LED light bars give indoor growers great coverage and utility
LED light bars are one of the top options for indoor growers due to their utility and coverage.
Whereas fixtures can be bulky and difficult to fit into tight spaces, light bars are generally longer and more slender overall. This means that they fit great into high-density production facilities like most vertical farmers are using, and the increased length of the bar makes coverage more manageable and dispersed.
In this post, you’ll learn about six different types of LED light bars, their various features and benefits, and some of the issues light bars can present to farmers.
A quick note on heat!
As with all artificial lighting, LED lights produce heat.
Your ability to manage this excess heat in your growing environment could mean the difference between a healthy, productive farm and a disease-infested, humid hell of a production facility.
This excess heat also has a profound impact on the life of your LED lights. The hotter the lights, the shorter the lifespan which makes the decision to invest in the right lights even more crucial. As you can imagine, there aren’t many growers who have the budgets to replace their lights each year!
So how do light bars mitigate heat?
As you’ll see in the examples below, most LED light bars are equipped with what are called “heat sinks”. Unlike LED fixtures that use active cooling like fans, bars are often manufactured with extra extruded pieces of aluminum that increase the surface area of the light bar and help pull heat from the face of the plants.
Of course, there is a limit to how much surface area can be gained with extrusions, and for that reason, most light bars are about half the wattage of fixtures. While not always the case, one drawback to using light bars is that they are usually lower voltage than fixtures. More on why that matters below, so keep reading!
All that to say the light bar form factor is a great choice for a wide range of growers but benefits vertical plane farmers especially due to its length and coverage. We’re also optimistic that as the industry matures, we’ll see more innovations in heat removal.
6 types of LED light bars
Here are a few of the light bar products on the market today. This list is not exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1) LEDs from third-party manufacturers
Although there are some really nice LEDs being made in China these days, we don’t typically recommend using Chinese light bars because there are just too many unknowns. Things like quality, warranty, and reliability are just a few of the factors we would be wary of when working with a 3rd party manufacturer.
While we’ve had some great experiences with these types of direct-to-consumer lights in our own indoor farming trials, we always encourage commercial farmers to work with trusted brands like the ones below!
2) Transcend Lighting LEDs
Transcend Lighting is a startup company doing some cool stuff with LED bulbs. The one in the video looks like a T5 and fits into a regular T5 fixture because it’s an LED bulb (the diodes are encased in the glass bulb).
The cool thing about this is that you can replace an old T5 bulb with a new LED one in the same fixture. There’s a heat sink on the back and they have a propriety coding technology to get good spectrum.
3) Phillips Green Power LEDs
Phillips creates some long-lasting LED lighting technology. They’re a quality product but tend to be on the more expensive side compared to similar tech out there.
The Green Power product line includes special bars that are tailored to the grower’s specific application. Their various lights include inter-lighting, top-lighting, research testing, and even tissue culture.
If you’re interested in exploring Phillips products, the great folks at HortAmericas can help you out.
4) General Electric LEDs
GE has been in the lighting game for a long time but has recently made a serious push into the horticultural lighting sector to help indoor farmers reduce electricity usage with wavelength-optimized grow lights.
While popular in Japanese “plant factories“, GE’s lights made a big debut on the world’s stage at the USA Pavilion during the 2015 World’s Fair thanks to Biber Architects who created a stunning display of ZipGrow chandeliers inside the pavilion. (See photo above)
A few interesting items to note about the GE’s LED light bar is that it’s completely waterproof(!) and they’ve designed the shroud to produce diffused light. Most LEDs give direct light, but plants actually do better with diffused (scattered) light because it eliminates shadowing.
Fun fact: The reason ZipGrow Towers are white also has to do with reflecting diffused light vs. direct light.
5) Intravision Blade LEDs
Intravision is a fast-moving LED technology company hailing from Canada creating narrow bandwidth and colored lights for a wide variety of applications both in and beyond horticulture.
Their “Blades” use a powerful combination of a two-sided design with a sturdy, yet sleek structure making them a great option for vertical plane growers and those seeking to use artificial light for interlighting applications like growing tomatoes.
They’ve held up very well in our own indoor vertical farming trials and are being used in vertical farming applications throughout Canada, including Modular Farms.
6) The LumiBar LED from LumiGrow
LumiGrow’s LumiBar is one of the few high voltage bars on the market. At 185 watts, this high tech LED bar puts out over 50 more watts than low voltage options.
Why is that important?
Because high voltage lights give growers higher light intensities with fewer bars compared to low voltage options. While more accessible for more beginner growers, low voltage light bars require more lights positioned closer to your plants in order to get good production. Of course, more lights means a greater initial investment and having your lights closer to your plants can be a challenge for growers to figure out how to remove excess heat from the growing environment.
The LumiBar helps growers power their production by balancing high voltage LEDs with a complicated heat sink to pull excess heat away from your plants.
Light bars: Great for high-density production, but be mindful of excess heat!
All in all, LED light bars are an excellent way to give your crops the light they need to grow in higher densities. While there are many options on the market with unique features and a range of power requirements, one thing is constant: you must be mindful of how much heat they generate.
Unlike LED fixtures, this particular form factor is not equipped with active cooling elements such as fans and growers will need to understand how to manage excess heat in their growing environment.
Remember, unmitigated heat increases the potential relative humidity of the growing environment, which leads to increased disease incidence and other plant issues like tip burn. At an extreme, it will cause drought stress and tissue death so make sure you know how to manage heat loads or find a light that will do that for you!
Bonus: If you’re in the market for artificial lighting, don’t miss our guide that will tell you everything you need to know about LEDs so you can make better decisions about how you spend your limited farm funding!