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LED Myths – Yield
Many myths surround the use of LED lamps for indoor and greenhouse commercial growing. Many of these myths are based on unproven and possibly inaccurate information. The most common myth about growroom LED lamps is that yield suffers but quality of product may be achieved.
Underpowered, inferior and surprisingly low cost LED lamps permeate the market. Their poor performance negatively (and unfairly) affects the overall general perception of genuinely reliable high-powered, high-performing units from market leaders. This is one reason many growers remain skeptical about the technology, never mind the fact that the industry bought into LED technology before it was mature enough to deliver next to HID lamp technology.
Indoor and greenhouse growers who are contemplating the proper lighting equipment for their grow facilities inevitably arrive at the dilemma of HID vs. LED, so the Heliospectra team will the next three weeks go Myth-buster for you with our list of SIX (6) LED MYTHS … easily disproven … involving key performance and benefits areas that, though often misunderstood, still help growers determine their final grow light choices. LED Myths about Yield, Cost, Power Consumption, Heat, Life-Span, Warranties. Let’s start with one subject all growers focus on – Yield
Myth 1 – Yield:
LED technology is not capable of delivering the same yield as other HID and HPS technology.
Busted: This is the number one Myth, because it is generally true, but like Heliospectra lamps and other higher quality LED technology has proven, yield is achievable. The primary reason yield has suffered (and continues to with most lamps) is simple – lamps are generally incapable of pushing photons deep into the canopy in a uniform manner. Without optics, high quality parts, superior engineering and a highly engineered heat dissipation solution, a lamp will not deliver a comparable (much less better) yield. Look for lamps that deliver light – on par (pun intended) with – HID. Light intensity is measurable – combined with the right spectrum, lamps like the Heliospectra LX60 models are capable of delivering industry standard yields.
Our experience from working with our customers is that yield is achievable for both vegetable and flower crops. Using our targeted spectrum, we have customers who have decreased flowering by up to 14 days thereby achieving faster time to market and better than average yields. Among our greenhouse, growers we have seen not only a standard yield but also a higher quality in the crops grown compared to HPS lighting.
LED Myths – Cost & ROI
Many myths surround the use of LED lamps for indoor and greenhouse commercial growing, so last week we started tackle what we see as 6 common myths about LED grow lights within the grower community. Today we will continue to go myth-buster for you, this time with focus on cost and ROI. LED Myths about Yield, Cost & ROI, Power Consumption, Heat, Life-Span, Warranties
LED Myth 2 – Cost and ROI:
LEDs are not worth the higher initial cost when compared with lower cost HID lamps. LEDs are too expensive in comparison to competitive technologies and the ROI has not proven itself.
Busted: While the cost of LED alone could justify the investment, depending on one’s end goal, cost is only one part of the equation. Commercial growers seek long term solutions, the right LED lamp can deliver the ROI investor operators demand several times over. Though more expensive in capital expenditure (assuming no subsidy, leasing or incentive program), LED lamps – with an expected lifespan of 50,000 hours – provide lower lifetime operating expenses that are comparable, if not significantly better, than HID systems. LED electricity bills can run between 40-75 percent less than an equivalent HID (or CFL) system. This includes savings from reduced amounts of energy used by smaller extraction equipment, reduced need for air conditioning, lower maintenance costs, etc. Savings also accrue because LED grow lights have no filament system to burn out or ballasts, reflectors and other equipment to be replaced. There are significant financial savings to be gained from eliminating years of new HID bulb and ballast purchases, lower upfront expenditure in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) infrastructure, less chance of crop loss due to contamination (less labor hrs. involved with bulb replacement and the option of vegging and flowering in the same location).
Is an LED lamp worth the higher initial cost? Heliospectra’s LX60 Series (240 LEDs, 10.5 to 630 W typical power consumption, 50k hour’s lifespan, two-year warranty) is the market’s premier product for indoor (sole-source) lighting applications.
- Priced at US$1,999.
- Years of reliable use:
- Estimated ROI on additional investment (due to higher LED price): 9 months
- Estimated ROI on total investment: 24 months
*The numbers taken above is based on actual numbers taken from one of our growers. ROI can differ based on purchase price and varies by electricity cost.
LED Myths – Power Consumption
Many growers are still hesitant towards the efficiency of LEDs and not without reason, as many LEDs failed to live up to its promise when LEDs entered the market. But lots have happened in the last years improving both efficiency and power consumption of LEDs. Therefore we continue our myth buster series with LED myth #3 – Power Consumption (Efficiency). LED Myths about Yield, Cost & ROI, Power Consumption, Heat, Life-Span, Warranties
Myth 3 – Power Consumption (Efficiency):
Most of the power supplied to LEDs is lost as waste heat. Of the power supplied to a typical LED, significantly less than half is actually used by the LED. The rest is wasted as heat in the resistor.
Busted: LED power consumption levels depend on the device manufacturer, on the color and on the amount of power supplied to the diode. LED lamps, which have improved their efficiency roughly 50 percent in the last decade, have expanded commercial options as federal regulations tighten, according to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). (At the same time, LED prices have continued dropping “dramatically” according to EIA.). Electricity to operate the lights has been reduced by 60 percent from the old technology (HPS) we were using before. Cooling costs are significantly reduced as well because the lamps don’t generate as much heat.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) reported as far back as 2008 that LED technology has been capturing increasing market share in new applications because it offers energy savings, lower operating costs and improved durability compared to conventional light sources such as incandescent, high intensity discharge (HID) and fluorescent.
“In recent years, LEDs have entered the lighting market, offering consumers performance and features exceeding those of traditional lighting technologies,” according to the ACEEE’s “Energy Savings Estimates of LEDs in Niche Lighting Applications.”
However, of all the efficiency arguments, simply replacing a 1000W HPS with a 600W LED makes the most sense. Heliospectra has engineered the LX60 model lamps to compete head to head with industry leading 1000W units – and commercial growers are seeing the advantages in their operations.
LED Myths – Heat
Within the horticulture sector you often hear growers sceptical to the new generation grow lights. Many myths surround LED lights and we continue our myth buster series with LED myth #4 – Heat and running temperature. LED Myths about Yield, Cost & ROI, Power Consumption, Heat, Life-Span, Warranties.
LED Myth 4 – Heat (Running Temperature):
Heat management could be the killer of horticultural LED lighting.
Without sufficient light, plants are not able to adequately photosynthesize and they will not mature properly. To obtain high light levels, high-watt LEDs at fairly high densities are needed. As light output of LEDs seems to degrade mainly based on temperature of the air around the LED dome. The problem with the current design of LED Grow Lights is the equipment needed to evacuate enough “warm/hot” air from the light and the air exhausts. At this stage, the equipment needed to cool down a high output LED diode is not efficient enough, and the few available are too expensive.
Busted: Thermal management of LEDs is a science in itself. The heat LEDs do generate originates in the semiconductors due to slight inefficiencies resulting when electrical activity is not turned into light. But as LEDs have no filaments, LED Grow Lights are generally more efficient in this area than HPS light sources and, therefore, produce less excess heat in indoor greenhouses.
Proper heat management is critical for LEDs as increased heat affect the performance of the LED in a negative way, effects including a reduction in light efficiency, color shifts and reduction in lifespan of the LED. Since operating temperature is a major factor in the life span of an LED lamp, fixtures require a means for allowing warm air to escape. But as LED grow lights produce minimal heat, it is not necessary for growers to spend a lot of time, energy and expense dealing with excess heat when they can use small and reliable extractor systems for this purpose. What is the best approach to keeping light arrays cool while keeping costs low?
Water-cooling is not 100 percent efficient at transferring heat, at least not yet. Locating the power supply outside of the growing area may give a grower half of the heat savings that could be realized with a water cooled system, but what is gained in lower cooling energy is lost in line losses of long electrical cables. Including fans (convection) to produce currents of cooling air is an effective way to manage heat issues, but fans introduce a moving part into the system. Moving parts typically break down long before LEDs fade.
However, if you must purchase a unit with fans in it, make sure the LED grow lights have a long warranty and the fans are rated for a lifetime that exceeds that of the LEDs. For example, the fan used in the Heliospectra LX60 is rated to 70,000 hours.
LED Myths – Life Spam
With LED lighting being a relatively new product category, it is still lacking official industry standards. Producers sometimes exaggerate leading to great uncertainties and doubt when it comes to numbers. It is, therefore, no surprise that we often hear growers sceptical to the lifespan mentioned by the LED companies. Today we have reached LED myth number #5 on the list – Lifespan. LED Myths about Yield, Cost & ROI, Power Consumption, Heat, Life-Span, Warranties
LED Myth 5 – LifeSpan:
LED manufacturer current claims about LED life expectancy disguise real LED product failure mechanisms and mislead customers.
While LED-based products hold the potential to achieve lifetimes that meet and even exceed their traditional counterparts such as HID and HPS fixtures. But manufacturers claims are often misconstrued by users who do not fully understand LED product failure mechanisms, nor see the difference between lifetime and reliability.
Mythbuster: As we noted in last weeks post LED myth number 4, operating temperature is a major factor in the life span of an LED lamp. LED lumen (light output) depreciates at a much lower rate than other light sources. Where an incandescent light depreciates within the first 6-9 months, an LED will reach the same level in 15 to 20 years. So when you as a grower use the Best LED grow lights, you will have the chance to grow crops for years without having to replace your lighting system.
Most LED lights have an expected lifespan rated at somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 hours of use. In comparison, many other grow lights tend to last for around 20,000 hours before needing to be replaced. Besides decreasing long-term replacements costs, there are also money to be saved in lowered maintenance cost. A 2013 report from the U.S. Dept. of Energy titled “LED Lifetime and Reliability,” stated:
”As with many performance attributes, LEDs have the potential to best other technologies in terms of longevity, but choosing the right product requires some understanding of expected failure mechanisms, lifetime, reliability and serviceability, as well as asking the right application-specific questions.”
We said it before at the beginning of our LED myth Series that All LEDs are NOT alike, so buyer beware.