With the rise of LED lighting and the mainstream awareness of its many environmental, financial, and mental benefits, people are finding new and innovative ways to utilise this revolutionary technology to help them in ways unheard of before.
One of the notable consequences of our home-bound existence over the previous 15 months has been an exponential rise in people adopting plants into their homes in an attempt to nurture something other than their own lockdown-driven madness.
It’s been a long year, however, and an even longer winter with relatively little opportunity for that tasty sunlight that our plant babies require compared to the spring and summer months, which is where LED grow lights come into play.
Compared to their traditional counterparts, LED grow lights are relative newcomers to the arsenal of tools that a devoted plant grower has at their disposal. A lot of the early LED lights were not very effective and simply too dim to provide sufficient lighting to plants.
Since their rapid evolution in recent years, however, LED lights are better than ever for assisting indoor plant life to grow fully and properly.
More recently, the use of LED grow lights in crop farming has seen significant growth. Due to its ability to mimic the waves of light that come from the sun, full spectrum lighting is now a widely used tool in crop production where natural UV from the sun is less available.
In fact, before the use of LED grow lights, growers would used High Pressure Sodium (HPS) bulbs as a replacement for sunlight, but they would also have to accommodate for the problematic by-products they created such as excessive heat and energy usage. This then led growers to invest further in costly means of ventilating their growing environments.
Because LED lighting doesn’t emit nearly as much heat energy as its traditional counterparts do, as well as the fact that it is designed to maximise the spectrum of light and coverage, it has become the go-to solution for many indoor plant growing needs.
In this Cube blog post, we’re going to discuss how and why LEDs are used for such horticultural, botanical, agricultural purposes, the benefits, the disadvantages, and even some myths that have come about in the time since LED grow lights ‘grew’ in popularity.
The Science of LEDs and Plant Growth
Unsurprisingly, there is a great deal of science behind the seemingly magic process of artificial LED lighting helping plants grow, and the first place to begin discussion is regarding the grow light spectrum.
The grow light spectrum is the electromagnetic wavelengths of light produced by a light source that promote plant growth via the natural process of photosynthesis, whereby a molecule in the plant known as chlorophyll converts light energy into chemical energy – which the plant then uses as ‘food’ and sustenance.
In photosynthesis, the wavelengths of light used are in the photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) region of light which is between 400 and 700 nanometers (nm). Chlorophyll absorbs mostly blue and red light spectrums which are found in the PAR range of light wavelengths.
Nanometers are the unit of measurement used to spectrum of light. Where humans can only detect light spectrum wavelengths between 380-740nm, plants can detect wavelengths beyond that region, including ultra-violet (UV).
The chart below shows the PAR range of light. As you can see, the peak efficiency of light absorption is in the red and blue spectrums. Red is seen as the best wavelength for photosynthesis in a plant’s flowering stage, whereas the blue light spectrum works for both flowering and vegetative stages of plant growth.
So, why are LEDs so good for aiding plant growth?
We now know the science behind plant growth and photosynthesis, but where do LEDs come into this, and why are they such a popular choice for indoor plant growers of today?
Flexibility of Control
As we discussed at the top, LED lights run especially cooler than their predecessors like HPS bulbs. Growers, therefore, have had much greater control of their plants’ environment temperature and exposure to heat using LEDs.
This lower heat output also provides the unique benefit of letting your LED grow lights to be fixed closer to your plants. This is ideal if you’re low on vertical space, but also ensures that you’re giving your plants the most amount of light emitted from the LED itself.
This is because there is an inverse relationship between the intensity of a light and its distance – the further away, the less intense the light emission is – so therefore, you want your LED grow lights to be pretty close to ensure maximum exposure, and thanks to LED’s low heat output, this is easily done!
Going back to the light spectrum, LED fixtures can be specifically designed to emit the sweet spot of the light spectrum for maximum photosynthesis and light absorption from the plant. Contrastingly, HPS bulbs would emit untargeted wavelengths of light towards plants which would create a less than efficient manner of plant growth and light absorption.
Similarly, some LED lights can be built in a way that allows for their colour spectrum to be adjusted depending on the life stage of the plant – remember red light for flowering, and blue light for vegetative stages. LEDs are flexible and versatile enough to provide for a plant during any phase of its life.
Better for the environment and your wallet
The energy efficiency of LED lighting is escaping no one at this point; especially if you’re familiar with the content on the Cube Lighting blog section, but it should be noted here as well because indoor plant cultivation is inherently an energy-intensive practice. Without the free light energy provided by the sun, mimicking this to ensure your plants grow at optimal levels requires a lot of lighting and therefore a lot of electric energy used.
Luckily, LED grow lights can offer targeted light emission with a 50-70% lower rate of energy consumption compared to standard fixtures. Consequently, a business or hobbyist using LED will see positive changes to their electricity bill too.
Furthermore, forget all about replacing your LED fixtures – at least for many years – LEDs offer significantly higher lifespans than their traditional counterparts. LED grow lights typically last about 50,000 hours (as mentioned in this post), which is a no-brainer when considering the 10,000 hours you can get from traditional grow lights.
LEDs in general are a no-brainer when it comes to the best, most efficient and cost effective lighting solution for your business, the plan-growing kind or not!
Are you ready to take the step into the future of lighting? Contact Cube Lighting & Design here to see if you qualify for free LED lighting!
Want to keep reading? Check out our latest blog post here: Why LEDs are key to the smart home revolution