“Folks are like plants, we all lean towards the light.” -- Kris Carr
A major advantage of indoor gardening is that plant habitat and photosynthesis can be supported year-round with a balanced approach to indoor lighting. When LED units are your preferred source, it is necessary to calculate the correct amount of fixtures based on the space you plan to use.
An Abridged History of Grow Lights
As lighting configurations for hydroponics were initially being implemented, one of the first issues encountered was the excessive amount of heat emitted by high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps used in the Phytofarms of the 1970s and 1980s. This factor required elaborate cooling systems and conveyor techniques in order to protect plants from over exposure. These units had a tendency to require frequent maintenance and replacement while creating sizable economic burdens from exhorbitant power consumption.
Enter the LED
This overheating issue was solved with the development of light emitting diodes, aka LEDs. These units emit very little heat compared to HIDs and replicate sunlight by radiating all wavelengths of the light spectrum. Specifically, LEDs offer polychromatic configurations of blue and red light, which support optimal photosynthesis on a quantum level. Some of these fixtures are designed to be adjusted specifically for blue or red depending on what phase of growth your plants are in. Although this technology has a down-to-earth application, it was originally pioneered by NASA in the initiative to develop an optimal way to cultivate edible crops in space. This technology is currently being used in a discipline known as Astroculture to successfully grow edible plants on the International Space Station.
Speaking of Space
Your indoor growing space will determine how many watts of light you’ll need to sufficiently illuminate the area. This section of a room is called a “canopy” and is not comprised of the room dimensions, rather, it is the square footage of the actual space occupied by plants. Many experts in hydroponics suggest that each plant have a designated growing area of four square feet. For the sake of example, imagine that you are planning to cultivate 12 plants in three rows of four. You would first multiply you canopy dimensions which would by 16 x 12 = 192. Then, you would divide that number (192) by four (the per-plant square feet space allotment) = 48. This number -- 48 -- is the total amount of canopy space you will need to cover with LED light. This number should then be multiplied by anywhere between 50 and 75 watts per square feet, depending on the type of plants you are growing and the stage of growth they are in. For the sake of example, imagine you have a crop that requires medium exposure, so use 65 watts per square foot. 48 x 65 = 3,120. This quotient is how many combined watts your LED fixtures should be able to supply to the area.
X Hydro Supply is the premier supplier of LED lighting fixtures for hydroponics and indoor growing. Take a look at our extensive selection of lighting units and other accessories for every facet of indoor growing.
Disclaimer: The above formulas are solely for the sake of example and do not guarantee a specific outcome of plant yield. In all cases, fixture manufacturers and authoritative texts on specific needs of individual plants should be consulted before proceeding.
By Luke Schmaltz