Can you grow marijuana with LED grow lights?
Please note: This article was written in April 2012. Since then, LED grow lights have been improved to produce even better results when growing marijuana.
You may or may not know about the LED grow light craze for marijuana growers.
LED grow lights use less energy and generate much less heat than standard HID grow lights, so there’s good reason for all the attention.
The Truth About LED Grow Lights
by Nebula Haze and endive
Today, I’ll be answering the following questions:
- Why is there so much controversy about whether LED grow lights even work?
- Which companies, if any, have the best LED grow lights (specifically for growing marijuana)?
Some people say LEDs work great for growing marijuana, while others claim LED grow lights are junk and can’t be used to grow anything.
The truth is that both sides are right.
Now, I’m talking about grow lights made of light emitting diodes, commonly known as LEDs. You may have seen ads for these lights, which often resemble UFOs, and claim to be the growing technology of the future.
First invented in 1927, no one could find any practical use for these tiny lights until 1962, when LEDs first hit the scene in 1962 as glowing red indicators on electronics.
After that, LED development has proceeded rapidly.
LEDs, which were originally tiny and dim, have doubled in efficiency and light output about once every 36 months since the 1960s.
As you probably know, humans have tried growing plants with just about every type of artificial light we’ve ever created, and LEDs are no exception.
Which has all led to the development of LED grow lights.
At first, no one could successfully grow anything using LEDs. Each individual LED is relatively small and produces only a specific wavelength(color) of light, and we couldn’t seem to successfully replicate the proper strength and color of sunlight.
But through trial and error, we’ve now developed some wickedly effective LED grow lights.
And LED grow light systems have some pretty sweet benefits:
- Extremely efficient and uses a fraction of the electricity of other grow lights
- LED light systems run extremely cool and most do not need you to do anything to control heat
- Most LED light systems can be plugged directly into a regular power outlet, and don’t need a ballast or special light socket like most other grow lights.
- Some growers claims that marijuana buds grown under LEDs contain more THC and other cannabinoids (which may be because marijuana produces stronger buds when slightly stressed)
Now, it’s a proven fact that LEDs can be used to grow plants from the beginning to the end of their life cycle.
I know this is true because I have personally have grown marijuana plants from seed to harvest with a Lighthouse Hydro BlackStar 135 Watt LED grow light system.
My search for LEDs started because I live in an area where heat can be an issue. I am also a small scale grower who would like to still have a presentable house for guests.
Where I was living at the time, I didn’t want to have install ducting for ventilation or anything like that, which made HID lights pretty much out of the question for me.
Based on the experiences of some of my fellow growers, I discovered many LED grow light systems just don’t work for growing marijuana.
After doing some research, I got my Lighthouse Hydro BlackStar 135 Watt LED grow light in 2012. I got a second one a few months later, I’ve grown 3 crops in total under just these BlackStar panels, growing two small plants under each UFO LED Grow Light panel.
My yields under the Lighthouse Hydro Blackstar were a bit smaller than normal and throughout the grow my plant leaves appeared a bit beat up (got occasional spots, brown marks, and other signs of light stress, especially the leaves close to the LEDS), but the buds produced with the Lighthouse Hydro Blackstar were always dank, ultra-poten and sticky.
The incredible quality of the buds kept me trying to find ways to up the total yields.
Plus I was saving money on my electricity bill (electricity use with the Lighthouse Hydro Blackstar LED Grow Light was minimal), and there was no heat to speak of, which really simplified the heat situation in my tiny, tiny closet.
I was pretty satisfied with the results.
Then I had the pleasure of running into other growers who have used specific models of LED grow lights that work FANTASTIC.
So LED grow lights can work, but at the same time, it is true that some work much better than others. And there really are dishonest companies out there who probably just slapped together a bunch of LEDs, which no consideration to what’s really needed to grow a plant, and these LED grow lights will never grow anything, no matter what you do.
In today’s article, it is my goal to share with you 2 brands of LED Grow Light that have been proven to work great for growing marijuana, so you can skip the trial and error.
Lighthouse Hydro BlackStar 135W LED Grow Light
Verdict: Great for the small-scale grower who wants to grow 1-2 plants in a closet
Price: About $180
Pros: Low heat, low electricity use, 1 year warranty, incredible quality of buds produced (seriously the potency is 10/10), can grow two plants with one Hydro Blackstar panel
Cons: Smaller-than-average yields, someone airy buds, leaves closer than 15″ to the light can show signs of light stress.
Here are some pictures of the plants which were grown primarily under the Hydro Blackstar panel. The top three show the plants a month before harvest, and the bottom two photos are from the day of the harvest. The purple pictures show what the buds look like under the LED lights. Click on any of the thumbnails to see a bigger version!
Close-up of the trichromes on one the buds growing under the
135W Blackstar LED Grow Light Panel (3W chipset)
Learn more about the Pro-Grow 400
Verdict: Great for the discrete small to mid-sized grows (4-6 plants) in a closet or grow tent. “This is a solid LED grow light that will give a 600 watt high pressure sodium system a fair run… but at half the power consumption.”
Price: $550 (for one of these efficient monsters)
Pros Will outproduce a 400W HPS using only 240 watts of electricity, very little heat produced, and buds are “Potent enough to catch even experienced patients off guard, to the point that the batches out in the local Med community have been nicknamed ‘Warning Label.'”
Cons: Expensive initial investment
The following information and pictures are here thanks to endive from GrowMedical420.com. Definitely check out his website out for tons more pictures and to get updates about their current and future medical marijuana grows!
The Pro-Grow 400 easily covers a 4′ x 4′ area, and up to 5′ x 5′ with a little plant rotation & shuffling.
Ideal setup for a grow tent or closet is to have the taller, lanky plants toward the edges of your grow area with the shorter and denser plants located center, directly under the lamp. You may even raise the ‘edge’ plants up a bit so they are closer in height to the LEDs.
Keep Pro-Grow about 20″ above plants. The days of having to keep your LED grow lights just inches above your plants are over.
Suggested Strains that have worked beautifully with the Pro-Grow 400 (with pics to prove it… click for closeups!)
Nirvana Aurora Indica: An F1 hybrid of Afghan and Northern Light. Its plants stay short, producing heavy colas and dense buds. This marijuana strain produces exceptional amounts of resin, resulting in a deep, near-black hash with a tasty aroma and a heavy buzz. This probably is Nirvana’s most potent Indica seeds strain.
Blackberry: Quickly gains mass, trichomes & aromas! Fast growing, dense colas from top to bottom, trichome coated & smelling of ripe fruit and jet fuel.
Northern Lights: Quick to flower, high producing. Aromas vary from ‘incense & hashish’ to ‘honey & tangerine’, but they were all sweet & herbal on the inhale, gentle on the lungs as the spicy/incense undertones become more prevalent. You’d wish you could hold it in forever, as you reluctantly exhale, you are rewarded with one last aromatic blast of sandalwood and hashish…
Jock Horror: Jock Horror produces so much resin that even its branches glisten with THC glands. This marijuana strain’s variety has a unique fresh flavour and packs a strong “up” buzz. Buds look dank! While manicuring the freshly cut colas, I found myself having to change out or clean my scissors & shears every few branches. They are the stickiest Jock I’ve grown to date yet and by far the most delicious smelling, almost a melding of skunk & cotton candy!
I hope you enjoyed today’s article all about LED grow lights for our favorite herb, marijuana!
About endive from GrowMedical420.com
“I try to show the average guy or gal how they can free themselves from the grips of dealers and dispensaries. Hopefully this will empower other patients to do the same, and that makes it all worth it.”
I hope that helps you as much as it would have helped me when I first looked into growing weed with LED lights!
If you haven’t started growing marijuana yet, today is the day! Learn the basics.
LED grow lights use way less electricity than regular grow lights and barely produce any heat. But do they actually work for growing weed?
Can you grow pot with LED lights?
Q. Dear Umbra,
Can marijuana be grown as effectively under LED lighting and proper climate control rather than energy-sucking heat lamps?
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Heavens, it’s a big week for pot questions. Why just the other day I answered a query about whether it’s safe to use plastic soil beads in potted plants, and now this. Thanks for keeping the theme alive.
Marijuana aficionados stereotypically feel a deep and abiding connection with the natural world, or so I hear. So stereotypically, I’d expect it would harsh their mell to know what a whopping energy footprint their buds have. Pot may look like an oh-so-natural herb, but until recently the illegal nature of it has meant not much grew outdoors, kissed by sunlight and light breezes. Instead, as you note, most crops have been raised indoors, under enormously energy-intensive and inefficient lamps. The good news is there are indeed ways the indoor-weed industry can clean up its act, and LED bulbs are a big part of that.
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But before we get to the solution, a look at the problem. Typically, growing operations use glaringly bright high-pressure sodium, or HPS, lights (metal halide and fluorescents are sometimes involved, too). How bright are we talking? Try 1,000 watts and 500 times brighter than your average reading lights. HPS lights are useful because they produce the wavelengths plants need to grow, but they do so quite inefficiently, and lots of the energy they tap ends up lost as heat. That means growers need to crank up the AC to keep their greenhouses the proper climate, further adding to their energy bills — and on top of that, many ops also use dehumidifiers and/or ventilation systems, and burn fossil fuels to boost the building’s carbon dioxide levels (a shot of CO2 makes plants, including pot, grow like — well, weeds). All told, producing the average joint creates roughly three pounds of carbon emissions, according to a 2011 study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — equivalent to driving a hybrid car 22 miles.
Might not sound like much, but all this adds up to staggering electricity bills for growers big and small. That Berkeley Lab study reported that the legal indoor marijuana industry accounts for one percent of the country’s power consumption; some larger growers blaze through $1 million worth in electricity every month. In Denver, which is ahead of the curve with pot infrastructure thanks to its trailblazing legalization of the stuff back in 2012, the marijuana biz uses closer to 2 percent of the city’s electricity, and growing. As more and more states (24 and counting) legalize recreational or medicinal marijuana use, we can expect this usage to increase.
Unless, that is, the industry starts greening up its game. And research suggests that’s entirely possible: The Berkeley Lab estimates that upgrading to more efficient equipment and improving practices could reduce related energy use by 75 percent. And just like in our fixtures at home, switching to LEDs can make a huge difference. To find out more about how, I turned to Neil Yorio, technology advisor for a cannabis consulting firm in Denver and vice president of agricultural lighting research at BIOS Lighting. That company sells LEDs, but before his stint there, Yorio spent more than 20 years at NASA studying how to best raise plants on long-term space missions. The guy knows grow bulbs.
LEDs are more efficient than HPS bulbs generally, and as Yorio pointed out: “With HPS, light comes out of 360 degrees from the lamp. Half the light is going in the wrong direction, to the reflector hood, and that decreases efficiency. With LEDs, all the light is going the direction you want it to.” What’s more, you can also engineer LEDs to produce only the kinds of wavelengths that plants need for photosynthesis. Boom, no more “spending money buying watts from the electric company to create light that the plants don’t use,” Yorio said.
And then there’s the heat effect. Because LEDs run so much cooler than HPS bulbs, growers don’t need to blast the AC quite as aggressively to keep their plants happy. All together, Yorio estimates, LED grow bulbs will get the job done for half the energy. And yes, the herb they produce is just as good — and often, yields are higher, said Yorio. Sometimes, the light spectrums emitted by LEDs let farms raise even more potent puffs.
LEDs are beginning to catch on in the industry, which is great news for the power grid. But even with these bulbs in use, “indoor cannabis production is an energy hog,” Yorio said. “Anything we can do to reduce energy consumption of the grid is something we should be embracing.” Like what, you may ask? Here’s one idea: System-wide measures like demand response, where the electric plant would coordinate with growers to shift their bright hours to off-peak times, therefore reducing pressure on the grid. And of course, switching over to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar would be better still. These next-level practices aren’t off the ground in a major way yet, but here’s hoping the weed industry will press these changes soon. Say what you will about pot and motivation — a million dollars up in smoke every month on an energy bill seems pretty darn motivational to me.
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With recent reports emphasizing the energy-sucking nature of the weed industry, a reader from Michigan wonders if LEDs could save the day.