Debunking the Power Myth About LED Grow Lights

LED grow lights have become increasingly popular in the indoor horticulture industry in recent years. However, with that popularity, a lack of understanding of their specific usage potential has resulted in the circulation of a great deal of misinformation.

Often, this misinformation is based on a lack of understanding of how lights function in controlled environment agriculture (CEA) applications. Sometimes though, would-be clients can be misled by poor information into purchasing lights that consume more power than is actually necessary and misleading information on the product being sold.

We’re here to set the record straight on some of the more egregious misinformation that circulates about LED grow lights and to possibly save you from spending thousands of unnecessary dollars on CapEx and OpEx. But first, we’ll take a look at this common misunderstanding and examine how and why it exists.

Is More Power Always the Answer?

A frequently repeated adage within the indoor horticulture world is that your LED grow lights are simply not powerful enough. While this may be true in some cases, adding more power is rarely the solution. What these claims fail to take into consideration is that in CEA situations, it's just not that simple.

It is true that you’ll need adequate wattage to meet your lighting needs. However, the often-repeated message is not simply that more light will help your plants; it’s that more power is necessary to achieve more light. So, while it may be tempting to rush out and replace your lights with higher-wattage versions, it may be more important to set the record straight first.

A significant contributor to the continuation of these misunderstandings is “equivalency ratings,” or the information put out by LED lighting companies stating that their LED grow light is “equivalent” to a higher-powered HPS bulb. Unfortunately, many fell for these false claims in the early days of LED growing, leading to tremendous disappointment, lots of lackadaisical crops, and tons of additional labour for growers forced to deal with hanging dozens or hundreds of panels.

As LED lighting has grown more prominent, these equivalency ratings are referenced and relied upon less and less. Even still, there persists a misunderstanding regarding LED lighting and power consumption.

What Does More Power Mean for Your Operation?

Integrating higher-wattage grow lights will undoubtedly brighten up your room and offer your plants more photons, but it will also bring with it some unexpected troubles. For starters, the vast majority of LED grow lights feature ballasts mounted on the fixture. Secondly, it's the effectiveness of the photons delivered to the canopy that matters.

Like the ballasts used to control their HID predecessors, these ballasts produce significant heat in your grow room and have high failure rates. Of course, more heat means higher cooling expenses and an overall increased HVACD load. It can also mean faster drying times for your growing medium, thus creating an increased need for irrigation as well. That’s not to mention the effect temperature fluctuations can have on humidity, VPD, and your plants themselves.

While the idea of pumping more power into your facility may seem logical, in most cases, it may be unnecessary. In fact, wasted energy is one of the most costly expenses for growers. Forcing your HVACD system to work overtime to keep up with unnecessary ballast heat is like throwing costly energy right out the window.

In addition to wasting energy when trying to combat unnecessary heat, increasing the power in your grow room may actually prove fruitless for other reasons as well.

PPFD and Power: How Much Can Your Plants Take?

Naturally, any grower in any grow room can add more wattage or even more lights. The results will be brighter and hotter, just as one might expect. However, adding more or brighter lights to a grow room does not take into account a plant’s PPFD absorption.

Photosynthetic photon flux density, or PPFD, is a measure of the amount of usable light that falls onto a surface in one second, measured as µmol/m2/s (micromoles per square meter per second). Plants can only make use of light within the 400-700 nm range, known as photosynthetically active radiation, or PAR. Thus, the amount of PAR that falls upon a plant in a given square meter, in a given second, is the PPFD.

Cannabis plants thrive in an environment between 700-900 µmol/m2/s. With adequate CO2 concentrations in the right atmosphere, plants can handle higher PPFD. Beyond this range, plants lower their rate of photosynthesis, effectively stopping growth, and begin to sustain tissue damage.

Though it may be tempting to simply increase the wattage, it's most important to look at the PPFD being delivered from the fixtures you have - determine the most efficient fixtures to achieve the desired PPFD. Instead, it may be time to acknowledge that in the case of light and power, more is not always better.

Working Within Guidelines: New Restrictions

As cannabis legalization has spread across the country, many states recognize the legitimacy of marijuana grow operations and their potential to generate revenue. As a result, local and state governments are levying heavy taxes and restrictions on new facilities.

While taxing the final product was one place to start, many local municipalities and utility companies have also begun implementing power-use reduction programs. For example, in Massachusetts and California, two states with highly advanced legalization legislation on the books, utility companies are already demanding that power consumption be limited to 36 watts per square foot.

As the threat of global warming and climate change loom ever nearer, it can only be anticipated that more and more states will follow suit in developing power usage restrictions. With all of these anticipated restrictions in the future, it once again begs the question of whether more power is really the best solution for your operation.

TSRgrow: Developing Scalable Solutions for Sustainability

Environmental-Monitoring-Software-GROWHubAt TSRgrow, we have been working for over twelve years to help growers overcome any type of obstacle, and we leverage adaptability for quality production at the lowest total cost of operation. Our TSRgrow Advanced LED Solutions do not simply replace 1-kilowatt HPS lights with "more power" Instead, we offer sustainable, scalable solutions for any CEA situation.

We understand that the lowest cost per gram is the number one priority for the grower, and we aim to help you achieve those goals with our TOTALgrow Solution. At TSRgrow, we examine your design from the ground up, enabling us to identify key factors which may be costing your operation excess overhead. Our goal is to save you money where it counts by cutting installation costs and minimizing operating costs wherever possible.

Our TOTALGrow Solutions make this possible. For starters, we minimize your HVACD load by removing all ballasts from our grow lights, opting instead to relocate all power servers to a remote location outside of the grow room. The removal of ballasts helps to stabilize grow room temperatures, leaving little room for fluctuation.

But we don’t stop there. Our GROWHub digital remote power platform also tracks every cultivation cycle’s progress, learning from harvest to harvest how to best maximize your resources for future grows. In addition, it allows growers to track grow room conditions remotely, actively monitoring lighting, HVACD, CO2 and oxygen levels, nutrient levels and airflow.

TSRgrow offers growers a degree of adaptability and ease of use that has never been seen before. Coupled with our exhaustive efforts to incorporate sustainability into every one of our designs, our TOTALGrow Solutions will provide you not only the most cost-effective but also the most innovative way to design, buildout and develop your grow space.

TSRgrow's Advanced LED Lighting Solutions offer cultivators much more than just lighting. Along with our industry leading technology that combines TSRgrow high powered LED light fixtures, TGHV remote power servers and our GROWHub environmental monitoring and control software, we extend 24/7 support, expert advice and facility maintenance solutions to our growers. We understand the industry and its ever-changing regulations and build customized plans based on your business goals and needs.

At TSRgrow, we know that more power isn't the simple solution to the complex problems faced by growers. So why not sit down with us today? Allow us to show you what we at TSRgrow know to be the ultimate TOTALGrow Solution.


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