Full-Spectrum LED Lights: What Are They, and Are They Good for Your Plants?
You’ve likely heard of LED lights if you’re interested in indoor plant growing. For anyone that’s been in the game long enough, the ins and outs of full-spectrum LED grow lights must be at their fingertips. However, if you’re new to indoor plant growing, you’ve just reached the right venue of knowledge. After all, you’d want to expand your familiarity with this type of technology if you wish to venture further into this world.
What Are Grow Lights?
As the name lets on, grow lights are artificial lights that help plants grow, or to word it differently, electric lights that stimulate plant growth. As you probably already know, plants need light for photosynthesis, which is the process they utilize to make food. The sun is the natural light source they use to fuel this process. But what of plants that are grown indoors? Don’t they also need to make food? You guessed right; that’s where grow lights come in.
Of course, there are several types of grow lights. Among them, you can find fluorescent lights and fluorescent tubes (compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs), high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Of the three, any seasoned grower will tell you that LED lights are your best bet for a bumper harvest. Isn’t a bountiful harvest what all cultivators desire? You’ll find that this is especially true for marijuana growers, and we’re with them all the way.
Grow Lights — Do They Really Work?
Before we begin discussing the juicy details, let’s address the important aspects first. You may have heard of grow lights, but some questions may still linger on their effectiveness. But take it from us; grow lights work and do so exceptionally well. In fact, they can play three vital roles when growing plants in indoor settings. They could either supplement natural light, completely replace it, or optimize it.
Remember how we said plants require light for photosynthesis? They are able to absorb this light via the help of a compound referred to as chlorophyll, which absorbs blue and red light. Thanks to it, plants are able to grow in the presence of any artificial light source that emits these spectra.
As we mentioned before, LEDs are the most efficient type of grow lights. They trace their history back to the 1900s, but widespread indoor gardening and urban farming use didn’t explode until the 2000s. In theory, you can use any LED light to grow plants since they produce a mix of light wavelengths that are perfect for supporting plant growth. In practice, however, you’ll need specialized LEDs for optimal growth. There are two types of LEDs: the red-blue grow lights and the full-spectrum ones.
LEDs’ advantage over traditional grow lights is that they produce little to no heat, and their light does not lose focus with distance (i.e., you can place them farther away from plants and still obtain optimal growth). They are also perfect for customized plant therapy, whereby manufacturers can tinker with individual light spectra to aim for specific results in their plant-growing activities.
Light and Its Spectrum for Plant Growth
If we are being honest, light is an interesting entity. To understand the inner workings of full-spectrum LEDs, you must first strip light down to its individual components. As far as the human eye can tell, light is always a single color. It could be red, blue, white, or yellow; you name it. However, the actual truth is more complicated than just that.
Light consists of several photons, which are small particles that contain different wavelengths. The wavelengths these photons emit are what the human eye registers as light. Photons with short wavelengths result in blue light, while long wavelengths create red light. Almost 100% of the time, light is an amalgamation of multiple photons, each with its own wavelength.
After reading this explanation, you now understand that light is not just a single color but a spectrum of various colors. Light’s spectrum, therefore, is the amalgamation of wavelengths and the number of photons at each wavelength.
Full-Spectrum LED Lights
Although the definition of “full-spectrum” may change among different circles, when it comes to artificial light, they all agree that it is in reference to light that is as identical to the spectrum of natural light as possible. As you would expect, therefore, full-spectrum LED lights are perfect for plants grown indoors. Unlike red-blue grow lights, full-spectrum LEDs exhibit a continuous and broad spectrum that contains both visible and invisible light.
The other lights that focus more on red-blue LEDs were made on account of early research whose results showed that plants absorbed red and blue light best. However, more recent research has demonstrated that while plant cells struggle to absorb green light, plants exposed to the full spectrum produce better yields than plants exposed to only red-blue light. Studies have also shown that green light promotes plant health and improves plant structure.
The Differences Between Red-Blue and Full-Spectrum LEDs
Although both types of light are LEDs, which we already agreed are your best bet for any indoor plant growth operation, the full-spectrum option is better than its red and blue counterparts. But exactly what are the differences between the two?
The most obvious one is, of course, their spectrum. Both of their names say it all, with the red-blue LED having the red and blue spectra, respectively, and the full-spectrum LED having a broad and continuous spectrum that is nearly identical to sunlight.
Price is another significant difference, with the full-spectrum LED being the more expensive choice. While cost-cutting may be an understandable goal for a small-scale grower, a large-scale cultivator should take the more expensive option to tap into a fuller array of benefits that will turn out to be economical in the long run.
Visible color is also different in both. Red-blue LEDs are either purple or pink, while their full-spectrum counterparts resemble the sun and appear white in color. It goes without saying that light intensity is also different in both, with the full-spectrum LED producing more light quantity.
As to which of the two is more comfortable for an indoor cultivator, the purple or pink color that red-blue LEDs come in could cause nausea, dizziness, and physical discomfort. Again, the full-spectrum LED comes out on top.
How Handy Full-Spectrum LEDs Are in Limited Space?
If you lack space, this type of LED will definitely come to your aid, unlike the regular kind. Have you heard of full-spectrum LED strip lights? These are what we’re talking about!
As it says in their name, these are flexible strips that, with the help of an adhesive, easily stick on the wall beside your plants. You can also hang them above your crops, and because LEDs emit little to no heat, you’ll have no cause for concern. However, you’ll need to supplement the strip lights with regular-size full-spectrum LEDs once your plants grow bigger, as they’ll need more intensity than strips can provide.
For How Long Should You Use Full-Spectrum Grow Lights?
The length of time you should expose your crops to full-spectrum LEDs depends on whether or not they receive any natural light at all. If they do not, you should treat them to at least 16 to 18 hours of light on a daily basis. If they receive some amount of sunlight during the day, 12 to 14 hours will suffice.
As an important point, be sure to expose your crop to light at the same time they would naturally receive sunlight. Exposing your plants only to LED lights overnight will be ineffective and is sure to leave you frustrated. For a first-time cultivator, such a rookie mistake would discourage them from going forward with their cultivation journey, don’t you think? That’s why they say knowledge is power.
Choosing the Ideal Full-Spectrum Grow Light
By now, it is no secret that we are all for LEDs, and specifically, full-spectrum LEDs. As you already know, however, multiple options exist in the market. As such, what aspects should you consider before choosing your ideal grow light? Below we’ve compiled three key aspects you need to watch out for:
In comparison to HPS lights and CFLs, LEDs are, without a doubt, more expensive. And as you would expect, LEDs themselves demonstrate variations in price, primarily because of differentiation on a manufacturer basis. For your full-spectrum grow light, you may want to go for something that is within your budget, all while remembering that cheap is expensive. If you have some wiggle room, go for the expensive option. High-end LEDs guarantee at least a decade of service, with others going as far as 15 years.
Here, size works as a two-pronged variable. It refers to how tall and wide you expect your plants to grow and the size of lights you’ll need. Remember how we said strip lights might not be suitable for large crops? That’s the idea. If you have a large crop, then going for the full-size LED setup is your best choice.
Now that you’ll be using a light source that emits little to no heat, this entry should not be a significant concern for you, right? Wrong. Although LEDs are not known to cause overheating in the grow room, you must ensure the room is well-ventilated. The little heat these bulbs produce could accumulate over time if it has nowhere to escape through.
Full-Spectrum LED Light Power Consumption
Having come this far, you must have assumed that LEDs consume less electricity than their counterparts, whether of the red-blue or full-spectrum variety. Your assumption is correct but to some degree. You’ll still have a bill to foot with full-spectrum LEDs, but how much this cost depends on the exact type of lights you buy and the total number of hours you’ll have them on daily.
Of course, a larger grow room necessitates more light, inevitably resulting in a steeper electricity bill. Nevertheless, you can take solace in the fact that full-spectrum LEDs are the most efficient lighting for your crops and that the amount you spend on electricity would have been more if you chose any other type of grow light.
To break this down into palatable bits, let us assume you use a single grow light with a wattage of 404 W. With the average cost of electricity in the United States being $0.1283 per kilowatt hour (per kWh) and you have your bulb on for 12 hours, your daily running cost will be $0.622. In a month, this will translate to $18.66.
With other non-LED equivalents, you can expect the average monthly bill to be as high as $36. Can you now do the math of just how much you save with full-spectrum LEDs? And the best thing about these grow lights is that they save you money and allow you to make more by improving your yields. This way, your savings are twofold!
A light source is a fundamental part of the equation for indoor growers. The question remains: what type of light source should growers use? As we’ve discussed, they have the option of fluorescent, HPS, and LEDs. Without question, LEDs are a grower’s best bet to have a success story.
At the same time, to improve the results, going for the full-spectrum alternative is the ideal solution. After all, they produce little to no heat, emit focused light, and are perfect for plant therapy. Yes, they may be a bit expensive, but on account of their longevity, they make total economic sense. Now that you possess all this knowledge, the ball is in your court. Play it well, will you?