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10 Mistakes to Avoid When Using LED Grow Lights

Grow lights are a great tool for making the growing process more efficient, but they can also be harmful to the plant if not used correctly. Here are 10 things you should avoid doing when using LED and other types of grow lights.

Source: Maximum Yield, May 31, 2019

For people who use cannabis derived products on a regular basis, it is very tempting to try growing the plant at home. The benefits are quite obvious: the cost is drastically lower and there aren’t any hassles related to the actual purchase of medical marijuana.
Many people all around the world grow cannabis at their homes, be it for recreational or medicinal purposes, and while some of them do quite well and manage to produce a good product, for others it doesn’t work so well – their plants wither quickly or produce insignificant yields.

These issues can be related to improper usage of lighting. (The same issues affect other types of plants as well.) Grow lights are a great tool for making the growing process more efficient, but they can also be harmful to the plant if not used correctly.

In this article, we’ll provide you with the 10 most common things you should pay attention to when using LED grow lights so you can grow healthy looking plants and avoid any unnecessary hassle. This information is extremely relevant to beginners.

Overheating the Plants
You will know the plant is taking too much heat if the leaves that are closest to the light start turning brownish. The first signs look like thin outlines on the outside of the leaves, so if you catch this quickly you will have a chance to avoid further damage. If some of the leaves start curling up, it might also be a sign that the plant is too close to the light. Good ventilation usually also helps with this issue.

Providing Insufficient Lighting
It is important to consider the scale of your operations. Think about how many plants you’re growing and how many LED lights you’ll need in order to illuminate them properly. You should also be aware of the luminosity of the lights you’re using. For example, a 200W LED light is said to be sufficient for a yield of about 100 grams. Make sure that you have enough lamps but still look for a good balance between providing sufficient lighting and not overdoing it.

Setting the Lamps at an Improper Distance
Overheating or insufficient lighting can result from having too many or not enough lights, but it can also result from placing the lights too close or too far from the plants. There is no universal rule for setting the distance but it’s recommended that LEDs are placed 12 to 18 inches away from the plants.

Using Inferior Products
Light is among the most vital factors to consider when growing plants because it triggers the photosynthesis process. If you’re using regular incandescent lights, you’re not very likely to grow strong and healthy plants. Therefore, for best results it is recommended that you use full spectrum LED grow lights. They are specifically designed for the purpose and have the feature to deliver light in the exact spectrum the plant needs.

Selecting the Wrong Light Spectrum
In order to grow efficiently, plants need different types of light for each growth stage. With full-spectrum LED lights this is easily achievable, but if you select the wrong setting, the plant will not develop well. You should also take into consideration the conditions in the room where you’re doing the growing. For example, plants benefit most from light in the blue spectrum when they’re in the vegetative stage of growth. That means that if you set the light to emit light in the red spectrum, you will only be hindering the plant’s growth.

Using the Wrong Light Schedule
You should be careful not to leave the lights on all the time, or worse, the opposite – forget to turn them on. It might sound trivial but it’s quite easy to mess up the light schedule and even a minor change might have a negative impact the plant’s growth. Cannabis needs about 18-24 hours of light during the vegetative stage and 12 hours of light during the flowering stage.

Forgetting to Adjust the Lights
Many people forget to adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow bigger and end up with burnt leaves. Another important thing is to occasionally rotate the pots in order to prevent the plants from leaning towards the light too much.

Not Protecting and Maintaining the LED Lights
LED grow lights are your friend and an important investment, so you need to take proper care of them. They bring numerous benefits to the growing process and a little maintenance and preparation can save you a lot of trouble. It is recommended that you set up a power stabilizer and connect it to the lights in order to equalize the incoming voltage, thus protecting the chip inside the LEDs.

Overwatering When Switching from HIDs to LEDs
Regular HID lights produce a lot of heat and generate lots of infrared light. This dries out the plant and the soil and results in the need to water the plant more often. However, LED lights generate no infrared light and don’t emit nearly as much heat, so there is no need for abundant watering.

Not Considering the Other Factors
LED grow lights are a great aid when growing plants indoors but by themselves they cannot do much. In order to produce big and healthy yields there are a lot of factors that need to be considered – room temperature, airflow circulation, soil, nutrients, plant genetics, and many others things. Don’t just focus on a single part of the growing process. Instead, try to get an overall understanding of the whole chain and how everything is interconnected.

Grow lights are a vital piece of equipment that every aspiring grower should have. Although they are easy to use and set up, you should pay attention to this list of common mistakes and save yourself from headaches.

Grow lights are a great tool for making the growing process more efficient. Here are 10 things you should avoid doing when using LED

Growing cannabis with LED grow lights

Growing cannabis easily with LED grow lights

Expert home grower tips and advice

Growing cannabis with LED is becoming a mainstream alternative to HPS. Although the initial purchase cost of an LED is still higher than an HPS, the ongoing running costs are lower. LED produces less heat than HPS and this affects many aspects of plant maintenance and grow room design.

Growroom heat levels are totally different with LED

A 600W HPS bulb wastes around 450W (75%) of the electrical energy producing heat. A good quality LED light with a 400W power draw would produce around 200W of heat despite having the same productivity as a 600W HPS. So the best LED’s only produce about half the heat of an HPS.

For some growers that will allow a significant simplification of the grow room, such as no air conditioning in hot climates. Other growers will be able to turn down air extraction rates or use smaller extraction fans.

Traditionally many cannabis growers fight grow room temperatures, their grow rooms usually running 3 or 4ºC above the optimum point. With LED grow rooms run naturally at a cooler optimum temperature.

Why waste electrical energy to create excess heat from HPS lights only to have to pay a second time to remove the heat. Growing cannabis with LED is a better solution.

Calcium and Magnesium deficiency

LED lights usually produce much less heat than a HPS light of comparable productivity. The lower heat levels from a LED means the leaves of a cannabis plant generally transpire (evaporate) less moisture under LED compared to HPS.

The transpiration differences mean that Calcium and Magnesium ions can be less mobile under LED and this may cause deficiencies that you will have to correct with nutrient additions.

You may not notice this issue since soil (and many grow nutrients) already contain adequate levels of Calcium and Magnesium. Calcium/Magnesium supplemental nutrients are widely available in any grow shop.

Growing cannabis with LED

Plant bleaching

LED power levels have been increasing significantly over recent years, and at the same time so have the LED efficiencies. Early LED’s would convert 15% of electrical energy to light energy, now the best LEDs convert over 50% of electrical energy into light and that figure is rising.

When light levels are too intense the tips of the plants are bleached, they look white instead of green. This can be a sign to raise the LED lights higher, or to tie down the tallest branches of your plants.

Achieving the correct hanging distance

These days LED is very powerful and hanging distance will play a large role in the performance. The most common mistake when growing cannabis with LED is that the lights hang a little bit too close to their plants, especially seedlings which can suffer stress if the light is too intense for the first couple of weeks.

One easy solution is to keep seedlings in the tent corner (which may have lower intensity light compared to the tent centre), or just to raise the light and allow the plant to ‘grow into’ the more intense light as it stretches later.

Water consumption

Due to the lower ambient heat levels associated with LED the plants may often show a reduced need for water consumption. Remember that when watering, since inexperienced LED growers can be tempted to over water their plants which reduces root growth and subsequent plant growth. Cannabis roots need oxygenation to grow fast, over-watering them reduces root oxygenation and reduces plant growth and yield.

Taste and aroma

The best LED growers have found that the lower levels of grow room heat and the cooler tent conditions with LED is allowing more of the delicate terpenes and flavonoids to remain in the plants tissues rather than being lost to the atmosphere in a hot HPS tent.

Anyone that has opened a tent with mature cannabis plants under HPS light which has been running at high temperatures (e.g. 30ºC) will have smelled the intense aromas that flood out of the plant. Running your tent cooler with LED allows you to keep more taste and flavour in your buds instead of losing them to extracted air.

LED lights are small and convenient

Compare a bulky HPS light with a parabolic reflector to a small sophisticated LED. The HPS is hot and heavy. An LED runs cooler, is often small and slim and won’t take up all the space in your tent. People with small grow tents often find LED is the best/only way to produce cannabis.

The advantages of LED are becoming more and more obvious and this is reflected in their increased popularity. With each passing year the power and efficiency of LED continues to improve. They are less expensive to run compared to HPS and run much cooler.

The combined benefits of LED mean that HPS is increasingly looking a dated technology, producing a light spectrum that is not optimised for cannabis and too much heat. LED, by contrast, does not waste energy producing the useless orange/yellow/green wavelengths.

LED only uses energy producing wavelength-specific useful light at high efficiency and with minimal wasted heat/energy. Its a technology you will see much more of in the future.

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Growing cannabis with LED is becoming a mainstream alternative to HPS. The purchase cost of LED is higher than HPS, but the ongoing running costs are lower.