Choosing The Right LED For Your Facility: Why All LEDs Are Not Alike



WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN SELECTING LEDS:


When it comes to LEDs, the conversion can seem a little overwhelming. The market is inundated with options, which can make choosing the right one challenging. The reality is not all LEDs are alike. To successfully navigate through the choices, you need to be able to pinpoint the key differences and determine which product is best for your growing operation.


To help you through this process, we’ve highlighted the key elements that you need to watch out for to make sure that you choose the LED that will get the job done right.


UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS:


For those that do not know, Light Emitting Diodes (LED) are a semiconductor that when connected to an electrical source, emits light. Each LED light is made up of two semiconducting materials, a p-type, positively charged, and an n-type, which is negatively charged. The negatively charged material has extra electrons which it then gives to the p-type atoms when an electric current runs through the diode. When these extra electrons jump the gap between the two semiconductors, energy is released in the form of photons.


This is the basic structure of all LED lights and is the foundation that has helped develop the most energy-efficient and technically savvy lights in the industry. The technology was invented in 1962 and was first applied to growing operations by Nasa in the 1990s. LED technology has evolved dramatically since then making it easier for growers to discover the right light for their operation. However, this also has created a market that is flooded with products with varying degrees of performance and quality. So, what should a grower be looking out for when choosing the LED to install in their indoor operation?


PERFORMANCE: HOW LONG DOES THE LED LAST?


One of the main reasons Controlled Environment Agriculture growers choose LED lights is because of their long life span, especially when compared to CFL and incandescent lights. However, LEDs do not last forever, which is why it’s essential to know the life of the products that you are considering investing in.


Over time, LEDs will experience lumen depreciation, and the lights will begin to dim. The lifetime of LED lights is considered over when the output decreases by 30%. This is referenced as L70, and although it is not usually listed on specification sheets, it refers to when the LED light is only producing 70% of its original output. According to the National LED, a good quality light should last at least 25,000 hours before reaching this L70 end-of-life output. Aelius LED’s more than double that number, with the L90 output (when the light is producing 90% of its original output) at 50,000 hours - meaning they have many more hours to shine above your crops before reaching the L70 benchmark.


Pro Tip: Check the specification sheet as it will often reveal the lumen depreciation of the light that you are reviewing.


For Example Aelius specification sheet states:

L90>50,000


This spec means that after 50,000 hours or greater, your Aelius LED could be operating at only 90% of its original capacity.


Always ask, sometimes that can mean the difference between a quality LED and a below-average LED.


COOLING: KNOW WHICH COMPONENTS ARE USED


When looking at the overall performance and efficiency of LEDs, one of the key factors to pay attention to is thermal management. Basically, this is how the lights manage temperature; the cooler that the light performs at, the longer it will last.


LEDs are noticeably cooler than HPS, CFL, and HID lights. This is not only because they convert electricity to light more efficiently, but also because most LEDs use heat sinks (passive cooling) or integrated fans (active cooling) to absorb the heat made by the LED chips and then spread it into the surrounding environment. Passive cooling methods are created to both absorb and dissipate the heat produced from the light and are a far better choice overactive cooling LEDs in a commercial environment due to their simplicity and lack of moving parts that are prone to failures.