Sponsored by Leapfrog Lighting
Many commercial plant growers are all too familiar with the frustration of making conditions more suitable for growing plants indoors. One major obstacle that they face is keeping the temperature just right along with providing adequate lighting for optimal plant growing conditions. More often than not, one works against the other in this area. In many cases, when optimal lighting is attained, it plays havoc on temperature. Not having enough light, on the other hand, can result in optimal temperature or lower temperature than desired. Commercial growers who employ hydroponics, in particular, desire a more efficient lighting solution for optimal plant growth.
Setting up the correct lighting for a hydroponics garden can be quite a challenge. When using regular lighting, the setup is often bulky and emits a lot of heat that can ruin your indoor garden’s temperature settings. Natural light would be the most energy-efficient option, of course; sunlight has three distinct factors—regular light (orange and red), blue light, and infrared light—all of which plants need for optimal growth. To mimic all these factors using artificial light in order to get the same optimal effects means using three different bulbs, each of which would be producing a different level of heat and consuming varying amounts of energy.
The early years of the 21st century have brought with them a lot of innovations geared toward increased efficiency, combined with reduced physical proportions; lighting technology has been one of these innovations. The age of bulky light fixtures that produce excessive heat is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Nowadays, a lighting setup for a hydroponics garden can be concentrated to approximately one-third of the size of (in some cases even smaller than) traditional ones that use regular lighting fixtures, with almost no heat emission, using fixtures made from LEDs. LEDs provide more efficient lighting, in terms of light and heat energy produced, and also allow for a more efficient overall hydroponics design.
All factors considered, LED lighting is the more effective lighting option for growing plants through hydroponics, compared to conventional light bulbs, especially considering that these commercial gardens are bigger, requiring more light energy and more efficient temperature control to maintain or increase yield. Although LEDs may cost more during the initial purchase, the money that will be saved from significantly reduced energy consumption will actually make the investment a more cost-effective one in the long run.
What about the effects of the LEDs on the plants themselves and on overall crop yield? Dutch scientists conducted an experiment to compare the efficiency in photosynthesis of plants exposed to natural light and plants exposed to LEDs. Their results show that whereas plants grown outdoors have nine percent efficiency in photosynthesis, plants lighted with LEDs have 12 to 15 percent efficiency in photosynthesis. Higher photosynthetic reaction translates to higher crop yield and healthier plants; this means greenhouses or commercial indoor gardens that use LEDs will have a slightly higher yield and healthier plants while using less energy.
Following Moore’s law, which all products do sooner or later, the cost of LEDs will eventually decrease even further in time and the technology will only get better. Additionally, growers can also take advantage of increased photosynthetic reaction in their plants when using LEDs, which can translate into higher earnings in terms of increased crop yield.