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HomeHydroponic Indoor Growing

Hydroponics 101: How Do LED Grow Lights Work?

led grow lights

Hydroponics 101: How Do LED Grow Lights Work?

by Stefano

You invest time and money into your crops.

You don't want to see all of your hard work go to waste -- or be left wondering if you really got the best yield you could out of your plants.

There is some science to creating the ideal environment for your hydroponics.

Let's look at what you need to know about how LED grow lights work to help plants grow fast, strong, and produce the yield you're looking for.

Why Grow Indoors?

Growing indoors gives the grower greater control over the crop. With LED grow lights, you control the intensity and duration of the light. 

Some plants need more light than others. Some have light need changes at various points in their life cycles.

In addition, you can protect your plants from drastic temperature changes, insects, and the world outside.

A tomato thief could be lying in wait for your tomatoes to ripen. Once those tomatoes are shiny red, she's there to snatch a bushel off your vines to eat, throw at passing cars, or make homemade spaghetti sauce.

Regardless of her intentions, you need to keep your tomatoes out of her hands.

What Is LED?

"LED" stands for light emitting diode. A semiconductor emits a visible light as electricity passes through it. We use this light for everything from electronic indicator lights to household lighting.

In addition, LED emits non-visible light throughout the spectrum of light.

You may be wondering: is it really light if you can't see it?

The answer: yes, yes it is. Like many things in life, just because you can't see it, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

The light that is visible to humans is a very narrow piece of the light spectrum. Plants can see and make use of light invisible to the human eyes.

Various plants need light at different points along the spectrum of light. One of the great things about LED grow lights is that they can be engineered to produce light at specific points on the spectrum. In this way, they provide a crop with the exact light it needs for optimized results.

The light emitted from each diode is minuscule. LED grow lights incorporate a system of reflectors to magnify the light. This allows growers to get the most light with the fewest lights.

Because the lights are so small, fixtures can take on many shapes and sizes to meet specific needs.

Why Plants Need LED?

Plants need light for photosynthesis. In this process, plants turn light energy into chemical energy. They use this chemical energy to convert water and carbon dioxide into energy-rich food. 

The plant uses this energy-rich food as the building blocks for plant cells that make up its roots, branches, stems, leaves, and flowers.

Without light, the plant would have no way produce food and -- in effect -- it would starve to death.

Plants need light for different functions in their life cycle.

Light on the blue end of the spectrum encourages more voluminous leaf and stem growth, which is important in early stages.

Light on the red end of the spectrum encourages healthier blooms. It's also very important for seedings. Red light encourages root growth and germination, two vital steps to the plants' early development.

Plants don't need much green light. That's why they reflect it back off their leaves. Humans perceive an object to be the color of the light that it reflects back after absorbing the colors that are needed.

The sun is the ultimate source of light because it provides light across the color spectrum. That's why its light looks white to us most of the time.

But we can mimic these various spectrums with LED grow lights. The spectral range needs for plants can be very specific beyond what we see.

Plants need LED because they can be engineered to produce the exact light that a specific plant needs.

Other lights can work on some plants, but provide greater variability and uncertainty about whether you're meeting your plant's unique needs.

Benefits of LED

Growers -- and the public in general -- are switching to LED grow lights in droves for several good reasons:

  1. They last longer than other lights. Changing out many blown bulbs doesn't become a daily task even in large operations.
  2. They use less energy. LED uses 75% less energy than an incandescent.
  3. They're smaller. Even with its reflective system, LEDs will take up less room.
  4. They're highly durable. Shattered fluorescents or other lighting has always been an occupational hazard for growers.  A shattered light can cause serious injury and contaminate crops with glass shards. LED grow lights don't have that problem.
  5. They're low heat. The incredible amount of heat put off by other forms of light could make indoor growing very uncomfortable and -- for some plants like spinach -- can make them bud and become bitter. It requires great costs managing the temperature in a greenhouse with other lights. Not so with LED.
  6. They can be placed much closer to the crop. If you're growing in tight spaces, that's a must. Because they produce virtually no heat, they can be placed immediately above a plant without significant risk of damage or fire.
  7. As stated, they can be made to produce very specific light to meet specific needs.

Using LED Grow Lights

The light that LED lights emit is measured in lumens. Each plant type will have a certain lumen requirement. It will be measured in square feet.

The lumen range for plants typically runs between 2,000 and 10,000 with 2,000 for a plant that needs very little light to 10,000 for a plant that's accustomed to ample light.

Depending on what you're growing, you'll need to research the specific requirements for that plant.

Additionally, the hours of light needed for a crop will vary both by crop and by where it is in a cycle. For example, for a typical crop, about 18 hours of light a day is ideal once it's sprouted. However, plants that are accustomed to growing in winter months will do better with fewer hours during sprouting and more hours to promote blooming.

Importance of LED Grow Lights

LED grow lights help you meet your plants' specific needs. They have a tremendous number of benefits that have more and more growers switching to LED.

To help your garden grow, explore our selection of LED lights today.

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