Go Green with Full Spectrum LED Lighting
On April 18th of last year, we joined with our buds at Veterans Cannabis Coalition to release their Cannabis Bill of Rights – 10 fundamental planks that we feel form the foundation for any legitimate cannabis reform.
Second on the list is ‘Freedom of cultivation’, defined in the following way: “No law or regulation shall prevent or restrict an adult person’s right to grow cannabis in their residence, whether rented, owned, or publicly-subsidized, for non-commercial purposes.”
In Part One of this ongoing homegrowing series, we looked at the law of the land in all 50 states when it comes to growing your own cannabis. The takeaway from that article was: If you live in a state and a municipality that allows you to grow your own cannabis, we encourage you to do so. If you do not live in a state with friendly homegrow laws, well… don’t get caught.
We don’t plan to give you a step-by-step guide on how to grow weed, but when new trends or innovations catch our eye, we’re going to take a deeper look and let you know what we find out.
IF YOU CAN’T TAKE THE HEAT…
The most common type of lighting used in both personal and commercial cannabis cultivation is HID (High Intensity Discharge), typically broken down further into HPS (High Pressure Sodium) and MH (Metal Halide).
For decades, these lights have proven themselves to be capable of growing the best indoor cannabis known to mankind but they consume an enormous amount of energy, create an enormous amount of heat, and require heavy ballasts for power and occasional maintenance or replacement.
In a legal commercial grow op, all of this is accounted for with upgraded environmental control and airflow systems that usually run in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to build out. The increased energy consumption is expected and upgraded electrical utilities are put in place to accommodate that consumption.
But when you grow at home, more often than not you are trying to do so in a concealed fashion, raising as little suspicion as possible. This is true in legal states and otherwise – it’s just not the sort of thing most people publicize.
One of the easiest ways for law enforcement to home in on illegal indoor grows is by looking for anomalies in energy usage. Most residences use a similar average amount of electricity each month, so if your address suddenly has a spike in that usage, it could raise a red flag.
Here in Southern California, law enforcement helicopters are outfitted with FLIR/infrared cameras that can literally heat-seek houses that glow brighter than their neighbors for 12 hours a day.
Your HID lighting not only brings the potential for heat from law enforcement, but it will drastically raise the heat level in your grow space, especially if it is confined. Re-routing HVAC vents can be a costly remodel, or simply not an option if you are renting the place you stay at. Costly ballasts must also be installed for each HID light.
These challenges, and more, have discouraged countless cannabis connoisseurs from trying to grow their own, but new LED lighting technology solves most of these problems for the homegrower and brings the pipe dream of getting high off your own supply one step closer to reality.
FULL SPECTRUM LIGHTING = FULL SPECTRUM CANNABIS
Light emitting diode, or LED, technology was first introduced in the 1950s, revolutionized in the mid-1990s, and today is the most common and the most energy efficient form of lighting on the mainstream market. This solid-state form of lighting generates very little heat, which is dissipated by an internal heatsink, and typically utilizes dozens or hundreds of light-emitting-diodes that project the light in a straight path doing away with the need for added reflectors or diffusors.
LED tech is used in everything from Christmas lights to traffic lights, and now it is harvesting a lot of interest in the horticulture world as growers from small scale to large – from tomatoes to top-shelf kush and everything in between – are beginning to take advantage of its many benefits.
Whether you are growing indoors at home to obey the law, or to avoid it, the plan is to “play god” by not just simulating cannabis’ natural outdoor habitat, but optimizing every aspect of it – especially the lighting.
Light, as we know, consists of a full spectrum of colors and that spectrum shifts based on many natural variables. For example, in the summer months the sun’s light spectrum tends to lean more “blue”, inducing the vegetative state in sungrown cannabis plants. In the fall, it skews more “orange”, encouraging the plants to flower.
HID growers will often mimic this shift by changing from MH lights to HPS lights but with a state-of-the-art LED lighting system, that change is as simple as a twist of a dial or a digital adjustment.
Just last year (2019), LED technology achieved “Blue LED” which allows for a true full spectrum of light to be projected from each diode in an LED array. For years we have seen pictures of LED grows with their telltale bluish-purple lighting but the latest technology allows you to precisely dial in the perfect blend of colors.
We were as skeptical as anyone when this tech first hit the cannabis scene, but we know some incredibly talented growers who swear by LED lighting and trust us when we tell you that when they bust open their own jars of LED-grown headstash it’s as potent and pungent as anything we’ve grown or seen. Our friend Nelson at @PoetryOfPlants is one such grower and he tells us that he’s seeing higher yields along with higher quality buds in his LED grow. “The higher light levels and tunable spectrum from LEDs is opening the door to more cultivation possibilities,” Nelson told us.
Outdoor cannabis growers have sensibly argued for years that the sun creates the widest spectrum of cannabinoids and terps possible. With LED lighting, you have full control of the “sun”.
The main drawback to LED lighting when it comes to setting up your homegrow is the upfront cost for the hardware. One legit LED light alone can set you back $1000 or more – you can get 4-5 high quality HID fixtures for that price. Yes, you can find LED lights for less than a G, but if you want the top of the line, prepare for that ballpark cost. As with most of the finer things in life, however, that initial investment will pay dividends for months and years to come.
It is said that LED lighting is up to 80% more energy-efficient than standard incandescent bulbs, so by choosing to employ this tech you will not only be saving money, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint on the environment.
That impact is lessened even further when you don’t need to increase your air conditioning consumption to offset the radiant heat from your HIDs so the lights don’t cook the plants.
As a “solid-state” form of lighting, LED diodes have no faulty filament or neon that is bound to fail. This makes them more durable and longer-lasting than their traditional counterparts. Commercial LED light fixtures have been known to operate flawlessly after a decade or more of continuous use.
When they do reach the end of their lifespan, LEDs also happen to be 100% recyclable – HPS and MH cannot make the same claim.
LED light fixtures typically clock in weight-wise in ounces, rather than pounds, making them ideal for installing in tent grows or other awkward spots. Since they produce such a low amount of heat, your LED lights can be as close as 6” from the top of your plant canopy without harming the plants. LED lighting is known for its great penetration through the plant’s canopy, but many homegrowers utilizing a confined space to cultivate in will mount supplemental LED lighting on the walls at plant level as side-lighting to boost healthy growth from all angles.
So, you see, that initial investment is a smart one for you and for the environment. The money you save each month while you are growing will surely be welcomed by you, but will likely pale in comparison to how much money you will save by smoking weed you grew yourself instead of getting custied by someone who beat you to it. If five harvests of your own nuclear-grade homegrown every year sounds appealing to you, consider building your budget, and your grow, around the latest in LED lighting.