Even if you live in a temperate region, grow lights help you stimulate indoor plant growth by allowing more photosynthesis. During the winter season, grow lights offer you increased control over your plants' light exposure. These lights, especially those powered by light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, cater to grow trays and hydroponic systems as well as greenhouse environments. While LEDs don't use the same amount of energy as other grow lights, they do offer some benefits, especially in terms of efficiency.
Heat and Light
Generally, LED grow lights come in 2- to 5-watt varieties, meaning they output about 120 to 300 lumens. Some particularly large models use 17 watts of electricity, giving them the ability to output roughly 1,020 lumens. The LED manufacturers at Illumitex note that LED lights give off less heat than other grow lights, averaging an output of about 3.4 British thermal units per hour, compared to the 85-BTU-per-hour rate of incandescent bulbs.
Rather than the tubular, cylindrical or bulbous shapes of other grow lights, LED grow lights often feature a slim square or rectangular shape with a flat, panel-like lighting surface. Even in larger LED fixtures that do feature exposed bulbs, the bulbs typically only measure a few inches in diameter. For larger spaces, such as greenhouses, LED light manufacturers offer larger, longer LED panels that resemble commercial fluorescent lights, in terms of form. Large or small, LED grow lights usually weigh in at a fraction of the heft of other types of lights. Often, the casing of LED lights houses a cooling fan, power inputs, thermal cut-off regulators and heat sinks.
Shining Light on the Benefits
Compared to other grow lights, LED lights are very energy efficient -- according to light manufacturer Hydro Grow, LED lights consume about 60 percent of the energy of similar appliances, such as high-intensity discharge or fluorescent lamps. Likewise, LED lights sport a lifespan of about six years, or 50,000 hours. In contrast to other grow lights, LEDs feature a much narrower light emission range, allowing manufacturers to hone in on light ranges that effectively cater to the process of photosynthesis. For instance, LED grow lights with a targeted red light wavelength cater to vegetative growth and flowering while blue LED light encourages stem development and bushy growth.
More to Consider
While LED grow lights may outclass other types of lamps in long-term efficiency, these lights typically cost about five times that of incandescent bulbs and twice that of fluorescent lights. Whether using LED lights or other types of grow lights, plants still need roughly six hours of darkness each day. Calculate exactly how much daily light your plants need when considering your lighting rig and account for plant growth by moving the LEDs further from your plants as they increase in size.