Equivalent watts

The most misleading statement used by some LED sellers is the term “equivalent watts”.

There is no such thing.

Watts are watts, and when we at Grow Lights Australia use the term “watts” we are referring to the exact amount of power (wattage) used by the LEDs (LED efficiency) or the entire LED fixture, including driver (system efficiency).

High Light 420 LED panels are maximum rated to 240W. But they can be driven at much lower wattages to increase their efficiency. This has the advantage of producing less heat and a wider spread of light (compared to intensity) to provide more even plant growth.

Generally speaking, when buying an LED grow light you will be faced with a choice of fewer LEDs driven at higher currents (less upfront cost, less efficiency, less even plant growth) or more LEDs driven at lower currents (more upfront cost, more efficiency, more even plant growth).

The driver, or power unit, uses electricity – usually an additional 5-7% to the LEDs – and so this also has to be added to the total system wattage. This is easily measured at the wall using a plug-in watt or power meter available at most hardware or electrical stores.

In real-world testing, a High Light 420 fixture drawing 320-400W will easily replace a 600W HPS lamp for yields and higher quality. This configuration can be found in our Quad and Longboard fixtures

That does not mean a 320-400W High Light 420 fixture is a “600W equivalent”. It simply means you can get the same yields with our LED grow light using 2/3 or less the power of a HPS lamp. That also means less than 2/3 the heat – heat that doesn’t have to be cooled with air-conditioning, which uses additional power.

Every year, the gap between LED and HID efficiency is growing.

It is worth noting that LED drivers are just as efficient as the most efficient HID digital ballasts at around 95% – and much more efficient than cheaper digital and magnetic ballasts that can consume more than 10% of all power.

It is also worth noting that LEDs do not have an initial power spike during start-up like many HID ballasts, so their current draw remains stable. This is an important consideration when designing a grow room, as you do not need to allow for extra current and fusing for short periods of the day during start-up.

LEDs are only good for growth, not flowering

Like the first myth, this one is due to exaggerated claims by some LED manufacturers that couldn’t live up to the hype.

High-quality LED horticultural lights are in fact better for flowering than traditional HPS, MH and CMH lamps.

The reason is simple: LEDs are able to incorporate more red light – including red, deep red and far red from 600nm-750nm – that is responsible for accelerated photosynthesis and flower development, and more blue light that is responsible for compact structure, thicker leaves, stronger stems, and terpene (and other essential oil) production.

The High Light 420 3000K LED grow light has been specifically designed as a flowering light – which is why the blend of high-efficiency LEDs incorporate more red and far red light, a more balanced blue spectrum, and violet and UVA light to facilitate faster flowering growth and higher levels of essential oils.

The 3000K High Light 420 can be used during the vegetative or growth phase – and will actually grow faster than cool white or higher Kelvin temperature LEDs (5000K etc) – but may not be as suited to leafy greens and non-flowering plants. That is why we also produce a 3200K spectrum High Light 420 strip High Light 420 strip that has added blue light to promote root growth (seedling and clone propagation) and thicken the leaf epidermis (skin) for tastier and crunchier leafy greens and edible herbs. The extra blue light can also increase essential oil production in flowering plants at cost of a small amount of yield.

Plants don’t need green light

Ever wondered why the first LED grow lights were a mix of red and blue diodes commonly (and derogatively) referred to as “blurple”?

Ever wondered why they didn’t work so well?

Poor efficiency aside, somewhere along the line someone decided that because plants were green, green light was not useful for growth because plants reflected most of it.

This is not true.

Recent scientific studies have shown that in fact green is the most efficient spectrum for plants to photosynthesise, as it penetrates deeper into the cell structure and is responsible for plant health and immune system response.

It is precisely because green light is so efficient that most plants reflect it into the lower canopy to sustain growth when direct sunlight is not available. This increases light penetration where it is needed.

In simple terms, blue light (shorter wavelength) carries the most energy but also scatters the most (which is why the sky is blue). More energetic radiation – such as deep blue light, violet, UVA and UVB – can elicit stress responses in plants that cause them to produce more compounds to protect their DNA, such as terpenes (essential oils) and active substances (such as cannabinoids).

Green light (medium wavelength) carries more energy than red light (longer wavelength) and also penetrates deeper into the cell structure. This means that, even though red light is more efficiently photosynthesised by plant chloroplasts on the leaf surface, green light penetrates to activate more chloroplasts under the surface which combine to increase leaf photosynthesis as a whole.

Red light is the least energetic light, but is the easiest to photosynthesis for plants. It is responsible for fruiting, flowering and shade avoidance (a function of red-to-far red ratio), which causes plants to stretch in an effort to find more blue light (red and far red light penetrate deeper into the canopy, which triggers the plant to grow in search of more direct sunlight).

Far red light also has a role to play in regulating growth hormones and determining when a plant begins to fruit or flower. Combined with red light, it can accelerate photosynthesis in a synergistic relationship documented as the Emerson Effect.

Far red and UVA light appear to be complimentary, with UVA preventing excessive stretch (shade avoidance) and far red light reducing anthocyanin (stress pigment) expression normally associated with UV.

As you can see, spectrum plays a very important role in plant growth and flowering – and that is where LEDs have the advantage of being able to be “tuned” for optimal growth for different plant varieties.