Finding the right LED (light emitting diode) lighting system for the greenhouse is no small venture, not to mention it requires a substantial investment of time and money. One of the challenges growers often face is sorting through the number of products on the market. It’s hard enough to choose from several good lighting options, and even more challenging to separate the good products from the bad ones. Add in the pressure of making a sound investment, and you have all the makings of a nerve-wracking situation.
Greenhouse Grower asked lighting manufacturers for their top three tips to help growers choose the LED lighting solution that is the best fit for their operation. Here is what they had to say.
A 3-Step Approach To Selecting LED Lighting (SimuLight)
By: Tushar Patel, Director of Market Development
It is not easy to select a product based on specifications alone for lighting projects, some upfront planning is required to get best results. Using a structured process helps growers find the right product and company to provide the lighting. Try this three-step approach:
1. Project Definition: Because there are many options on the market, it is important for growers to focus in on the best solution. This starts with a description of the current situation and desired outcomes. The current situation would include a brief description of the current greenhouse, crops grown, current lighting (if any), available electricity (voltage, amps), and any specific requirements for the installation. The desired outcomes could include increased production, ROI, reliability, or energy savings.
2. Preliminary Research: A grower can then look at the offerings from several companies and narrow down the selection to a few potential candidates. Then they can discuss the project and get proposals from several companies.
3. Trial: After reviewing the proposals, the grower should select one or two potential products and arrange for a trial. Once trials are complete, then the purchase and installation can be planned accordingly.
Top Three Tips For Comparing LED Lights (TotalGrow)
By: Jeff Mastin, Biologist
Determine company reputability. There is an unfortunate number of companies exploiting bad science and the overall newness of LED technology to sell low-quality lights at a premium. Make sure the company you choose has some well-documented testing and readily available data on their spectrum, output levels, and actual power consumption.
Know your goals. Different lights will be best suited for different applications. If you are growing with little or no sunlight available (indoors or snowy days), a full spectrum light is vital to support all plant functions. If your LED lights will provide less than half of the total light, a higher emphasis on blue and red alone is justified. If you only need to simulate a long day (photoperiod) for flowering control, then red and far-red light in a proper balance should dominate the spectrum.
Other factors of varying value for different applications include uniformity (Do all plants need to finish at the same time?), longevity (higher hours of use increase the value of 50,0000+ hour lifetimes; How inconvenient will a failed fan be?; etc.) and crop quality (a full spectrum and extra emphasis on blue light helps prioritize plant quality, a higher emphasis on red light helps prioritize greater biomass).
Consider your growing power. Growing power = output (µmol/s, or PPF) × quality (spectrum matches needs) × distribution efficiency (not wasting light in hot spots or outside of the grow area). Lamp wattage only tells you the cost of running a light, not what it accomplishes, as high-quality LEDs can be 2½ times more efficient than low quality lights.
Furthermore, a single PPFD (µmol*m-2*s-1 PAR) measurement will be misleading as it only represents the intensity of light at one tiny location, not the total light available to all plants. The photons of light created (µmol/s) can be of higher or lower effectiveness depending on their spectrum, and they must be effectively delivered with uniformity to a grow area to ultimately accomplish their goal.
What To Consider When Selecting A Supplemental Lighting Solution (PL Light Systems)
By: Lisa Jansen van Rensburg, Marketing Specialist
The strong correlation between light intensity and yield means that growers typically look for a lighting system that will direct as much PAR light as possible onto the crop. Light intensity alone, however, is not the only factor to consider when it comes to supplemental lighting. Light distribution is equally important in an indoor environment, and is dependent on the reflector used in the light fixture. The ideal distribution curve is unique to each type of crop — taller plants require a reflector that directs the light deeper into the plant canopy, while flowering plants require a highly uniform field of illumination.
Because the intent is ultimately to replicate sunlight as closely as possible, using the minimum number of light fixtures, growers should be looking at both the light output and light distribution when selecting the best supplemental lighting for their specific application.
A reputable company, specializing in horticultural lighting, should always provide you with a carefully considered light plan that is tailored to the specific needs of the given project. A professional lighting plan calculates the best possible combination of light source, light distribution and layout of light fixtures in relation to the crop. This requires a thorough analysis of various factors, including the type of crop, desired light level, ideal light distribution, most effective mounting height, and the greenhouse structure, irrigation, screening, heating, etc.
Three Tips To Make An Informed Decision When Choosing LED Grow Lights (Heliospectra)
By: Christopher Steele, Chief Operating Officer
As lighting technology continues to advance, growers are starting to witness the benefits of replacing traditional HIDs with LED grow lights. Beyond the reduction in energy consumption afforded by LEDs, ambitious growers are doing more than just replacing HIDs with LEDs, they’re advancing crop quality, increasing throughput and yields, and driving efficiencies in their supply chain.
Finding a reputable LED grow light manufacturer that has a product best suited for a grower’s needs can be a challenge. So here are some tips from Heliospectra on how to make a more informed decision.
Get to know the company – Ask questions about a company’s history, product specifications, manufacturing, quality control, customer results, etc. The best companies have no issue with sharing this information, offering references, and/or other third-party, unbiased data on their technology.
Challenge the company to prove the following:
- They use only top-bin diodes from top-tier manufacturers.
- They have proper thermal management/cooling techniques. This includes the aluminum heat-sink, cooling fans (in active cooling systems), and temperature monitoring capabilities.
- Their products use high-grade optics to create more uniform light quality and intensity.
- Their light output is clearly stated in micro-mols per second (µmol/s) and they have third-party data to back it up. This is a good indication of if they truly understand plant grow lighting. It also shows they use certified testing facilities to generate their product specifications (not just their marketing department).
- They have safety certifications with MET, ETL, or UL, as well as a fully certified CE mark.
Plan properly: Making the switch to LEDs is an investment, and therefore it is important to properly plan the installation to optimize the growing area. A few parameters to take into consideration when planning and calculating the number of lights fixtures: growing environment, type of plants, and optimal light output for these plants. Serious lighting companies have the personnel to help design a professional light plan, which takes into consideration these and other important aspects for maximizing the investment into LEDs.
How To Select LED Lighting That Fits Your Needs (LumiGrow)
By: Caroline Nordahl Wells, Vice President
- Ask manufacturers to provide you with a payback projection that takes into account your total cost of ownership, including infrastructure, installation, annual maintenance costs, and life expectancy. Fixture price is just one component of your investment in LED lighting. If you’ve never used lighting before, make sure your projected profits from yield and marketability gains will exceed your upfront and ongoing operational costs.
- Make versatility part of your selection criteria. Scientists are discovering how customizing light spectra for specific crops and production protocols affects morphology, timing, flavor, nutrition, pest resistance, shelf life, and more. Built-in adjustable spectra, rather than a fixed spectral output, makes it easier for you to optimize production and introduce new crops.
- Consider how your lighting choice will affect your greenhouse ecosystem. For example, LED-illuminated plants may transpire less water and nutrients than plants grown under HID lights. Your climate conditioning requirements may also be affected. Find out if the manufacturer will assist you in re-calibrating these parameters for the introduction of lighting or the replacement of HPS fixtures with LED lights.
Three Tips For Finding A Lighting Company You Can Trust (ParSource Greenhouse Lighting)
By: Ron James, Division Manager
- Many new LED and lighting companies are popping up. I would suggest that growers work with a lighting company that has been around and will be around in the future to ensure proper pre-sale advice and after-sale service
- There are many LEDs now being introduced. One fixture type does not fit all applications so working with the right lighting company that has multiple options would be beneficial
- There are many false and confusing claims that are being said by some LED companies. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so make sure you work with a known lighting company that can provide you with proper documentation to support wild claims.