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Four Steps to Picking the Right Grow Lights

Between fluorescent, HIDs, and LEDs, growers have many different options which may be difficult to distinguish between. We solicited the help of Cole Johnstone from Solid Apollo, a Seattle company which specializes in LED lighting, to help answer some of your questions and give us the low-down on grow lights. 

Here are a few key things you should know before you buy:

1. Pick Lights That are Full Spectrum 

In order to properly photosynthesize (use light to produce energy to feed themselves), plants rely on different wave lengths of light. Most plants can grow as long as they are exposed to some form of light, but they will grow much better when they have access to a wide spectrum of different wave lengths. 

Cole says: 

"Indoor cultivation can definitely be quite tricky and requires an investment in good soil, temperature control, fertilizer, pest control, and watering. Lighting is indeed a big part of the equation, with LED lights adding a sigh of relief into any grow operation. 

"A single LED can be fine-tuned to any wave length or in a spectrum such as a “white LED.” This means you can have coverage through infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light. An LED grow light, which has dozens of individual spectra, can provide the exact light a plant requires. 

"Many LED grow lights can be set up on a simple wall-timer in whatever cycle your specific plants need. Our lights are full spectrum, meaning the only change required for flowering would be to shorten the daylight cycle your grow light is on, from, say, 8 to 12 hours.

"Other lights sources, such as HPS, Fluorescent, and Metal Halide lamps, produce large amounts of heat. They also have a banded spectrum that doesn’t cover all of what plants need to grow properly, as well as putting off large amounts of green light, while Solar Core Grow Lights, the brand that we sell at Solid Apollo, don’t waste energy in producing unnecessary spectra."

2. Pick Lights That Use Less Energy

Grow lights will need to be on for up to 12 hours a day. This means your energy bills will skyrocket, but some of the costs can be lessened by picking the right lights. 

Cole says: 

"Everyday LEDs are becoming more universal and accepted in all areas of lighting. They are low power, high brightness, and environmentally friendly. For these reasons alone, many growers are turning to LEDs to save from the traditionally high costs that have been associated with indoor growing. Saving money really grabs the attention of someone with a large growing business.

"When used for 12 hours a day, 365 days a year, an LED chip can easily last for 10 years. The chips we use in our lights, for example, are rated for 50,000 hours, and usually last longer than that. Even the best fluorescent tubes, which are very efficient as well, only last up to 20,000 hours. The efficiency of LED chips is partially based on the color they produce, with Red LEDs being nearly 97% efficient.

"We estimate LEDs are up to 70% more efficient than HPS grow lights based upon initial costs (ballast, heat control, tubing), lifespan, durability (breaking bulbs, etc.), and energy costs."

3. The Lower the Maintenance, the Happier You’ll Be

Not only do lights cost quite a bit of money, you’re also better off buying lights that you won’t have to fuss with every other week. 

Cole says: 

"The lights we manufacture are plug-n-play (plug it in and walk away) and require no maintenance other than ensuring they are mounted properly, and adjusting the height as your plants grow. LED lights do not require replacement 'bulbs' like typical HPS and Metal Halide. Also, LED chips don't dim throughout their lifetime and will produce the same amount of light for, as said before, at least 50,000 hours. They can literally last a lifetime of growing."

4. Ask Before You Buy

Whether you're a home grower or a major producer, purchasing the proper grow light system will require some serious dough. Before you buy, there are a few key questions that potential buyers (LED or not) should be asking companies. 

Here’s what Cole thought our readers should know:

•    What is the warranty on your lights? 
•    Do you offer a money-back guarantee? 
•    Are your lights full spectrum? 
•    How can I best configure your lights for my grow operation? 
•    Are you local so I can come to you with any concerns I may have? 
•    Are you knowledgeable about growing in general?

Said Cole, "Solar Core Grow Lights have a 120-day money back guarantee and a 5-year product warranty. We wouldn’t offer these guarantees unless we were very confident in our lights. We also designed these lights for a variety of applications, from simple indoor grow to greenhouse growing and for modular formation. Other companies should be held to the same standards." 

Photo credits: – luz –; JD Hancock; eggrole; Tim Swinson | http://timswinson.comScoobymoo via photopin cc