What are the best LED grow lights? - COVERAGE AREA & ADVERTISED LED CHIP WATTAGE (3/5)
The grow light that you choose should depend on how many areas you want to cover. A small 100 watt light may cover 4 sq ft, while a large 400 watt light can cover up to 20 sq ft. Some growers recommend purchasing a larger light because it is cheaper (watt for watt) and they can always back the light off from the plants if the light radiation is too intense. However, this will also reduce the PAR that reaches your plant so may not be ideal depending on the types of plants you are growing.
A larger light will cover a larger area with more even and intense coverage than a smaller light that spreads the light over a greater distance. For example, the BML Spyder 1200 (pictured above) evenly covers a large area with no hot spots due to its large design.
In addition to the size of the LED grow light, the beam (or lens) angle matters too. A small angle (30 degrees) decreases coverage area but delivers more PAR to your plants. A large angle (65 degrees) expands the overall light footprint but reduces the light density delivered to the plants. Apache Tech offers customizable angles on their LEDs --- either 14 or 50 degrees or a blend of both. You might consider larger angle lenses if the light is hung close to the plants. The coverage area will also vary between brands, by the size and shape of the grow light, and the LED wattage.
ADVERTISED LED CHIP WATTAGE
1 TO 3 WATT CHIPS
Most growth studies suggest that the best wattage for a LED chip is 3 watts. 1 watt chips give off the least amount of heat and are the most stable and long lasting. However, most 1 watt chip lights may not pack the power required to penetrate deep into the plant canopy. 3 watt LED chips possess the perfect balance between cost, size, and heat generation (or lack-there-of). The light energy that the 3 watt chips expel is able to penetrate up to 5 feet into the plant canopy, which is desired by most commercial growers.
5 WATT CHIPS
5 watt chips are more expensive than 1 or 3 watt chips. They also give off more heat, require larger heat sinks, and must be spaced further apart due their size. Therefore, they can make for an all-around bulky and heavy LED grow light. Yet, you should not necessarily avoid 5 watt chips without some consideration. As the technology advances and prices drop, more and more LED manufacturers are incorporating them into their lights. For example, California Lightworks and Black Dog LED use 5 watt chips and their customers have had great success with their lights. Illumitex offers patented 5.4 watt LED chips in their NeoSol Series LED grow lights. 5 watt chips are becoming more popular as technology drives the cost of these chips down.
6 WATT CHIPS AND BEYOND
In addition to 1 watt, 3 watt, and 5 watt chips; 6, 8, 10, 50, and 100 watt chips are available. Though these are high wattage LEDs, we do not avoid grow lights that incorporate these powerful LEDs. The LED grow light industry is still young by comparison and many companies are dancing around the edges of current and accepted technology. Many more LED grow light companies will begin to incorporate these high-powered chips into their lights in the form of COB - chip on board - LED design (pictured below). As LED technology advances, COBs are being added to more LED grow lights.
THE TRUTH ABOUT CHIP WATTAGES
But does chip wattage even matter that much if the design is right? The very best LED grow light manufacturers will have patents on their diode or reflector and lens technology. For example, Apache Tech uses 1 watt diodes in their AT120 panels that draw 156 watts total. But, these panels put out high-intensity PAR for the small amount of wattage that they use. Similarly, LED Grow Master Global distributed a LED light bar that contained 190 LEDs and ran off of 9.6 watts, however, it delivered great growth results. Illumitex’s F3 spectrum LED arrays to draw 5.4 watts, but their LED grow lights are some of the best on the market (see the video below for an Illumitex testimonial). On the opposite side of the spectrum (no pun intended), Hydro Grow uses 50 and 100 watt integrated chips in their SOL series lights. Their lights have been shown to deliver intense flowering.