How to Use LED Grow Lights?
- What You Need
- Spectrums of Light
- How Many Watts Per Square Foot For Led Grow Lights?
- How Far Should Led Grow Lights be From Plants?
- How to Hang Led Grow Lights?
- Pro Tips
Imagine being able to grow plants all year round with the ability to maximize your plant’s potential. It sounds like a myth but LED (light-emitting diodes) grow lights do exactly that. Many people believe growing plants under lights is costly and only suited for distributing plants as a business. But, the truth is far from it.
The new generation of LED grow lights when used in the long term can save hundreds of hours. But, the truth is that anyone with basic knowledge of gardening can set up lights for indoor growing plants.
Whether it’s the climate interfering with your gardening, or you don’t have enough space in your back garden. If you want to be informed about how to correctly use LED grow lights, you have come to the right place. We have brought together all the significant information needed. After you’ve finished this blog, you’ll be well informed on how to begin your indoor garden and if LED lights suit your goals.
In this article, we explain how to effectively use LED lights, light spectrum, competition, how to set up LED lights, how far should LED grow lights be from plants, how many watts per square foot for LED grow lights, and all the advice needed to start an indoor garden.
Read More: Best Full-Spectrum LED Grow Lights
What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial
To ensure your grow lighting system performs to the best of its ability, it will depend on a few variables:
- What are your goals – Are you growing plants as a business, or as a hobby?
- How much space are we working with – The larger your space, the more options you have. To add, the area you are growing in will determine what type of grow light is best suited for you.
- How many plants do you plan on planting in that area – One of the most important areas of grow light setups, is how different the setup is for four plants in the same space than 16 plants in the same area.
- Budget – Grow light gardens can cost more to set up than outdoor gardens. However, the long-term yields are often greater than outdoor gardens. Due, to the quality of plants produced and controlled environment.
What You Need
Now, once you’ve figured out an answer to these questions we can proceed to buy the materials best needed for your garden.
These materials are necessary to begin an indoor grow light system:
- Vegetable/ Herb Seeds
- Starter Plugs
- Grow Lights
- Shelving Unit (preferably wire)
- Door Mats
- Power Strip ( Timer)
- Floor Fans
- S Hooks
Spectrums of Light
Before we dive into our options, let’s discuss the different spectrums of light. That ultimately you can control to ensure your plant’s growth. The hard part is, different colored lights do different things for each plant. Even if the plants are closely related. There’s a lot of information out there, but scientists have identified plants to only need two-color lights. Red and blue.
Green plants absorb UV light, red, blue, and infrared spectrums. But, green and yellow are not essential. Some plants may benefit from green and yellow light, but most plants see the best results from red and blue spectrums. The ideal LED you should use for growing plants should be UV LEDs, red LED or a blue LED.
Light intensity was always measured by the ‘candlefoot’ unit where 1 candle foot is the brightness of one candle, 1 foot away from a plant. We still use this unit but call it a ‘lumen’ so 1 lumen equals 1 candle foot. It is now estimated that an indoor garden requires about 2000 lumens per square foot for satisfactory plant growth.
Sound like a lot? It is and isn’t because modern lighting systems easily deliver this intensity – of course, your electric bill may suffer a tad…
The other factor to consider is the spectrum. Light, as we know, is actually composed of a variety of colors by frequency. Plants require light from the red/orange as well as the blue/green wavelengths where red light is used by a plant for budding and flowering and blue for vegetative growth.
So, knowing this, what are our choices for indoor lighting?
Standard incandescent bulbs provide a good light intensity and lots of red spectrum light but most of the output is wasted through generated heat. It is definitely not a good choice for a garden (and expensive in use of electricity) and a standard fluorescent bulb is not much better even though it is cheaper to run.
Well, fluorescent bulbs have come a long way and special ‘grow’ type bulbs can be satisfactory. Fluorescent warm, white bulbs provide a good source of red light while the cool white bulbs produce good blue light output.
The optimal method would be to grow your plants to maturity with a cool white bulb and later replace it with a warm white bulb for flowering or you could use both types of bulbs at the same time.
They are cheap to purchase and use and run cool. And a typical indoor garden would only need 20 to 40 watts per square foot. The major disadvantage of fluorescents is that light intensity decreases dramatically the farther away the light source is moved from a plant.
To really be effective a fluorescent system would have to stay only a few inches from the top of the plant and would have to be raised as the plant grows. The other disadvantage is that light intensity is only at the rated capacity at a straight line from the bulb on down – a few inches off to either side and the intensity drops off.
To solve this problem many growers place their lights on movable frameworks so every part of the garden gets adequate light. All in all, fluorescents may be the ideal hydroponic lighting system for the home hobbyist.
A better, but more expensive, alternative would be an HID hydroponic lighting system. HID refers to ‘High-Intensity Discharge’ and refers to any hydroponic lighting system using high-pressure gas within the bulb to produce light.
They work by shooting current into a bulb and when a certain voltage is reached the gas sparks create an arc and light. They produce an extremely high output of light in a mixed spectrum making them ideal for an indoor garden.
But they are expensive to purchase and expensive to use and tend to run very hot. Because of the bulb design, it would draw more and more current into the bulb eventually burning it out. So each unit is equipped with a device called a ballast which serves three purposes: it supplies the proper startup voltage, supplies the proper operating voltage, and, most importantly, limits the amount of voltage the lamp draws.
And, to make matters worse, ballasts are not interchangeable between different manufacturers. But despite these drawbacks, HID lighting is the undisputed master of indoor hydroponic lighting systems.
HID bulbs are generally of the metal halide type or high-pressure sodium. They both produce a very high output per watt with the metal halide more in the ‘blue’ range and high-pressure sodium more ‘red’.
They generally produce from 120 to 140 lumens per watt and come in a couple hundred watts to thousand-watt bulbs. A typical 3 x 3 garden would require at least 18,000 lumens while a 250 watt HID bulb would produce 29,000 lumens. If you are serious about the quality of your indoor garden, HID would be the way to go…
And don’t forget that lights can be turned on and off automatically through timers.
The last option to explore is rather new on the market. Developed for the hydroponics garden on the space station, led lighting, short for “light emitter diodes” will soon renovate indoor grow light systems.
Incandescent lights are the most expensive option. These are common household lights but are recommended to be installed at least 24 inches from your plants.
It turns out, these lights are the most powerful. These powerful light bulbs, burn through energy quickly leaving them energy inefficient and costly.
Nevertheless, the bright side is that foliage-type plants benefit the most from this light.
These lights work best for a group of plants, not individual seedlings. The best results are performed at 150 watts for small plants. The lights cost around $40 on average, but to make usage of this large light it’s best to buy products with built-in clips so light can be repositioned if needed.
Fluorescent lights are similar in annual costs to LED lights, only costing slightly more.
They last longer than incandescent bulbs and don’t overheat as easily.
Fluorescent lights are most often used outside of buildings or garages. They are blue lights, easy to install and produce full-spectrum light.
LED lights are more compact and the most budget-friendly. Although, they can lack the power a bigger bulb would emit. The product makes up for its lack of power with its other qualities. LED lights have been revolutionized, making them the go-to light for indoor planting. These qualities include:
- Energy Efficiency – LEDs use significantly less energy and last 5x longer than fluorescent bulbs.
- Indoor Growing – Most LEDs are specifically designed for indoor growing. Along with full-spectrum light, they also produce blue light that will maximize your plant’s potential. (stronger root growth, enhance photosynthesis, and ensure peak growth)
- Nature-Friendly – Along with being efficient, LED bulbs that aren’t filled with Mercury won’t break. That leaves one fewer bulb in the landfill.
Read More: Best Full-Spectrum LED Grow Lights
How Well Do Led Grow Lights Work?
LED grow lights are gradually being noticed by the indoor garden industry. It’s no surprise since they offer the latest technology. Some of which include customizable light spectrum range, low heat, low energy usage, they’re the easiest to use for those growing plants at home.
Currently, the competition is far from the longevity of any LEDs, as LEDs last up to 50,000 hours. Here is an example of how LEDs compare against the present competition:
- Average Incandescent Lights last 750-2,000 hours
- Typical Halogens last 2,000 to 4,000 hours
- Normal CFL Lights last 5,000 to 8,000 hours
How Many Watts Per Square Foot For Led Grow Lights?
There are a few variables that affect how many watts per square foot LED grow lights need:
Plant Species (Low Light or High Light)
- High Light Plants: Melons, strawberries, peppers
- Low Light Plants: Kale, carrots, radishes
- All stages of a plant require different amounts of sunlight (seedling, vegetative, flowering)
Total Area Of Garden
- The larger grow area, the more powerful light is required
Most LED grow lights use about 32 watts to cover 1 square foot for planting. Assuming one plant requires one square foot of space and needs 30 to 40 watts. The standard for most gardeners is adding 50% when adding another plant. So, 2 plants would require 2 square feet and about 60 to 80 watts.
How Far Should Led Grow Lights be From Plants?
LED grow lights are fairly new, so the guidelines and charts can confuse those who are not garden scientists.
However, we can simplify equations and light science into measurements we understand.
Seedlings are very delicate, so LED grows lights are usually mounted 24-36 inches above the plant’s canopy. Although, this depends entirely on the wattage located in your light source. Placing your LED grow lights at the furthest distance from the seedlings prevents the plants from drying out.
In two to three weeks, roots are usually established and sprouting begins. During the vegetative stage, LED grow lights are meant to be 12-24 inches away from the top of the plant. In the vegetative stage, plants require more light to proceed with photosynthesis.
Lastly, once the plant progresses to its flowering stage, its demand for light decreases. Now, to produce flowers the top leaves of the plant should be between 18-24 inches from the light source to start the growth of flowers.
How to Hang Led Grow Lights?
How nice would it be to eat homegrown vegetables year-round? Although, not many people have outdoor space, light, or enough water to do such a thing.
The next best option is growing indoors. Here is a step-by-step guide, on how to DIY a grow light system.
1. Build the Shelving Unit
For planting, pick a durable shelving unit that won’t erode from water or dirt. The most cost-efficient would be a wire shelving unit. Also, to keep your floor clean from mistakes and water run-off protect your floor. Some options can include cardboard, a plastic tray, or a rubber mat.
2. Choose Your Lights
Grow lights should be the same width as the shelving unit. Light sources can vary to best suit your needs.
Fluorescent lights are best suited for leafy plants and starting seeds. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are much more efficient than it’s the counterpart. They aren’t as energy-hungry as Flurosecent lights so they can be placed close to plants that need confined light. Light-emitting Diodes (LEDs) are specialized to not waste energy being the lightest, and most efficient.
3. Attach the Lights
Most LEDs come with wires to hang them. Wire or chain can be used to hang an S-hook above the plants. The light source should be on each shelf of plants. In the beginning, the light should be closer to the plants. As plants grow, it’s important to use an S-hook to ensure unnecessary complications raising the lights.
4. Set up a Timer
Power strips can cost 10-15 dollars on average. However, this simple timer can save you hundreds. Plants need varying amounts of sunlight per day. Too much can kill the plant and your electricity bill. If you forget easily, this is a necessity.
5. Plant the Seeds
Fill your seed-starting tray or pot two-thirds full with seed-starting mix. Then, add your preferred plants.
Keep the soil moist and be observant of changes in your seedlings.
6. Circulate Air Around the Plants
Lastly, if you don’t want to attract fungus and bugs circulate the air with an electrical fan near your plants.
Read More: Best FAN for Grow Room
- Hang the lamp according to your plant’s stage.
Seedling: 24-36 inches above the soil
Vegetative: 12-24 inches above the top of the plant’s canopy
Flowering: 18-24 inches above the top of the plant’s leaves
- Make sure the light chosen, will support the number of plants and the area you’ve given each of them.
Example: 1 square foot per plant, needs 30 watts.
- How to create your own budget-friendly Indoor Grow Light System
- Light spectrums are crucial to a plant’s growth. But, it only needs a few. (Red, blue, and UV light)
- LED Grow Lights are your best option for indoor gardening, regarding the competition. (CFL, Fluorescent light, Halogens, Incandescent)
Indoor gardening is an opportunity to provide fruits, vegetables, and herbs all year round. Although, with limited knowledge, it won’t be easy. That’s why we have provided you with five tips to ensure your garden prospers.
Adjustable Hanging Ropes
LED Grow lights are usually suspended by nothing more than wire above your grow area. When your plants progress, you often are having to deal with the tedious and complicated chore of untying the whole grow light. Then, retying it at a new area.
Only to move the light again in the next few weeks. That’s why adjustable hanging ropes are a purchase necessary to save time. If you don’t change the height of your grow lights often the environment won’t be ideal for your plants.
LED grow lights are much more potent when a plant is directly below them. That makes sense. It may also mean your other plants aren’t enough sunlight. To make sure no plants dry and others wither, it’s best to rotate your plants to make sure they all receive the same amount of light.
Make a Routine to Check The Water Daily
Owners often forget, that grow lights are much more potent than outdoor gardening. Due to the intense lights directly on your plants, the soil may dry out quicker than expected. Make sure to check the water daily, if not before you head to bed as well.
The seasons bring different levels of humidity, so it’s best to keep track of how fast the water is drying up. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Keep an Eye on The Temperature
It’s true LED grow lights don’t emit heat as hot as other bulbs, but they still do produce a significant amount. If your grow area is in a room with a thermostat, you’ll be fine.
But, if the temperature in the room rises it may be less ideal for the plant you are growing. Keeping a thermostat inside your grow room will make sure you don’t lose your hard-earned plants to the unfit environment of your home.
Read More: How to ventilate a grow room?
Maintain Your LED Grow Lights
Luckily, LED grow lights are long-lasting and don’t need much maintenance. Still, that doesn’t mean you should just use the bulb until it dies an early death. The materials provided by the manufacturer may sometimes include a maintenance schedule.
To ensure your light provides for as long as it can, it’s best to review the company’s recommendations on how you can do exactly that. For example, cleaning the light regularly. LEDs cannot be re-lamped, so cleaning the lighting units inside and out of dust is required.
Read More: Best Full-Spectrum LED Grow Lights
We hope you found our information helpful and it has given you the knowledge to begin an indoor garden using LED grow lights. There are many articles about indoor gardening trending. But, it’s important to be careful not to listen to all the information you read online. If you have any tips or ideas for gardeners who want to use LED lights, please comment below. And if you’ve found this article helpful, please share this post with others aspiring to begin indoor gardening.
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