Long-Run Cost Reduction with LED Lighting for an Indoor Garden
One of the biggest cost considerations for indoor gardening is power consumption. The energy requirements of an indoor garden can vary widely depending on a several factors, from the scale of the indoor facility being used to the type of plants being grown to whether the horticulture is hydroponic or soil-based. Hydroponic growing systems need expensive irrigation and pump setups that can drive up costs, but these costs are usually mitigated by increased efficiency and bigger yields, which is why so many indoor gardeners are enthusiastic about hydroponics.
Other factors that influence the energy requirements of indoor gardening are ventilation and lighting. Growing plants indoors requires a suitable light source that replicates as closely as possible the intensity and spectral qualities of sunlight, and proper ventilation is necessary to sustain healthy plant growth. The choice of lighting types used in an indoor garden can affect the type and level of ventilation system required, which in turn can have a direct effect on the energy efficiency of the entire indoor garden.
The traditional lighting method for indoor growing has been the use of High Intensity Discharge (HID) grow lights, such as High Pressure Sodium or Metal Halide lamps. HID grow lamps work by energising gas vapour inside a sealed lamp with an electric current. Due to the negative resistance that is a characteristic of the gases used in these types of lamps electrical ballasts are used to regulate and limit the current, which might otherwise rise to destructive levels.
While these types of lighting systems work quite well for indoors growing by providing light of the intensity and spectral quality necessary, they have several of drawbacks that heavily affect the bottom-line cost of operating an indoor garden. HID grow light systems are heavy, hard to mount, use excessive amounts of power, often require specialised wiring and create large amounts of waste heat. This waste heat issue becomes a cost-consideration because a higher-capacity ventilation system has to be used to deal with the excess heat and draw it off to ensure a proper growing environment within the garden.
This is why the development and evolution of Light Emitting Diode (LED) grow light technology over the past decade has indoor gardeners as enthusiastic about LEDs as they are about hydroponics. LED systems not only produce growing light of comparable intensity using a fraction of the energy required by HIDs, they also have superior spectral bandwidth qualities to optimise growth at all stages of the plant life cycle. LED grow light systems do not require the use of heavy and bulky ballasts or reflectors. They are lightweight and need no special wiring, so they are easy to mount and move. Moreover, LED grow lights do not create the excessive waste heat of conventional HID systems, so further cost and energy savings can be realised through a scaled-back ventilation system or none at all.
It makes sense to install an LED grow light system in a new garden or replace an HID system in an existing garden when these energy-usage cost savings are taken into account.
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