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Energy is an unavoidable expense, especially when you’re growing plants. However, today’s plant cultivators shouldn’t feel dependent on HID bulbs. While HIDs still work in indoor grow spaces, LEDs are a viable and cost-effective alternative.
It may seem like a nuisance to replace HID grow lights with LEDs, but these new diodes offer many attractive features. Growers that invest in an HID to LED conversion are always happy with their bigger buds and better bottom lines.
Why Would plant Growers Retrofit To LEDs?
The primary reason people get into LED retrofitting is straightforward: cost savings. Even though LED grow lights cost more upfront, they help reduce a cultivator’s operating expenses in the long term.
A large part of this has to do with LEDs’ superior energy efficiency. Compared with HIDs, LEDs can convert electricity into more light and much less heat. In fact, a standard 600W LED offers the same PPF score as a 1000W HPS system. Recent estimates also suggest LEDs give off a PPE of 2.7 – 3.5 μmol/J versus 1.8 μmol/J from a comparable HPS.
So, when you install LED grow lights, you will enjoy more light penetration while pulling less wattage. This could translate to a 40% reduction in electricity expenditure. Plus, since LEDs are more efficient than HID bulbs, growers don’t need as many fixtures to attain comparable luminosity. Fewer grow lights translate to even greater cost savings!
By the way, you could learn more about how to gauge a light’s PPFD for plants in this previous blog post.
Longevity & Maintenance
But an LED unit’s cost savings go well beyond its energy efficiency score. For instance, LED Grow Lights have a longer lifespan versus High Pressure Sodium lamps. Most cultivators get 50,000 hours of use out of their LED panels before worrying about replacement. Compare that with the average lifespan of an HID bulb at between 6,000 hours to 24,000 hours.
Related to longevity, LED grow lights are far easier to maintain over the long haul. In fact, you won’t have to worry about changing LED fixtures for years. However, if you’re using HIDs, you have to plan on carefully removing delicate bulbs every few grow cycles. Since HPS bulbs contain dangerous compounds like mercury, many facilities have to pay extra for specialists to remove and dispose them.
Beyond LEDs’ many cost-saving benefits, these lights seem to be better tailored for growing plants indoors. Most HID growers switch from the cooler metal halide to warm HPS bulbs between vegetation and flowering. With LEDs, you can enjoy MH, HPS, and even UV light frequencies throughout the growing process. Plus, since many LEDs have dimmable features, it’s easy for cultivators to control light intensity for different spaces and stages of growth.
Indeed, “control” is a crucial benefit many growers mention after converting from HID bulbs to LEDs. Since LEDs offer high light penetration without influencing your room’s temperature, cultivators could tailor their indoor environment for different strains. While it will take some adjustment time, most cultivators who switch to LEDs have zero regrets.
Replace Or Integrate? — How Do You Retrofit LED Lights For plants?
When most electricians talk about retrofitting for LED grow lights, they’re often talking about swapping LEDs into pre-existing fixtures. Although this is a common strategy in many warehouses, it may not be the best option in your grow space.
Interestingly, many cultivators are now experimenting with an HID/LED hybrid model. As the name suggests, this retrofit involves adding LED panels to a pre-existing HID grow space. Cultivators who use this strategy enjoy many of the benefits LEDs offer without a costly renovation.
The HID/LED hybrid model is ideal for growers who feel most comfortable working with HIDs. LED panels will add a broader light spectrum for more robust growth, but they won’t alter your room’s average temperature. In fact, since LEDs don’t give off infrared radiation, an HID/LED model makes it easier to grow plants year-round.
While the HID/LED model is an attractive option, it’s not ideal for new cultivators. In fact, a total LED retrofit is usually the best bet if you’re just starting out in professional plants cultivation. This strategy helps growers profit from the many benefits of LEDs without worrying about the extra maintenance HIDs require. Cultivators who don’t have experience with HIDs are better off focusing on making the most out of a complete LED space.
Since every cultivator has unique specifications, you should address your concerns to a professional light manufacturer. In addition to speaking with an electrician, please feel free to contact Mars Hydro if you’d like to learn more about how to retrofit your space with our LED models.
Effects Of Temperature Change — What To Pay Attention To When Retrofitting For LED
Replacing HID bulbs for LEDs has many positives, but that doesn’t mean everything will “get better” once you add LED panels. LEDs will alter your grow space, so you need to prepare your facility before planting your plant strains.
Increase In Relative Humidity
Most significantly, LED growers must invest in dehumidifiers. Please remember that humidity goes up as the average temperature goes down. LEDs don’t give off infrared radiation; hence, they won’t raise the temp in your grow space. As your plants transpire during photosynthesis, the amount of relative humidity will increase in an LED grow space.
Since plants are highly susceptible to mold, it’s imperative growers have a dehumidification plan in place before retrofitting to LEDs. Failure to adjust for this risk could trigger a mold infestation or cause your plants to dry out.
LED growers must constantly monitor the Vapor Pressure Deficit and adjust temperature and dehumidification accordingly. The ideal humidity levels for plants are between 40 – 70 percent during vegetation and 40 percent during flowering.
Achieve Ideal Temp For CO2 Application
LED grow lights could also alter the total CO2 available for plants. Generally, the ideal plant leaf temperature for photosynthesis is close to 80° F (27° C). Since LEDs remove ambient temperature in a grow space, cultivators may need to adjust their rooms’ temperature to provide optimal CO2 exchange.
Please note: These ideal temperatures will fluctuate depending on what type of growing environment you’re in. For instance, people growing in a greenhouse typically need to keep their grow space ~ 2 – 2.5° F higher than in a greenhouse with HPS lighting.
Install At Proper Position
Lastly, you should always factor in spatial concerns when evaluating different LED grow lights. Not only should your LEDs fit comfortably in your space, you have to ensure they offer adequate peripheral light penetration. LEDs that are too concentrated in the center will diminish your total yield and increase the risk of bud burn. These concerns are pronounced in cramped settings like vertical farming facilities.
Often, the more diodes an LED panel has, the better chance it will distribute light evenly. This is a major reason Mars Hydro manufacturers place great emphasis on total diode count. You could verify how more diodes create superior peripheral light penetration by looking at a model’s PPID numbers.
Need More Info On LED Conversion? — Call Mars Hydro!
Converting from HID to LED is a significant move for plant cultivators. If you’re used to working with HPS bulbs, you may be wondering whether it’s worth the time and effort to adjust to LEDs. Yes, there is a learning curve involved in replacing HID lights with LEDs, but the initial investment pays off in the long haul.
If you’re still struggling to weigh the costs and benefits of an HID to LED conversion, Mars Hydro would be happy to assist you. Mars Hydro has helped countless companies move to a hybrid LED/HPS model or full LEDs. Our customer care division can help you better understand what LED retrofit would work best for your facility. Please find out more info on Mars Hydro‘s Contact Us page.