LED GROW LIGHTS EXPLAINED
Choosing the best LED grow lights can be confusing for the average consumer. Many brands misinterpret or misrepresent scientific data to dazzle readers knowing that it’s irrelevant because they want to hide the truth about their products. At Spectrum King LED, we know that using LED lights to grow plants can be tricky. We know how confusing it can be and we know how important good lighting is to your business and your harvest. Many years ago when we were just growers, we were confused as well but this is where our lighting knowledge and experience comes in. Let us break it down for you, from overall performance to design and components.
Many other companies claim to have special LEDs with unique spectrums and unheard of performance. First, let’s talk about the spectrum wavelength and intensity ranges from some of the best grow lights in the industry. White light is derived from all the colors in the spectrum chart. While white LEDs are known to produce over 100 lumens per watt, red and blue diodes max out at 25 to 45 lumens per watt. This is caused by their narrow spectrum which results in a lower total amount of light (strength) emitted when compared to the same wattage white light. As a result, you can’t get the same intensity from a 450-watt light using red and blue LEDs as you can from a 450-watt light with white LEDs.
The majority of LED grow lights made in China use in-house assembled LED chips with standard, off-the-shelf diodes, such as Bridgelux and Epistar. Taking these diodes and making an LED is risky for the end consumer buying the product. These companies have no binning nor do they have LM79 or LM80 data on the LED chips. They are virtually unverified and inconsistent products. The process of making LEDs requires a highly sterile environment with no humidity. We can tell you from previous visits to factories in China (we tried them too many years ago) that the majority of them have sub-standard conditions—no clean rooms, hot humid environments, and no proper packaging and handling of the LEDs. Every LED batch off the production line comes out with slightly different lumen output. On all properly monitored LED assembly plants such as Cree there is a minimum and maximum range per diode series that usually has a 10% maximum allowed fluctuation. This is called binning. When your fixture features many LEDs, that 10% variance in the LEDs can equal a lot of your overall intensity. This is why we make our lights in the USA with high quality verified components.
Why Use CREE LED Chips?
Cree isn’t just another LED manufacturer. In fact they have 2500 patents and 3000 more pending. Cree is at the forefront of the technology with a relentless pursuit of quality through innovation and design to accelerate LED adoption, to push the boundaries of what’s possible with LED lighting, and to bring forth higher-performance LED’s while bringing down the cost of LED solutions. Cree is the only company with the highest performing diode material which is Silicate carbine (synthetically grown crystal). Cree’s mission is to render energy inefficient lighting obsolete and everything they do is with that mission in mind. No other LED company has done as much as Cree to develop the LED lighting market.
No other LED manufacturer is as stringent in their testing or keeps the bar as high as Cree for manufacturers who use their components in their products.
To be allowed to say, “Powered by Cree” your product must have successfully completed Cree’s Thermal, Electrical, Mechanical, Photometric and Optical (TEMPO) testing process, in addition to the special invitation by CREE. We at Spectrum King LED are proud to say that we are one of a small handful of companies globally to have done just that.
LM79 & LM80 Data
LM refers to lumen maintenance. LM79 is a report that offers a detailed look at all the photometric data on a light source, including:
- Total lumens
- Lumens per watt
- CCT color temp
- THD (total harmonic distortion)
- PF (power factor)
- Spread of light
LM80 is the report for the junction temperature of the LED and the LED’s life time. Real LED chip manufactures are required to delay product release to the market for a year. This is done to truly test the LED and make sure it does what the factories say it will. These tests must be done by third party labs that are certified by the Department of Energy.
How is the test done?
A batch of LEDs (usually 50+) is tested at the junction point of the LED at three different temperatures, usually 55, 85 and 105 degrees Celsius. The lumen output is recorded every hour for 6,000 to 8,000 hours (almost a year) and a base line curve is made. With this data, a detailed performance chart can be produced showing actual LED lumens over time. You can now determine the degradation curve and know the lumens and lifespan of a specific lighting fixture.
Don’t Be a Victim to Uncertified Components!!!
Many consumers buy LEDs and get very excited when they turn the fixture on for the first time. However, after a few months they are shocked that their LED is putting out half the lumens it once did.
C.O.B Myth and High Wattage LEDs
Another point of confusion for customers is the constant advertisement of C.O.B. (chip on board) LEDs and how they will dominate the market. As a commercial manufacturer of some of the best grow lights in the business, we are here to tell you that their popularity and dominance are a bit overblown.
C.O.B. LEDs have been around for over a decade. There are only three reasons to choose a C.O.B. LED:
- Reduce the cost of materials to make the LED
- Save money by eliminating the need for circuit boards
- Group more LED diodes into one small area
C.O.B. lights offer lower efficiency and overall light output. By adding and cramming more diodes into a tight array that share the same substrate, heat becomes a big issue. As the C.O.B.’s run hotter, they:
- Emit fewer lumens
- Have a lower efficiency
- Develop a shorter lifespan
Take a look below at some of these in-house made LEDs and how they discolor and degrade over a short period of time.
DON’T BE FOOLED BY COMPANIES THAT CLAIM TO OFFER HIGH WATTAGE CHIPS!!!
Standard self-contained diodes are the leading LEDs in the industry and have performances that are double that of C.O.B. LEDs. Every LED that claims to be 10, 20, 50 or even 100 watts is a C.O.B.
Why is Safety Regulatory Compliance (UL and ETL, etc.) Such a Big Deal?
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a world leading, independent product safety certification organization. The U.S. National Electrical Code requires that lamps and fixtures be tested by a recognized, independent safety-testing agency before they can be legally sold and installed. All lights sold by Spectrum King LED are UL certified and labeled. Let’s just say that you like peace of mind and you like to trust the things you buy to not start fires, fail miserably, shock you or cause any harm of any kind OR JUST FAIL. Would that be a set of reasonable assumptions? For most people that is exactly what they want: to buy something and have faith in it to function properly for a long time without worry.
Along comes UL! UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories which is a nonprofit safety agency created over 100 years ago. UL is recognized worldwide as a leader in product safety testing and certification. When a product is UL listed that means that every component of that product has been verified to do what it is meant to do and what it has been claimed to do by its manufacturer. None of “sure it does” or “it kind of does if…” etc. In clear black and white it has been thoroughly tested, put through an entire series of verifications and all functionality validated by an independent third party lab. No room to stretch the truth or mislead the public, just a cold hard ‘yes it passes and here is its number” or it FAILED! UL listed product can be used with confidence because they have been scrutinized down to the circuit level and have come out the other side with a number that is accepted worldwide. UL sets the standards of testing electric components and devices, period.
Unlike many of our competitors we can say that we have UL listed products. It wasn’t cheap and it wasn’t easy to get but we felt and still feel that when we provide our customers with a product we want them to know that they will get years of worry free usage from that product and nothing guarantees that better than being UL approved.
What is IP65 and Why Should I Care?
The IP65 rating is what makes our LEDs some of the best grow lights in the industry. IP65 rated products can be used in wet or humid environments like grow rooms and greenhouses, without the chance of failure or danger. Few horticultural fixtures currently on the market sold in any quantity are rated safe for use in wet or humid environments. In reality the bulk of lighting fixtures and bulbs sold today are not approved for the very place they are marketed to work in, with the exception of Spectrum King’s LEDs.
As more rules and regulations come into the indoor gardening industry, many insurance companies will not provide policies to protect businesses and investments because they are essentially involved in a high-risk operation by using electrical devices not meant to be in wet or humid environments. As more legal states open themselves to new legitimate grow operations city building inspectors and fire inspectors will be coming through to verify the operation is safe and up to code. Many fixtures once taken for granted as the industry standard no longer comply with city building and fire codes and insurance companies will not sign off on them either.
Do you want peace of mind? Then use LED lights to grow plants. You want to be able to know that if something does go wrong, you will not lose your whole investment or cause major damage to your facility by a failing light fixture. That’s what the IP65 rating gives you. It’s a guarantee that a product has been verified safe for wet or humid environments. You can turn our lights on in the shower without any risk of shock or harm. Let any other horticultural lamp manufacturer say that with a straight face and no fingers crossed behind their backs.
How Lumens Are Lost With HPS
When you mount an HPS bulb horizontally in a reflector, it’s important to take into account other factors that directly impact the lumens reading at the plant canopy where it matters most. There are lumens lost from excess heat and the light that bounces all over the reflector, travelling farther and more indirectly to the plants below. If you also take into account that your plants are usually two feet away, you are really only getting about 40,000 to 50,000 lumens at the canopy level, depending on the reflector and bulb type. When you hold a meter to a Spectrum King LED 400+ Series LED grow light and a 1,000-watt HPS at the plant level, the PPFD readings match. PPFD measures the number of photons in the visible spectrum. PPFD and lumens are relative when you measure between two sources like this.
Spectrum is important, but intensity is the thing you want to check first. The issue with all the red and blue LEDs on the market today isn’t only their spectrums. They are also lacking in intensity. Red and blue spectrums can only achieve 25 to 40 lumens per watt. When you take 40 lumens per watt, using 450 watts produces a total of only 18,000 lumens. This is the prime reason why all the other colored LED grow lights ultimately fail. The intensity just isn’t there, and most of the grow lights on the market are closer to 25 to 30 lumens per watt, which is even worse.Traditional 1,000-watt high pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs are known to produce 100,000 to 120,000 lumens. That value is typically calculated in optimal conditions using:
- A photometric sphere that catches all 360 degrees of light emitted
- State-of-the-art equipment in an environmentally controlled laboratory
- A fresh HPS bulb right out of the box
Our LED grow lights can achieve the same result with less overall lumens than HPS because our light is a directed light source, similar to street lights. The metal halide and HPS lamps can produce up to triple the lumens of an LED light source, but LEDs provide the same amount of light as compared to MH/HPS when measured at the street. The same applies to your plant canopy and cannabis.
If you have any questions or would like more information about our lights, please don’t hesitate to fill out our contact form or give us a call at (888) 654-0737. Shop for our LEDs today and learn why they’re the best lights for growing.