Outdoor gardening is certainly a rewarding activity, but you’re always limited to growing at specific times of year. If you’re looking enjoy your favorite hobby all year long, you’ll need to move your grow indoors. Undoubtedly, the biggest obstacle to overcome when growing plants indoors is the lack of sunlight.
Plants use the energy contained within sunlight in order to perform photosynthesis to grow. But without sunlight, there can be no plant growth. Traditional light systems such as HPS or fluorescent bulbs have been typically used over the years for indoor growing operations to simulate sunlight. However traditional bulbs have several drawbacks, chief among them being their short lifespan, high energy cost, and low efficiency.
LED grow lights are now growing in popularity for indoor growing, as they solve the many problems that indoor growers had to face with traditional systems. Today, we are reviewing the new California Lightworks Solar System 550 Commercial Lighting System. Let’s take a look to see what it has to offer.
The California Lightworks Solar System 550 has an input voltage range of 120-240VAC and a maximum current of 3.3A @120V. It also operates at 50-60Hz. Most household appliances in North America operate on 120VAC 60Hz, meaning the Solar System 550 will be compatible with all standard North American household power outlets. The light boasts a PPF (photosynthetic photon flux) of 620 umoles/s and an efficiency rating of 1.55 uMoles/s/W. The fixture itself measures 18 x 8.5 x 4 inches and weighs in at 13 lbs. More importantly, California Lightworks uses high-quality Osram LEDs in the design, which operate at a temperature range from 0-310 degrees Fahrenheit – much cooler and more efficient than traditional lamps.
Programmable Spectrum Control
The most useful feature of the California Lightworks Solar System 550 is the Programmable Spectrum Control. The spectrum control adjusts to shine light equivalent to that of the sun for whatever growing conditions are right for your vegetation. It can be adjusted manually use the built-in calendar and timer in the control panel.
Using the touch screen system controller, you can adjust between three separate light spectrum channels, each from 0% to 99%. Channel 1 corresponds to red and deep red light. Channel 2 corresponds to natural white light, while Channel 3 corresponds to blue and deep blue light. Depending on the present state of your plants, you can adjust the light accordingly for optimal growth.
Additionally, it can be automated using the timer to adjust light mimicking sunrise and sunset. The program can also be set up to simulate spring, summer fall and winter and the corresponding light types and intensity. These natural light fluctuations improve yield and produce happy, healthier plants. In addition, a single controller can connect with and control unlimited number of Solar System 550 fixtures. Each one can be controlled from a single point, or separated into sections, which is ideal for when you have larger cohorts of plants in the same growing space that are all in different life stages and requiring different types of light.
The controller can also be linked to an indoor light sensor when used inside a greenhouse that allows sunlight into the growing space. The sensor detects the amount of natural sunlight shining through to the growing area during the day. When the sensor recognizes that there is an adequate of natural light being produced, it will automatically reduce the amount of light emitting from the system, to conserve energy, saving you money.
The California Lightworks Solar System 550 produces 620 PPF of light in footprint of 6 x 8 feet for low intensity vegetation using only 400 Watts of energy. However, once you start flowering, the footprint of light reduces to only 3 x 4 feet as the light becomes more intense and concentrated. Every light is tested thoroughly by California Lightworks to ensure each fixture operates reliably. They also produces every fixture using a fully modular design which makes repairs fast and easy if there are every any problems with a system.
Right now, the California Lightworks Solar System 550 is being sold as a bundle. There are three important accessories: A pair of Method Seven Operator LED+ glasses, the controller, and two fastening ratchet ropes.
Because the light produced is a different visible spectrum than normal daylight (blue and red light) often times a special type of sunglasses are used. This bundle system includes Method Seven Operator LED+ glasses. The glasses have green lenses that when worn, adjust the color balance of your eyes, so that you can work comfortably under the colored LEDs. The glasses primarily filter out the intense pink light spectrum to ease any discomfort to your eyes that may develop from too much time around the LEDs. They also provide 100% UV protection. Although the amount of UV radiation produced by LEDs is minimal, you want to make sure you are protected when spending any extended amount of time working with any grow light.
The system also comes with two 1/8” hanging ratchet ropes to hang it. Each Rope has a stainless-steel carabiner on each end. These are used to securely fasten the rope to. You can also mount the lights on a stand if you do not have something suitable to hang from, but it may be more difficult to make adjustments. You’ll find that they are much easier to work around when simply hanging them. The distance at which you want to keep your lights hanging will vary depending on what plants you are growing. For most, the distance is between only 6” and 12” to maximize the amount of light being absorbed by the plants. But keep in mind that the closer you mount the lights to the plants, the less work area you will have.
Benefits over Traditional Lighting Systems
LED lights may be more expensive than traditional grow systems, but they are an investment that can provide large returns over time. LED lights are up to 40% more efficient than traditional bulbs. The amount of energy you will save from the high efficiency of the LED system will eradicate the additional purchase price.
Another great benefit of LEDs, and the California Lightworks Solar System 550 in particular, is its low operating temperature. The lifespan of LED lights is immensely longer than traditional bulbs as well, up to 5x greater. The longer lifespan reduces costs of replacing lights, and has a smaller impact on the environment. Less old, burnt-out bulbs mean less materials going to the landfill (and less money spent by you disposing of the old light systems).
Networking & Integration
Because the California Lightworks Solar System 550 is a fully automated system, it also holds intelligent networking capabilities. As California Lightworks makes advances in their scheduling and programming abilities, the software contained within the fixture’s programmable controller will be easily updatable – without replacing any equipment or hardware.
In addition, depending on your requirements, it’s easy to implement any additional lighting fixtures and equipment. It can be integrated with light sensors for harvesting during the day, or for very specific spectrum growing requirements. Separate fixtures for more specialized supplemental fixtures such as UVB or infrared light can also be integrated. According to the spec sheet, it’s also possible to connect it directly to a PC, via wireless technology, internet or a smartphone application.
LED grow lights are surely the way of the future. If you’re new to indoor growing, then an LED system like the California Lightworks Solar System 550 is the type of system you’ll want to invest in. If you are currently growing using traditional HID or fluorescent lights, now is probably the time to switch over.
LEDs such as the Solar System 550 may be a more expensive initial purchase, but their numerous benefits outweigh the cost. LED growing reduces costs due to lower energy consumption, less excess heat production and longer lifespans without any bulb changes. California Lightworks ensures their fixtures are all compatible with one another, and a virtually limitless number of fixtures may be connected in one system.
The unique touch screen controller can also be used to automate program several different light schedules using different types of light, allowing them to suit any purpose. With the included accessories, this kit provides growers, both new and old, with everything they need to get started.