The Different Shapes of LED Grow Lights Explained
With a wide array of different shapes and sizes, choosing an LED grow light can be daunting. Home growers and commercial growers need to make sure they’ve got the right LED for their needs.
It can’t be denied that LED lighting technology is revolutionizing the indoor gardening space. Just 10 short years ago, metal halide (MH) and high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights were the industry standard for both cannabis and food production. Yet, the hot running temps and high electricity costs associated with MH and HPS lights greatly constrained growth in certain market segments — namely vertical farming and tent growing.
Due to advancements with LEDs, cannabis growers can now produce great crops in places that don’t work well with hot running lights, such as grow tents. Even better, LEDs are far more energy-efficient than MH and HPS technology, and the lights actually last longer.
While LED grow lights have many applications for commercial and hobbyist producers alike, the different technologies can be tough to differentiate from one another. More specifically, some people have a difficult time understanding the differences between the many LED grow light shapes.
LED bulbs are the most basic type of LED grow lights on the market today.
LED light bulbs are simply used in place of where standard, incandescent bulbs are commonly used. One of the most common types of LED grow light bulbs are 100W models. With 100W LED bulbs, you simply screw the LED in place of where your incandescent bulb was being used. Please note, it is safe to use 100W LED bulbs in sockets rated for 60W incandescent bulbs.
Different types of LED bulbs include:
- Red Spectrum
- Full Spectrum
Red spectrum LED bulbs are engineered to deliver very specific wavelengths of light that are usable for plants. Because they are not very strong, these bulbs are best used as supplemental lights in greenhouses, windows, and growrooms.
Full-spectrum LED bulbs provide a wider range of usable light wavelengths but are still not strong enough to stimulate plant growth on their own.
Example of LED Bulb Use: Supplemental Lighting in a Greenhouse
A good use of LED bulbs is for supplemental lighting in a greenhouse.
Many outdoor cannabis growers like to get their plants into greenhouses early in the spring. In doing so, they can turn off their primary grow lights and take advantage of abundant free sunshine. However, getting your plants into a greenhouse as early as April or May puts them in a light cycle that will trigger flowering unless otherwise regulated.
Using LED bulbs inside your greenhouse to extend daylight hours in the springtime is an excellent use of this technology. While your garden will be fueled by sunlight, the LEDs will provide a few more hours of light so your plants stay in vegetative growth.
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For both commercial producers and hobbyist growers, LED panels are the most popular type of LED grow light in use today.
LED panels are engineered in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Due to their cool-running temperatures and thin profile, LED panels are commonly used for both vertical farming and growing cannabis on shelves. Even more, lighting manufacturers have designed single LED panels for cannabis growing that can be used for both vegetative growth and flowering.
Different types of LED panels include:
- 600 Watt
- 1,000 Watt
As seen with MH and HPS lights, there are different size LED panels on the market for different jobs. For example, a 400W LED panel will work great for a small grow tent. However, you will want larger 1,000W LED panels for commercial growing.
Example of LED Panel Use: Vegetative and Flower Growth in Grow Tent
Full-spectrum LED panels that are engineered for both vegetative growth and flowering are a great option for tent growing. Namely because, you don’t have to purchase different LED lights for each important phase of the cannabis lifecycle.
AC Infinity recently released their line of Iongrid Full Spectrum LED Grow Lights, which are the perfect design for tent growing. According to their website, “these light-emitting diodes are arranged in a halo ring form factor, which allows for even coverage and deeper penetration.”
LED bars were originally designed as supplemental lights for mixed-light growing, greenhouse cultivation, and seedling propagation. However, as LED lighting technology has expanded in recent years, manufacturers have developed high-powered LED bars that are used in the largest commercial grow operations. In these situations, cultivators enjoy LED bars because they can be hung on the ceiling in a uniform fashion that maximizes usable PAR light.
Different types of LED bars include:
- Propagation Strips
- High-Efficacy Full-Spectrum Bars
LED bars for plant propagation resemble fluorescent grow lights in their output. As such, these lights work well for propagating cuttings and growing seedlings. Certain propagation strips can also be used for vegetative growth with mother plants and small cannabis gardens. However, these lighter LED bars are not strong enough to stimulate flower production in cannabis plants.
Example of LED Bar Use: Flowering in a Commercial Grow Room
Certain high-efficacy LED grow light bars are utilized similarly to DE HPS lights. As such, commercial operators hang them high on the ceiling at as much as 6 ft above the top of the canopy. In doing so, light from each full-spectrum fixture intermingles to create uniformity across the grow room.
Unlike LED panels, high-efficacy LED bars are not moved throughout the growth cycle and should be kept far above the garden canopy.
While LED grow lights cost more upfront, they save commercial producers and hobbyist growers on things like electrical costs and replacing bulbs. However, to get the best results from LED technology, you must understand the appropriate applications of these lights.
Even for the most seasoned cultivators, shopping for LED grow lights can be an extremely intimidating process. As such, learning the basic differences between the many shapes of LED lights is a great foundation in choosing the right tool for the job. Once you have identified which shape LED is best for your needs, you can begin thinking about other attributes like red spectrum vs full spectrum.
As horticultural lighting technology continues to advance, there is no doubt that manufacturers will continue to create innovative new LED products. Whether you are a hobbyist tent grower or commercial producer, there is likely a perfect LED fixture available for your garden.
AC Infinity is the foremost name in air delivery systems, designing and developing the latest innovations in cooling and ventilation technology. They offer a suite of quiet inline fans that automate the growing progress and track key metrics. Visit acinfinity.com or contact [email protected] to learn more.
Written by Kent Gruetzmacher | Writer, Owner of KCG Content
Kent Gruetzmacher MFA is a Colorado-based writer and owner of the writing and marketing firm KCG Content. Kent has been working in the cannabis and hydroponics space for over a decade. Beginning in California in 2009, he has held positions in cultivation, operations, marketing, and business development. Looking specifically to writing, Kent has worked with many of the leading publications and marketing agencies in the cannabis space. His writing has been recognized by such icons as Steve D’Angelo and Rick Simpson.