What LED Grow Light is Best For Me?
When Budget LED went into business 3 years ago as the first cannabis grow lighting company in Michigan, high performance LED grow lights were few and far between. Today, there are more and more grow light brands every day! So as a consumer, how do you decide which brand of lighting or type of lighting to go with? First, we tell customers stay away from Amazon or any “wholesale” sites such as Alibaba. Sites like this focus only on price. Quality of components and the bin level of the diodes is often subpar. Often customers do not get what they pay for. For example, we repair a lot of boards locally for customers and get to see some of lighting from these sites. We often must tell customers we can not make the repair because the pad size on the HT-1 board is not correct. For example, the Samsung LM56C/H diode is rectangular rather than square like the Samsung LM301H/B. Pad size is important! Many Chinese makers utilize a 2.5mm x 2.5mm diode that resembles a Samsung diode at a 3.0mm x 3.0mm pad. The average consumer would never know the difference.
Set a Budget
It is important to budget accordingly for lighting. Lighting is one of the most importance pieces for a fantastic grow. A lot of growers buy the biggest grow tent and the fanciest named genetics they can get their hands on. This will often restrict a customer on what lighting options they can consider. PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS. This approach will cost you more in the long run. If you are a new grower, sit down and determine how much you can afford to spend on your entire grow set-up. Then, budget at least 50% of it towards quality lighting. Size your grow space to the grow light you can afford.
Determine Your Power Need
As a rule of thumb, we have our best success growing cannabis under LED when we adequately light the space we are trying to grow in. For veg, a minimum of 18 watts (true wattage draw) per square foot is recommended. For flower, a minimum of 28 watts per square foot is recommended. However, if you can get closer to 50 watts a square foot, your grow will only improve. When looking at lighting, ignore any wattage mentioned as “equivalent”. It is meaningless and a marking tool used by many Chinese companies to mislead consumers. You want to know the lights actual wattage draw. All Budget LED & Elevated Lighting Company’s grow lights are advertised as actual wattage draw. For example, in a 4 x 4 tent (16 square feet), you want a minimum wattage of 450 watts of actual wattage draw to flower.
What Components Should I Look For?
Please find a list below of components we recommend growers look for when reviewing a specific light:
Recommended Component Name Brands
- Samsung (diode manufacturer) – Common diodes are the LM301B or LM301H
- Osram (diode and driver manufacturer) – Common diodes are SSL & Hyper Red
- Mean Well (Driver Manufacturer) – HLG line is the best, ELG is okay, and the XLG line is considered entry level
- Inventronics (Driver Manufacturer)
- Cree (diode and optic manufacturer) Common diodes include their XPE line
- Seoul (diode manufacturer) – common diodes are the Seoul 3030 and their line of UVa
When looking to grow cannabis, there are two different cycles to consider. The vegetative cycle and the flower cycle. Each have their own lighting requirements. In veg, cannabis prefers a heavier blue spectrum (or white light) in the 440 to 470nm range. In flower, cannabis prefers heavier red spectrum (or yellow light) ranging from 600 to 670nm. Below, please see the spectrum of our Series 3+ Full Spec board. The top spectrum is for veg and the bottom is for flower.
Many lights are advertised as “full spectrum”. All that means is it contains some level of light ranging from 400 to 700nm. Not all full cycle lighting is the same. Our Full Spec light offers a much more complete spectrum then say a standard 3000k kelvin spectrum shown below.
It is especially important to select the lighting that meets your growth stage need! Additional lighting outside of the 400-700nm is also a nice plus. Far Red and UV both play roles in the development of a cannabis plant. However, they are not absolutely needed but can enhance the final product.
Note: spectrum graphs are very easy to manipulate. Understanding the diode count, drive current, and ratio of blues / reds will determine the spectrum of the light! Also, if a protective coating is applied to the board, it will more than likely see a drop in the red spectrum and see a heavy shift to blue! One of the most common Chinese LED manufacturers on the market misrepresent their spectrum and some light testers have called them out.
Specifications of the Light
When looking at lighting, you will see many claims about specs. The most common items are Total PPF and Efficacy (or PPE). They are importance metrics that are meaningless unless you really understand lighting and how they work. Rather than focusing on these metrics alone, focus your attention to the overall light and diode count. Why is this more relevant? A light is only as efficient as its inputs. For example, our 650w demon has nearly 800 diodes per board (or 3,200 per light), a total PPF of 1,800, and a PPE of roughly 2.8 (independent lab report as proof). Now, say a light has half the diodes with a similar power draw and makes the same claim we do. Logically speaking, a diode has an optimal current it needs to be run at to operate as efficiently as possible. That optimal current is typically incredibly low. This means to generate a specific wattage, more diodes are needed! There is a direct relationship that should not be ignored. Also, lighting including far red (IR) and UV will be less efficient than one without it.
Warranties tend to be the last thing many growers consider and is probably the biggest mistake they make. For example, buying a little from China will have little to no warranty support. Why? Shipping costs alone are considerably high and lead times can be multiple weeks. We take our warranty very seriously. We can ship components to the furthest point in the USA in under 4 business days. We do all our repair work in house. The down time for the grower is minimized as much as possible.
The Brand as a Whole
Does the company live and breath the cannabis industry? As cannabis growers ourselves, it is critical we support the industry we operate in so it continues to thrive and evolve. Many companies are simply corporations capitalizing on a hot market. To them, it is only about the green backs.
Does the company manufacture the lighting or are they simply rebranding? Rebranding Chinese lights is the dirtiest secret in the lighting industry. 85% of lighting on the market is rebranded and it is easy to spot if you know what to look for. Unfortunately, the biggest players in the market partake in it. Do we do it? No we don’t and never will. Every one of our lights is engineered, designed, and built by us.
Avoid YouTube or Review Sites for Recommendations
In today’s world filled with YouTube, forums, review websites, and Instagram, everyone has an opinion. What most consumers do not know is that many times, youtubers are paid to promote / use a light. Most LED grow light companies have behind the scenes contracts that sponsors or YouTubers must follow. That contract includes a no negative publicity clause. You are not receiving real and honest feedback.
Review sites are also a common thing that pops up when googling grow lights. Avoid these at all costs. These are only used as Amazon affiliate sites to generate sales for the website owner. Hence the reason every one of them reference an Amazon link to view the product.
Forums and Instagram can be great sources to see other grower’s set-ups and the result of their hard work. Also, your local grow shop may be able to connect you with a local grow group. At the end of the day, find someone that does not have skin in the game to sway your decision. We have been a forum sponsor on www.420magazine.com for two years and there are tons of helpful growers on there.
Lighting is one of the most importance components in a successful grow. Do not underestimate the benefit of a great light and make sure to do your research. If you have any questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media @ElevatedLightingco.
President & Owner