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Understanding the LED Lighting Opportunity

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Let's face it. If you have been an advocate of High Pressure Sodium (HPS) or Metal Halide (MH) lighting systems then you're well aware of the work that you put in, fine-tuning your lighting components to get the optimal efficiency and profitability out of your Grow Operation. Yet, no matter how good your harvests are, you realize that you don't have a perfect grow op solution because of the operating costs. Plus, your configuration is complex and the lights need more frequent replacement than you'd like. The bottom line is that the high operating costs and high operating temperatures greatly increases the overall Total System Costs and the cost of the harvested grams or pounds of Artisanal / Medicinal Cannabis.
 
If you have stepped outside this "umbrella of comfort" to even try our an LED light, then you may have had a bad experience due to poor performance of a cheaper knock-off LED solution or something else as compared to the award winning LED's. So, now, you're back to your old practices even though you're aware of the reputation of some of the leaders.
 
But for the individual or commercial grow operation that is just getting started, you need to understand the full story and that is what this BLOG post is all about. Let's breakdown the different decision factors and lighting topics so that you have a solid foundation to support your lighting decisions on.
 
Topic #1: Harvest Yield Assessment
When you have brought your precious Cannabis plants through their 14 week life-cycle and you assess the final yield of the harvest, you use the top Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of success. This is the Amount of Harvested Product (in grams) based on the Light Output in Watts, plus the Amount of Watts of Alternating Current invested in the lighting configuration.  The current Harvest Yield KPI from in-depth testing reveals that certain LED's produce 1.378 Grams of Product per Watt consumed. The closest competitive lighting to these types of LED is the Gavita Double-Ended High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights. They produce 0.84 Grams of Product per Watt consumed. This is a difference of 0.538 Grams or almost 40% less yield (.390). This is a really big difference. The question is why? The other question is do we even need to look further into the difference in lighting performance? The answer to the former question relates to the balance of this BLOG post. The answer to the second question is a resounding "YES". You need to understand why the other lighting variables are important to your grow op operating strategies.
 
Topic #2; The "Right" versus the "Wrong" Light Spectrum Photons
Any plant needs the right light spectrum to optimize growth across all phases of it's life-cycle. The spectrum is made up of Photons. Some of these are usable and some aren't. If the Photons are actually absorbed by the plant and utilized, to help the plant grow and mature properly, then the energy expended represents the "right" photons. If the Photons are not absorbed by the plant, they are a waste of energy and invested dollars.
 
Topic #3; The Spectrum Profile
The Gavita Double-Ended HID produces an amazing amount of Lumens (i.e. light energy output), but a huge amount of the usable Photons are actually wasted light energy. An analogy is a plumbing system in a house. If the pipes leak then the water that is utilized has a much greater cost due to the wasted water and, or course, the cost of the plumbing system, itself.  The best way to assess the Right Photons versus the Wrong Photons is to look at the graphical depiction of the light spectrum profile put out by the light. The Gavita Double-Ended HID's produce very little "right" Photons at the low end of the spectrum (i.e. the cool portion of the lighting spectrum). It produces a large amount of lumens at the high (hot) end of the spectrum and this light is not absorbed, nor utilized. So lumen output is not a KPI that you should be using. You need to focus on useable lumen output. The Kind LED, on the other hand, provides the industry's perfect 12 Band Spectrum with no wasted light energy.
 
Topic #4; Reduction of Heat and Energy
Many grow operations have had excellent results producing Artisanal and Medicinal Cannabis using HID and MH lights. But to do so they need to add quite a bit more complexity to their lighting configurations due to the addition of these energy-wasting components:
 
1. Ballast
2. Lighting Hoods
3. In-line Lighting Fans
4. Extra Cooling (to reduce the high heat output of the HPS or MH lights being used)
 
These extra components mean more complexity and possible points of failure. More importantly, the HPS and MH lighting elements degrade in performance more quickly than the human eye can detect.  The degradation in performance along with more frequent light replacement, and the need to keep the ambient air temperature cooler means higher operating costs due to significantly higher energy consumption than a top-rated LED lighting configuration. This is why HPS and MH lights are not a sustainable grow op strategy unless your grow op has its own solar array. Yet, even with a large solar array, your energy could be sold back to your energy grid company rather than expended on HPS and MH energy hog lighting systems.
 
Topic #5; Key Growing Variables
So, as we step back to assess our grow op's operating strategies in regard to lighting, we have also homed in on the key growing variables of a successful efficient and profitable operation. They are as follows:
 
1. Ambient Air Temperature
2. Providing a well-balanced 12 band lighting spectrum
3. Maintaining an ideal air flow rate
4. Maintaining the proper light periods based on the stage of growth that the Cannabis is in
5. Maintaining proper water and nutrient levels
 
The bottom line is that the top-rated LED lighting greatly affects the growth efficiency of Cannabis (items #2 and #4) and they also contribute to positive growing conditions of Cannabis (Items #1 and #5). The energy savings and less complexity all relate to an extremely strong (i.e. reduced) Total Cost of Ownership. A bunch of the top-rated LED's are the best overall sustainable lighting solutions. Now you need to start to assess their analytics.
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