With rising energy prices seemly stuck on the tick-up, many indoor cultivators and those who use supplemental lighting are worried about how their next grow will affect their utility bill.
Between the invasion of Ukraine to the pandemic’s relentless grip, electricity prices are soaring and having real effects on grow operations, both big and small. North-east cultivators who rely on electricity generated by natural gas saw a 16% increase in January from the same time last year — compared to the 9% national average increase.
From the newcomer looking to grow their first veggies at home to large greenhouse operations, it’s impossible to ignore the costs of cultivation. Nothing can spoil the joy of growing vegetables at home faster than seeing it burn a hole in your wallet. If you don’t want that to be you, then you may need to be pickier about what light you’re growing with.
For greenhouse growers, while supplemental light can increase yield, in the past, it’s been hard to justify incorporating them due to the costs they bring, and rising electricity costs certainly aren’t helping with it now. But especially for cannabis greenhouses, not only can supplemental lights improve yield, we can use them to influence how our crops grow. While we don’t have to take advantage of this, others will, potentially leaving our crops in the dust.
So whether you’re looking to combat rising electricity costs or use different light spectrums to control how your crops grow, modern LEDs have never made it easier.
How LEDs Can Help Lower Your Electric Bill
One of the biggest hesitations when upgrading to a new light fixture is justifying its cost. But with electricity and gas prices on the rise, even cultivators that already use a LED grow fixture should take a look into what the newest LEDs can offer them. Not only do they provide better light spectrums, heat distribution, installation options, control, and maintenance, LEDs’ dominance in lighting technology and age has greatly decreased their costs across the board.
The latest LEDs produce twice as much light from the power they consume vs. the classic double ended HPS that used to dominate grow rooms. And they are effortlessly outperforming LEDs that were considered the latest and greatest just a few years ago.
Light Fixtures Comparison (μmole/J):
- The new 600-watt Growcraft Ultra LED can produce 1986.45 PPF at 3.19+ μmole/J
- A standard 600-watt LED fixture that produces 1200 PPF only averages about 2 μmole/J
- A 1000-watt (1060 watts) double ended HPS that produces 1700 PPF only averages about 1.6 μmole/J
While soaring energy prices are never fun, home cultivators and large operations can take advantage of a bad situation. The initial costs of an LED fixture will eventually pay for itself through multiple harvests. How long that takes depends on the crops grown, but with the high electricity bills we are facing, along with new LED consumer-friendly price points, the ROI (the ratio of net profit over the total cost of the investment) has potentially never been more attractive. Cannabis cultivators, in particular, with their plants’ demanding light-intensity levels that are usually reserved for mountainous regions, will greatly benefit from upgrading to the most energy-efficient fixture.
Even cultivation that happens solely in greenhouses will have an undeniable ROI, especially when cultivating year-round:
- One cannabis greenhouse out of California found by moving from 400W to 750W LEDs, they increased yield by 19% in January and February while seeing similar increases in October, November, December, March, and even a slight increase in September.
- With an average increase in yield of 12.5% over 7 months, costs spent on light fixtures for this greenhouse were recouped within 2-3 harvests (the first year). This was in sunny California too, which experiences DLIs (daily light integral) unmatched by any other state.
Other Benefits To Using LEDs Vs. Other Grow Lights
The ability to recoup the initial cost of a LED fixture has never been faster thanks to aggressively rising energy prices. As a result of multiple complex conditions, don’t expect those rates to fall or even stabilize anytime soon either. While a justifiable reason to upgrade to a more energy-efficient light alone, there are several other advantages the modern LED fixture offers.
Light Spectrum – Research into how our crops respond to different light wavelengths has been significant in the last decade. No longer blue/red or simply white, modern LEDs give cultivators the best single spectrum for general gardening. Along with the ability to easily customize the light spectrum for a specific crop. Need more blue light for higher antioxidant production? Need far-red for the Emerson effect? New LEDs will let you effortlessly do that . . . from your phone!
Installation – The age of the hulking and cumbersome singular light fixture is gone. No more HID bulbs that require ballasts and hoods that take up viable space, no more singular light sources that result in uneven yield distribution, and on. New LEDs are passively cooled, and their design allows the grower to move individual components around. A multi-bar LED fixture can easily have a bar swamped out if a different spectrum is desired or can be moved to a better location for light penetration.
Heat Distribution – Not only can modern LEDs replace heat-intensive fixtures like HID and older LEDs, many can be passively cooled thanks to how the individual light sources (diodes) are spread. Bar LEDs, whether a single bar or multi-bar, can run off a single power cord, making them incredibly easy to implement into a greenhouse.
Maintenance – Gone are the days of HID bulb replacements and replacing an entire LED unit because of a burnout diode or broken fan, and on.