The 10 Best LED Grow Lights
Light Above All Else
If indoor horticulture fascinates you, then you're going to need a good alternative to help those beautiful flowers bloom inside your home or business. While fertile soil, plant food, plenty of water, and using the best seeds are definitely important, there's an additional component that can make or break your success in the garden and that's light.
Without light, your plants don't get the all the nourishment they need. Without access to an outdoor garden or lots of land around your property to cultivate one, the next best thing would be to move that garden right into your own home with the use of indoor grow lights.
While grow lights come in several different forms, they are all artificial electric light sources with a common goal of stimulating plant photosynthesis through the emission of an electromagnetic spectrum. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert light energy into chemical energy, which is then used to fuel growth activities. Fortunately for us and most life on Earth, the main waste product for plants during photosynthesis happens to be oxygen. Without light and photosynthesis, sustaining life would be very difficult. Grow lights provide either a light spectrum similar to that of the sun, or a particular spectrum best suited for cultivating a unique species of plant, depending on what it is you actually want to grow.
Your main goal is to mimic outdoor conditions as closely as possible with respect to what your plants would ordinarily experience in their natural outdoor environments to propagate. That said, you need versatility in your grow lights to deliver various colors, temperatures, and spectral outputs. Common types of grow lights include incandescent lamps, fluorescent lights, high-intensity discharge lamps (HIDs), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
What gives LED grow lights an edge over some of their competition is their versatility, efficiency, longevity, and friendliness to the environment among other things. Diodes also allow for specific wavelengths of light to be produced. This means that LED grow lights can cover a broad spectrum of colors that include the red, green, and blue parts that plants use to grow and flourish.
Finally, LED grow lights are not only used for industrial and home applications on Earth, but they also play a role in farming for a possible future with respect to hydroponics and sustaining plants in outer space. Does that mean we're ready to start terraforming Mars? Probably not, but it could be a first step in the right direction.
Let There Be Light
There are several things to consider when choosing an LED grow light, such as what you plan to grow, where you plan to grow it, and how much space you have. The good news is that LED grow lights offer you the freedom to make the best decision possible, regardless of what plants you intend to cultivate.
Plants and lights are generally placed within close proximity to one another, which is ideal when working with limited space. You also want to be sure that the spectrum being represented will cover the plant surfaces and not just the surrounding areas. LED grow lights encourage plant propagation without sacrificing huge amounts of money or wasting electricity.
Many LED grow lights are designed to give you large yields per watt, while some feature built-in spectrum controls for fine-tuning the resulting light at each stage of the growing process. Adjustable spectrum controls are quite important when growing a variety of fruits or vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, as there isn't a universally optimal light recipe for every plant. Required light intensity and total exposure time can and will vary for different plant species, so it's important to keep these things in mind when determining your needs.
Choosing high-powered, brand-name LEDs gives you the confidence that your grow lights have been adequately tested and that they will stand up to the life expectancy needed to keep your plants alive and healthy.
With high power also comes heat. Go with LED grow lights equipped with the ability to disperse some of that heat to ensure the longevity of the LEDs themselves. Solutions for this include heat sinks and electric fans built into the LED light fixtures. While heat isn't necessarily detrimental to your plants, you don't want it to shorten the lifespan of your lights.
A Brief History Of Grow Lights
Grow lights for plants have a history of nearly 150 years, starting with Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent filament lamp as early as 1879. Along the same parallel was open arc lighting, which made use of carbon rods as a popular form of street lighting in the late 1800s as well as for continued plant testing through the 1940s.
Enclosed and low-pressure gaseous discharge lamps were originally developed with mercury vapor in the late 1800s and were expanded around 1900 to include other elements such as sodium, neon, and argon. The use of phosphors in conjunction with the low-pressure mercury lamps further encouraged the development of fluorescent lamps during the 1930s. Compared to mercury lamps, fluorescent lamps had a broader spectrum, improved efficiency, and a longer operating life when compared to incandescent lamps.
The 1930s to 1960s saw further development of high-pressure mercury, metal halide, and sodium lamps that are still being used today to supplement naturally-lit greenhouses.
It wasn't until around 1990 that the LED grow lamp underwent its initial testing to eventually become a common means for plant propagation in today's horticulture industry.