This web post is all about using the LED for growing plants. The LED (Light Emitting Diode) has recently gained in popularity when it comes to growing crops using artificial light. But it’s not just for growing plants that the LED is being used for. The LED is quickly replacing conventional light sources everywhere. Because of this sudden uprising of the LED, one might think that the LED is a newly discovered light source. However, a Russian scientist named Oleg Losev discovered the light-emitting properties of the diode in the 1920’s already. It just took about 80 years to come up with something useful for growing plants.
But why is the LED growing so fast in popularity? There is not a single simple answer to be given and I don’t want to get too technical about it. At least I’ll try to keep it lo-tech as much as possible. You’ll find out later that this is actually going to be hard for me to keep lo-tech but I’ll do my best.
A simple manner to answer the question I mentioned above is to compare an LED to conventional light sources. For instance, as soon as people start to discuss LED lights, one of the first things discussed will be energy consumption. The LED is very energy efficient and these days that’s a big pro. Besides that, the LED is also remarkably durable. Overheating reduces the LED’s durability though. So now you don’t have to wonder anymore why all those LED flashlights come in an aluminum casing. The LED itself is not generating that heat but it’s the electronic part of the lamp which is to blame.
An LED growing lamp is so very energy efficient because of how we use it to grow plants. For the growing stage of a plant, we need to supply blue light. Normally we would supply white light which is actually a mix of all colors. An LED can be composed exactly for what we intend to use it for and in this case, it’s blue light. However, tests with only blue light for growing plants have resulted in poor results. All we need to do to fix this problem is to supply a fraction of white light. A good LED growing lamp will consist of a majority of blue LEDs accompanied with a few white LEDs. The plant will derive everything it needs from this combination.
In order to bloom or flower, we need to change the blue growing LED lamp for a blooming (flowering) lamp. We need to supply red light for this process, again in combination with a small amount of white light. In both growing and blooming LED lamps you would want to supply around 4% of white light.
A universal LED growing lamp is also a possibility. This lamp consists out of red, blue and white LEDs.
Basically a photoperiod is the duration of light during a 24 hour day. Many plants are influenced by certain seasons when it comes to growth and development. For instance, a plant may grow when it’s exposed to a long photoperiod and decline of the photoperiod may trigger blooming or stimulate growing fruits. This is a very important aspect of growing plants indoor.
Special lamps are available to cover this aspect.
In case you are not convinced yet about using LED grow lamps, I’ll just summarize the benefits of the LED.
- Energy efficient
- Safety aspect (fire!)
- Low heat production
- Easy to install
Information about LED growing lamps can be very technical and I try to keep my explanations as simple as possible. So, continue reading and start using LED growing lamps. NASA does it in outer space, so why wouldn’t it work for you at home?
LED lights have been used in greenhouses for some time already as an addition to the white light used in greenhouses. For this purpose, they used red and blue LEDs. By just using the red and blue light you will not get the required results so a little white is added in the form of white LEDs.
Let’s go through the pros of LED growing lamps and in the meanwhile try to clarify why the LED is so suited for growing plants.
What we want to accomplish is to supply as many useful lights to the plant with as less energy as possible. We already know that plants use mainly blue and red light. If we would use a sodium lamp we would be supplying the plant with white light which is actually all colors mixed together. Using LEDs we can use all energy to produce a specific wavelength (color) that’s useful for a plant. Conventional lamps need a filter to achieve a similar effect. Using conventional lamps for producing light, a lot of energy is wasted by heat production. You might even end up wasting more energy on getting rid of the excess heat and cooling down the growing compartment.
An LED can easily make for over 50,000 hours of light. Conventional light sources like the sodium lamp typically have a life span of anything between 10,000 and 30,000 hours. These lamps tend to lose a significant part of their power the older they get. The LED’s power reduction over time is substantially less. If an LED is exposed to heat, it’s life span can be seriously shortened though. So when you buy your LED growing light, be sure that the manufacturer has taken corrective measures in order to dissipate produced heat.
An LED is, in fact, a transistor device and does not rely on a heated filament in order to produce light. We all know filaments are a weak link!
LEDs are encased in epoxy and this makes it practically unbreakable. Because of it’s complete and massive encasing there are no loose parts that are prone to be damaged by shocks for example. This encasing also allows for focusing of the produced light and cancels out the need for a reflector to bundle and aim the light like conventional grow lights do.
A tube lamp is subject to wear with frequent on and off switching. LEDs do not have this problem.