LED grow lights can be used in all climates to assist indoor plants to grow. Even in warm temperate climates, plants need photosynthesis, and often indoor plants cannot get enough sunlight for this. During the winter season, indoor plants often suffer, even those close to windows because of the shorter daylight time and LED Grow lights offer the plants much needed light exposure.
The application of LED lights for growing plants is not only applicable for homes, but is used by growers to assist grow trays with seeds and seedlings, using the lights in conjunction with hydroponic systems and greenhouse environments.
LEDs work with diodes which make them far more economical when compared to other lights, while offering better efficiency in assisting plant growth.
Cultivating indoor plants has never been easier. Now, more than ever before, people want the benefits of growing their own herbs, vegetables or to have lush green plants in their homes. Since many of us now live in much smaller homes and apartments we want to bring some of the feel of a garden indoors and want to cultivate indoor plants any time of the year.
A brief history
The most efficient grow light is the sun, but since it isn’t always an option, horticulturists have been using artificial ones for more than a century. The evolution of geoponic lighting started when in the 1880s fluorescent lamps were used by horticulturists and then moved to high pressure sodium lamps (HPS) in the 1950s. Since the 1990s to today light-emitting diodes (LEDs) began to hit the market and have become the popular choice.
Shuji Nakamura invented the blue LED in 1994, which then led to the creation of white light, which is not a natural output color for LEDs. This was a significant success with scientists but the public only caught on much later. From 1999 onwards the development of LEDs moved at a fast pace as money was heavily invested into perfecting them by governments and private investments.
With many options available to them, greenhouse owners chose between the two better types, High Intensity Discharge (HID) and LED. HID grow lights have greater power and lower cost, but offer little flexibility. They have high amounts of red and yellow/orange light but lack blue.
This causes plants to grow longer but skinnier. Another division of HID is the Metal Halide (MH) which provide higher amounts of blue, but not all plants can grow entirely under MH or HPS as most plants need the full spectrum of color lights to thrive properly.
The full spectrum for most plants to have successful photosynthesis and to have healthy growth is:
- 600 – 700 nm red
- 400-500 nm blue
- 500-600 nm green
The early LED grow lights lacked the power to compete with HID, but just like the modern LEDs have become extremely popular in the home, so more growers have replaced the older lights with LED.
The initial outlay might seem steep but horticulturists know that in the long run they will gain because of lower running costs and healthier plants. As the technology of the LED gets better, there are now higher intensities and lower costs making them the most sought after choice.
The future of LED grow lights for indoor use
As lights evolve the future is to produce LEDs that not only combine blues and reds like now, but to also be able to control them automatically by computer. The purpose of this would be to regulate their flowering and fruiting cycle according to the ratio of red to blue light.
Towards the end of summer the Earth receives an increased amount of red light, and plants take that as a signal to shift from vegetative growth to reproduction mode. It would be ideal to get LEDs to make this gradual shift to improve indoor crop performance.
Research is also looking to simulate the varying red-blue ratio of the sunrise and sunset, having a beneficial effect on plants. There is also the possibility that other wavelengths not directly associated with photosynthesis – such as far red or ultraviolet – might also affect certain plant processes.
Here are a few simple tips on how to use LED grow lights for indoor use to turn any area available, whether a shelf, room, basement, or a small garden greenhouse into a productive cultivation area.
Setting up the indoor area
The first step is to consider the types of plants, spacing between them to allow for growth access for pruning and care. The next phase is to measure the area to be lit. The lights purchased will have to light up the whole growing area. This may need more than one light.
Deciding on LED grow light colors
Violet blue light encourages chlorophyll absorption, photosynthesis and growth. Red light promotes flowering and budding.
LED grow lights for indoor use offer the latest technology and are extremely energy efficient, emit an ultra-low heat output and an ideal light spectrum range. They are currently the most efficient and effective way to grow plants at home and offer an average lifespan of 50,000 hours.
Some of the more sophisticated grow lights on the market offer the optimal full spectrum of lights which provides all plants, vegetables and flowers with the equivalent of natural sunlight to cover all their growing, flowering and seeding needs.
Look for lights which give and equivalent of 600 watt HPS/MH, while consuming only 260watts. Features of some of the better models can also include quieter fans and heat dissipation.
How to place LED grow light for indoor use
Overhead hanging of LED grow lights is the best way to mimic the effects of the sun on the plants. This exposes all sides of the leaves to the artificial light. LEDs can be placed at a height of between 6 to 12 inches from the plants, because they emit less heat than other lights.
Although the electroluminescent process doesn’t produce much heat, they do sometimes generate heat because of the electricity at the base of the lamp and this might be a problem if a lot are put together. The solution to the heating is to place cooling fans. Most of the heating occurs at the back of the fixtures and that is why they can be put much closer to plants than other lights, sometimes even among the plants to provide light to the lower leaves.
Amount of hours LED grow light should be used for
Remember that plants also need darkness during their growth cycle. During the day, sunlight is essential for photosynthesis to help them produce energy. At night, this energy is broken down in a process known as respiration, to help the growth and flowering.
The amount of light each plant needs varies, but the general rule is that most vegetables and flowering plants need 12 to 16 hours of light within a 24-hour period, followed by 8 hours of darkness. The LEDs shouldn’t be left on for the whole 24 hours. If you are forgetful you could install a timer switch, these are wonderful because they can be regulated to turn on and off automatically.
Seed packaging, plant tags and nurseries can make more specific suggestions about light to dark ratios.
Special features of LED grow lights for indoor use
- LED grow lights come in 2 to 5 watt varieties and output anything between 120 and 300 lumens. Larger models use 17 watts of electricity, giving them the output of 1,020 lumens. These levels are much lower than incandescent bulbs and they give off less heat, protecting plants from heat burns.
- They come out in mostly a slim square or rectangular shape, with a flat lighting surface and the bulbs are much smaller than other bulkier types of lighting, measuring only a few inches in diameter. For those farming on a larger scale, LED manufacturers make longer and wider LED panels, which can be used in greenhouses. Whether they are large or small, LED grow lights weigh much less than the bulkier traditional lights previously used.
There are many sophisticated models of LED lights which house cooling fans, power inputs, thermal cut-off regulators and heat sinks and all depends on individual needs.
- LEDs are direct current devices and require power conversion and conditioning to operate. However, manufacturers provide the necessary circuitry to allow them to be operated off standard household or industrial power sources.
- With 60% less consumption than the energy of similar appliances, for example high-density discharge or fluorescent lamps, LED grow lights are energy efficient. Their lifespan of 50,000 hours equals a very impressive six years of use. Their monochromatic and narrow wavelength band allows for more precision and effectiveness.
- Initial outlay is much more when buying LED grow lights but you need to take the cost of electricity into the equation.
- As your plants increase in size, you will have to move all types of lights, including LEDs further away from them. LEDs are lighter and easier to rig on an easy to move system.
LED grow lights have really changed the way indoor cultivation has evolved, there easy to use lightweight and energy efficient, With a long life and low heat output maybe it’s time you upgraded to LED grow light’s over conventional grow lighting, if your a beginner or a seasoned expert there is no doubt LED grow lights will aid you in all you’re growing and cultivate needs.
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