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Why Choose LED over HPS Lighting for Cannabis Harvests?

Growers gain profitability and energy efficiency benefits with next generation of LED

As demand for and accessibility to cannabis have increased, it is imperative to implement measures ensuring efficiency and cost effectiveness of harvests. In this quickly expanding market, both growers and consumers have expressed a desire for better lighting solutions. California in particular, which plans on opening recreational cannabis dispensaries Jan. 1, 2018, often sets the environmentally conscious standard for the rest of the country. According to regulations put in place by the legislators earlier this year, grow facilities must eliminate high pressure sodium (HPS) lights, in favor of more energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lights.

Concerns surrounding the energy consumption of growing cannabis are not unfounded, as this particular plant represents one of the most energy intensive crops. Energy consumption in states where cannabis has been legalized has increased noticeably. According to statistics compiled by Xcel Energy, between 2012 and 2013, Denver’s energy consumption increased 1.2 percent. Of that percentage, half was attributed to grow facilities. Today, 2 percent of Denver’s electrical usage is due to growing cannabis.

Whether better lighting means larger yields, reducing costs or energy efficiency, studies have repeatedly shown LED lights are superior to other lighting technologies. Despite HPS being the historic primary choice for controlled environment grow operations, they are simply not as efficient nor as effective as the latest generation LED technology. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “widespread use of LED lighting has the greatest potential impact on energy savings in the United States.”

How LED technology enhances grow techniques

LED lighting has been used in horticulture since the early 2000s. Just as industry professionals have realized the intricacies of maintaining a productive indoor grow facility, LED lights have evolved as well to match these desires and necessities.

  • Programming Options: One benefit of LED lighting is the ability for the grower to adjust the lighting to match the specific needs of the plant. For instance, the lights may be programmed to mimic a natural circadian rhythm—an advantage that is lost with archaic lighting techniques, such as HPS lights.
  • Spectral Tuning: The spectrum of light may be adjusted depending on how the plant itself responds. Historically, growers have relied on wattage to determine the quality of light for their indoor grows. Studies have revealed, though, this is not the only important factor to consider—it is becoming more apparent that light spectrum and type of light is equally as important.
  • “Natural” Light: Many HPS lights, which rely on sodium vapor for their glow, have an undeniably red-yellow hue. This is not conducive to mimicking natural sunlight. In comparison, LED lights offer multiple bands of light wavelengths that may be adjusted depending on what the plant responds to. This ability to truly understand the needs of the plant, down to the light that it needs to flourish, is empowering for the grower and will likely result in higher yields.

How LED technology can improve a grow operation’s profitability

LED lights used to be considered too expensive for many growers. Today, however, demand and availability has driven the cost of LED lights down, making them more accessible to facilities across the country. Additionally, after the initial costs—which are much lower than what they used to be—LED lights will actually save grow facilities money in the future. This is for a couple reasons: LED lights run cool, they save a ton of energy and they have virtually no ongoing maintenance costs.

Cannabis in particular is very sensitive to temperature. If a cannabis plant gets too warm, it will likely become stressed, which lowers potency and overall quality of the flower. This presented an obstacle for years as older lighting technology would get too hot—growers would be forced to implement complicated—and often expensive—air conditioning systems and take other preventative measures.

These issues are much more manageable with LEDs, which do not produce an excessive amount of heat. In addition, this allows for the lights to be much closer to the plant canopy as well. The light will be more evenly distributed, ensuring each plant receives enough. Lower temperatures also mean less water evaporating; grow facilities switching to LED lights will save money on both energy and water costs, ultimately leading to an increase in profits as the quality and quantity of harvests improve without extra expenditures or grow space.

LED lighting is the smart choice for the future

The combination of structural integrity, good design and adjustability make LED lights the ideal choice for the grower who wants to cut down on energy costs, labor and see yields improve, whether that is with cannabis or other horticulture. LED lighting technology represents a smart and effective option that is appropriate for the modern day.