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Burning Brighter

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9616107_origIn the hunt to find the most efficient grow light, three champions have emerged. Ceramic Metal Halides (cMH), Double-Ended HPS, and LEDs. With favorable reviews among all types of growers, these newer technologies are finding their way into grow rooms everywhere.So, if you’re setting up a new room or just ready for some upgrades, here are what the big kids are burning today.

Bright. Consistent. Efficient. : The Double-Ended HPS

Over the past 10 years, Double-Ended HPS bulbs have become the standard in commercial operations and greenhouses.  The Double-Ended design allows for more even burning of the gases and a more stable spectral output.With intensity out the ass, a 1000W DE bulb is 10% more powerful and 60% more efficient than your traditional Single-Ended HPS. It degrades slower and emits a better color spectrum including IR+UV light, but one of the biggest benefits is the larger lighting footprint with the same energy consumption, thus making it one of the most efficient lighting options out there.

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A DE-HPS can cover a 6×5 area while still increasing your yields by 20-40%. However, they need to run very hot for optimum performance, so air cooling isn’t usually an option. This means that you will need enough vertical space to keep it from scorching your plants and a way to control the temperature of your growing space. But if you have the space, a DE-Bulb is hard to beat for flowering growth.

Light Emitting Ceramic Metal Halide (LEC or CMH)

So, someone, somewhere figured out that a warehouse light can grow some pretty awesome plants. Weighing in at 315W, these bulbs have a longer life and less heat when compared to an HPS or MH bulb. They produce a fuller spectrum including a lot of UV-A, which increases essential oil production, flavor and smell in your plants, making it a great choice for growing leafy herbs like mint or basil.

Currently, the two most efficient and popular ways that these bulbs are being used is for vegetative growth or as supplemental lighting to HPS in the flowering/fruiting stage. The added UV toughens up your seedlings and helps mature plants reach their fullest genetic potential. If you need to keep temperatures lower or are looking to enhance coverage and spectrum, then the CMH is perfect.FYI: Currently there is only one brand of bulb to use effectually for horticulture: Philips Master GreenPower 315W/930 at either 3100K or 4200K.

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LEDs

People often stop in our shop because they see the pink/purple grow light emitting from our windows. It’s different, it’s efficient and for the tech savvy, it can be programmed to offer options that no other light can match. LED grow lights are made of numerous 3W or 5W diodes of specific light spectrum used for different phases in the growth process.  With virtually no wasted light or energy and producing more light per watt, LEDs can run much cooler than their HID equivalents.

The lifespan of an LED bulb is also unmatched by anything else. No longer will you have to deal with multiple bulb changes, as most units will last for well over 10 years. These lights also have been known to produce plants with more flavor and aromas as well as enhanced colors in leafy greens like lettuce.

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The light produced by an LED is very intense and focused, so light bleaching is a potential problem. Keep it at a minimum of 12”-18” above your canopy, in veg some even use them effectively at 4 feet or more. Currently, the main draw back of a good LED is the high price tag, but if you factor in things like yearly bulb purchases and energy cost savings, an LED is worth the investment. A good LED is going to give you many years of service, so don’t cut corners and purchase a light based on price. Buy a quality light that will produce more for you year after year.

So which one is the best?

It depends on your specific requirements and grow area. An LED and a DE-HPS are almost identical in efficiency, but one runs very hot, although it has a larger footprint. A CMH puts out the fullest spectrum but lacks the proper balance for flowering/fruiting. Find the best one for your needs and enjoy the enhanced efficiency, growth and yield that all of these options offer over traditional grow lights.