly what’s happening on the East Coast.
Over the past couple of years, a fellow grower, cannabis connoisseur, good friend and co-writer in Greenleaf, Dennis the Menace, has turned me on to mixed spectrum lighting utilizing the latest technology available. It has proven to produce the best results I have ever seen….and I grow outdoors under the sun in addition to indoors. (Disclaimer: I do not claim current technology as being superior to the sun…but current technology is becoming very similar to the sun.. The difference lies in that we do not deal with weather, cloud cover, disease or pests/animals indoors like we do when we grow outdoors….and all of those things affect final finished quality).
We have found out that mixed lighting setups, albeit costly, produce the best cannabis we have ever grown. It is not magic, it is science; it is good growing technology (coupled with a little bit of organic know-how).
For vegetative growing, we are currently using Hortilux Eye Blue Metal Halide Bulbs (the ones that look a little like R2D2 from Star Wars) with Kessil H350 Deep Purples in between each lamp. The Blue Eye has a great response in cannabis during vegetative growth and has a wide spectrum rating of PAR, peaking in the 530nm, range. Two weeks prior to flipping to 12/12, we swap out the Deep Purples and replace them with H350 Magentas.
For flowering, we are currently using Gavita Pro 1000 DE (double ended) lamps coming out of Amsterdam combined with Kessil Magenta H350’s. Gavita’s are the first lamp able to carry the revolutionary 1000W 400V Double Ended EL lamps, which produces the highest PAR output of any other bulb on the market currently. What we do is take the lamp as the center point of each area and then flank the Kessils on both sides, similar to the vegetative run. We exclusively use Magentas for this phase alongside the Gavita. Nearing completion, the Gavita’s are turned down to 750W to decrease intensity and leaf-surface temperatures.
The setups we run are made with an understanding to produce the best medicine we can for patients. We certainly do not try and push this technology to everyone, as the cheapest and best way, in our opinion, is to grow outdoors under the natural sun. However, the above experiences has led us to believe that LEDs and new lighting technology is only going to get more advanced and better for the plants as time goes on.
The technology is now here and the results are incredible.
This post was written by sperling