Cannabis Grow Lights: Pros and Cons of LED Lighting

Abstract LED Light wall falling out of focus
Photo: Ash-Pollard / Shutterstock

Finding the perfect spotlight for the industry’s biggest stars is essential, both literally and figuratively. For large and small indoor cultivators, the right cannabis grow lights and setup can make or break an operation’s potential for output, expenses, and profit. To ensure you’re producing the highest quality products with the efficiency required for a sustainable profit margin, it’s imperative to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the different light sources available.

This article will break down light emitting diode (LED) grow lights for cannabis, detailing the LED lighting pros and cons, how they compare to other light sources, and how they can be used for efficiency, sustainability, quality product, and ultimately, profitability in your indoor facility.

Plant sapling cannabis growing in pot with LED grow light
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Cannabis Grow Lights

Different light technologies can emit different types of light for your cannabis plants, and while older marijuana grow lights might have prioritized flower quality and yield, today’s weed lights are much more likely to factor in energy efficiency and sustainability, especially as the greater industry continues to prioritize these aspects of eco- and cost-friendliness.

UV lighting for plants has proven to be great for trichome production and large product yields, and many indoor facilities utilize a mix of UV and LED lights for optimal results. However, there are a few other reasons more cultivators are turning to LED lighting, largely based on the disadvantages of other lighting mediums utilized throughout cannabis’s growing history.

HID Lights

HID lights come in two versions: metal halide (MH) or high-pressure sodium (HPS). MH lights produce a cooler blue light, while HPS lights emit a red color. Because of the difference here, MH lights are typically utilized during the vegetative stage of growing cannabis, while HPS lights are best suited for the flowering stage.

HID lamps tend to have a lower initial cost than higher-end LED grow lights, and they’re typically quite easy to set up, which is great if you are a beginner or getting a new facility up and running quickly. However, this type of lightbulb degrades over time, and also emits incandescent light – a.k.a., bulbs that give off intense heat.

Incandescent light bulbs run the risk of burning your plants, which can be highly detrimental to your marijuana grow. When heat is a factor in the grow room, you’ll need to pay far more attention to the distance between your plants and your incandescent bulbs, regularly making adjustments to keep growing plants at the optimal distance for temperature and humidity.

Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent lights are most often utilized in smaller grow rooms, as they tend to be more affordable. Full-spectrum starter lights are also attractive because they don’t require any special equipment to set up, making implementation a relatively fast and easy process.

This type of UV light is widely available for purchase, comes in various levels of wattage and color temperatures, and does not consume an abundant amount of energy. However, they have limitations with low UV lighting output and are therefore only suitable for growing about one or two plants at a time.

Fluorescent lights are not optimal for the flowering stage as they produce quite subpar yields, and they tend to have a shorter lifespan than other types of lights which may render them more costly when used over multiple harvests in a large commercial setting.

Professional LED grow light for growing. Best LED Grow Lights for Cannabis
Photo: content-creator / Shutterstock

Disadvantages of LED lights

There are a few disadvantages of implementing LED lights in your grow room, and these are important aspects to consider if you’re thinking of making the switch to LED light bulbs. Here are some of the major cons of LED lights for indoor cannabis cultivation:

High initial cost

One of the most well-known disadvantages of LEDs is the price tag. Opting for the highest-quality type of LED light will really hurt your wallet, so for small grow operations or beginning cultivators, the initial cost of adoption may be out of reach.

Temperature sensitivity

LED grow lights can be very sensitive to high temperatures, which can ultimately affect the quality of light they provide to your growing plants. To avoid this, you may have to invest in an upgraded fan system to keep your lights at a cool and even temperature — which will, unfortunately, add to the already relatively high initial setup cost to implement a light system that incorporates LEDs.

Cheaper models can produce negative results

For those looking to purchase less expensive LED lights, there are definitely options on the market. Unfortunately, many of the lower-priced options are unable to produce the best results. Cutting back on costs at this stage can leave your plants vulnerable to temperature fluctuations that can result in leaf burns, which can lead to any number of plant health issues including nutrient deficiencies and lower immunity to fight pathogens.

Potentially lower yields

When compared to other grow light options like HID lights, LED lights might produce lower yields per harvest. For large cultivation facilities looking to produce the highest quantity of high-quality products, any potential negative impact on yield might be a non-starter.

Mature cannabis female plant buds under LED grow lighting
Photo: Gleti / Shutterstock

Advantages of LED lights

For all of the disadvantages LED lights might come with, there’s an undeniably wide variety of benefits. From sustainability to healthier plants, here are some of the major reasons cultivators opt for LED bulbs in their grow rooms:

Quicker harvest cycle

LED lights can be used for up to 24 hours per day, which ultimately allows you to shorten the season and increase your plants’ growth rate. These lights help growers achieve multiple harvests per season, resulting in a potentially higher yield over an extended period of time.

Longer lifespan

LED grow lights can thrive for up to 50,000 hours, thanks to their relatively low operating temperature when compared to other lighting sources. Although they can be costly upfront, it might be worth it for the long lifespan you’ll enjoy, saving you from having to repurchase and reinstall the lights as often as you might with other lighting options.

Energy savings

In general, LED lights will consume about 60 percent less energy than other traditional lighting options, while still providing the same level of light. They also emit less heat overall and provide more usable light than other systems being used to grow marijuana plants. If reoccurring energy costs are a cause for concern, the long-term benefits of LEDs may makeup for their higher initial price tag.

Full spectrum of light

High-quality LED lights will provide a full spectrum of light, meaning they’ll give your plants all of the light they need to thrive — nothing more, nothing less. Most LED lights will also allow you to adjust the wavelengths depending on the growth cycle stage your plant is in, resulting in growth even more optimal than if they were grown outdoors under the sun.

For many experienced commercial cultivators, dialing in the perfect light for each cultivar is the difference between a very good flower and one that dazzles judges and demands customer loyalty.

Healthier plants

While LED lights do emit UV rays, they don’t emit nearly the same amount as other light sources, and too much UV can spell trouble for nearly any organism under the sun. As a result of less UV exposure, plants grown with LED lights tend to be healthier and at less risk of leaf burn, nutrient loss, or nutrient lockout due to damaged fan leaves that may require pruning to reduce harm to the rest of the plant.



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