If you’re looking to move your growing indoors, you’ve got a lot of important decisions to make. Among them, the most important is which LED grow light you should use. There are a wide variety of lights available for as little as $100, with prices quickly exceeding the cost of a new car.
How do you know which one you need? Hydrofarm appears to have an intriguing new model on the market, with several great features that set it apart from the competition. Let’s take a look and see how it performs.
The Hydrofarm PARsource powerPAR is available with power ratings starting at 200W, and going up to 600W. The unit is certainly larger than some, although the extra size is compensated for with its improved cooling and light distribution technology. While many lights on the market are rated in Lumens, Hydrofarm holds their products to a higher standard. With output measured in PPFD (Photosynthetically active radiation) only the light that actually aids photosynthesis is actually measured. This means that, on paper, this looks to be one of the most efficient lighting systems currently on the market.
This lamp is designed to be used by both commercial users and hobbyists – it’s designed to take a lot of abuse. The first thing you’ll notice is its high quality 100% aluminum construction. Aluminum serves several key purposes. First, it will protect the light from accidental bumps and scratches. Next, it drastically improves cooling performance. Because aluminum is one of the most lightweight metals on the market – this otherwise large light is still light enough to mount even on simple structures.
Hydrofarm understands that these fixtures will often be used in a humid environment. They’ve made sure to double seal all electrical sections with a two-part high-temperature silicon, ensuring that moisture is kept out of sensitive areas. Overall, this is a durable light that should last you many years.
Heat is the biggest problem when using high power LED lighting. The brighter the light, the more heat is created. If you want to get the most performance out of your LED lighting system, you’ll want to make sure it’s properly cooled. Fortunately, Hydrofarm made sure to use a number of high performance cooling fans to improve airflow. This advanced cooling simply isn’t possible with compact designs, making this light one of the most efficient on the market.
This advanced cooling system means that it can provide you with a whopping 50,000-hour lifecycle. On a 12/12 light cycle, this means that you’ll be able to grow for over 11 years before having to replace this fixture.
It’s not just about the quantity of light produced by your grow lights, but the exact type of light it produces. Think back to a warm summer day. The light has a much more reddish hue. Plants are very sensitive to specific spectrums. You can think about this the same way you think about nutrition for yourself. 500 calories worth of burgers won’t be as beneficial to you as 500 calories of vegetables. Providing your plants with the wrong spectrum of light is the same.
Fortunately, the Hydrofarm PARsource produces light in the F1 spectrum. This is commonly regarded as the best spectrum for horticulture. Specifically, 76.8% of the light produced by this light is in the red (600 to 699nm) spectrum. 22.8% is in the blue spectrum, as is expected from this class of light. Less than 0.4% of light is in the green and far red spectrum, which is exactly what we want to see in a grow light.
What is this wavelength good for? F1 is suitable for use in the entire growth cycle of most plants. This spectrum produces a very high rate of photosynthesis, allowing your plants to grow quickly and more efficiently.
Photosynthetically Active Radiation
The PAR rating doesn’t determine how much light this fixture produces, but how much light is produced that can be used by plants to aid photosynthesis. Photosynthetic Photon Flux (PPF) determines how much PAR is produced each second. The basic model, requiring only 200 Watts of power, produces an impressive 350 PPF. For large scale productions, this rating can be increased to 690 PPF with the 400 Watt model, and 1020 PPF in the 600 Watt model. These ratings make this one of the most efficient LED grow lights on the market, ensuring your plants are getting all the light they need.
The only way your plants can grow is if the light actually hits their leaves. Not only does the light need to be evenly distributed across the surface of their leaves, but it needs to be focused for the correct spread. If your LEDs use poor quality lenses, you’ll have a wide spread that spends more time illuminating the floor than it does your plants.
Looking at the base of the Hydrofarm PARsource powerPAR, it might seem like the LEDs are positioned strangely. But behind each little light is a powerful optical distribution technology that provides superior coverage. 65% of the emitted light is contained within a 50-beam angle. This means that, in the center, the light will be much brighter. This allows the fixture to penetrate the canopy much more effectively than competing models, allowing you to operate with higher plant density. The rest of the light is distributed a little more thinly, ensuring that you don’t burn the uppermost leaves.
There are no LEDs on the market that are capable of producing the exact F1 spectrum. To make this possible, Hydrofarm included special lenses that allow the light to blend correctly. This isn’t commonly found in grow lights, but can significantly improve your yield.
Maintaining an indoor grow room can be an expensive process. Controlling the environment of a larger area is much more expensive than controlling a smaller room. Many people shy away from larger grow lights like this one as it seems like a waste of space.
Fortunately, there are several ways that Hydrofarm designed this light in order to occupy a smaller footprint. Some lights require a few feet of distance between the top of the light and your mounting bracket in order to facilitate cooling. Because the cooling system is so powerful, you can mount it to strut with simple C-brackets, ensuring that minimal space is wasted.
These fixtures are very lightweight when compared with similar models. Depending on which model you purchase, your final weight can be as little as 19 lbs or as much as 25 lbs. This means that it can be mounted on a single piece of strut. Not only does this keep your construction costs low, but you’ll be occupying less space with your infrastructure.
Another space saving feature is the fact that these lights can operate quite close to the surface of your plants. In fact, you can place them up to a foot from the plants. By installing them with a chain and hook system, you can start them off quite low to the ground while your plants are developing. As they grow, it’s easy to raise the light to keep them at the correct distance. Even though the body may be a bit larger than some, these lamps are capable of working within the same footprint as other fixtures.
Should I Buy the Hydrofarm PARsource powerPAR?
Manufacturers use all kinds of sneaky tricks to make their lights seem better than their competitors. For consumers, this means that two lights might have similar ratings, but one performs much better than the other.
The Hydrofarm PARsource powerPAR is one of these top performers. They didn’t cut any corners when designing it. It produces the exact spectrum your plants want, making it one of the most efficient grow lights on the market. Typically, you’d need to purchase a light at twice the power rating as this model to get the same effect.
As long as your grow room is appropriately cooled, you’ll be able to grow more densely than you would with competing models. This space saving allows you to get more yield per square foot than you ever thought possible. Is it the cheapest light on the market? When you’re comparing dollar for dollar, no it’s not. But when you consider the amount of light you get for each dollar spent, you’ll find that this is one of the best purchases you can make.