Understanding Your Situation | Grow Light Buyers Guide

– Hey, guys, Nate Storey
here with Bright Agrotech, and today we’re gonna talk
about buying grow lights, and clearly understanding your situation, and how your situation
basically can lead you to buy one or another grow light. (bright music) So there’s no such thing as
a one-size-fits-all solution. Every different problem is different, and every problem needs
a different solution. There are some products out there that are a fits-most type solution, but almost everyone is different. And so before you buy a grow light, or commit to a particular grow light, make sure you think through your situation very, very carefully
and understand clearly the problem that you’re trying to solve. So you wanna start off by looking really carefully at your problems, and your problems aren’t
necessarily obvious. You might think, my problem
is I need to light my crop, but that’s not your only problem. Your problem could be, I only
have this big of a budget. Your problem could be,
I have too much heat. Your problem could be,
I have too little heat. Your problem could be, I’m
gonna have way more money next year than I have this year, so I’m gonna want a different
kind of light next year, what do I do this year, right? Those are kind of problems
that are the real problems. So lights produce a lot of heat. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using an LED light or a traditional HID, or high-intensity discharge light, the reality is that, ultimately, you’re gonna be generating a lot of heat. And what that represents is
a lot of wasted electricity. Now, the way I like to think about it is, if you’re doing like supplemental lighting in a greenhouse or something like that. Yes, it’s expensive heat,
but at least you can use that waste heat from the lights to help heat your greenhouse, right? But if you’re indoors, then
that heat can become a problem, because unless you can get rid of it, it costs you a lot more money than to deal with the heat indoors. And so thinking about heat is kind of one of those things where
you need to understand whether it’s gonna be a benefit to you, or whether it’s gonna be a
negative thing to your growing. Some good examples of approaching this, all of these different problems is, some friends of mine, I’ve
been talking to lately, they have a greenhouse, they
have a limited budget this year they wanna do LED lighting,
but they just have a limited budget for
lighting on the front end. They’re in an environment
that gets a little bit cooler, a little bit colder during the winter, and I actually encouraged them to go HID. So I encouraged them to
buy high pressure sodium, and sell it, and use it
in their greenhouses. So these things are growing,
they’re producing good light. Their electricity costs are higher, but it’s like a one-year thing, right, because they can turn around, there’s a community of
growers in their area that they can sell their lights too, and get most of the cost back, buy LEDs and put those in down the road, when they have more disposable income. So that’s kind of a great example. They’ve got a greenhouse, they
can use high pressure sodium to heat the greenhouse and
provide light during the winter, and really they’re
mostly just heating when the lights are on anyway, so
that works out quite well. And it’s kind of a temporary thing. There’s a secondary
market for these things, and so it’s not like a sunk cost. You can get some money back out of them. That’s an example of a scenario
where they’re thinking about long-term, short-term,
and all of those things within the context of a winter greenhouse. When you’re thinking about
your CapEx and your OpEx, one is capital expense,
one’s operating expense, people usually try to
optimize for one or the other, or try to find some balance, right? Usually, if you’re optimizing
for your operating expense, you’re gonna spend more
money on the front end. You’re gonna buy something like an LED, which consumes say, half
as much electricity, to produce the same amount of
usable light for the plants. So it’s gonna cost you
a lot more this year, but over the next five
years, that thing’s gonna pay itself off and reduce
energy consumption. That’s an example of optimizing for OpEx. If you’re optimizing for
CapEx, which is like, we just don’t have any money right now, but we need this light. Then going with something
that’s more traditional, like an HPS or a metal-halide light is sometimes a better option, because they’re available, they can be had inexpensively, and they’re darn
effective, a lot of people have been growing under
them for a long time. The thing to remember is you are gonna be generating a lot of heat, and
ultimately, in the long run, you need to understand
the cost of that heat. If you’re in a cold environment, maybe it’s very, very cheap
to get rid of that heat, but if you’re in a hot
environment, that can be a problem. So the type of lighting is
another important consideration, and there are a bunch of types out there, but the big dominant ones are
HID and LED lights, right? And in the HID camp, we have metal-halide, we have high pressure sodium. In the LED camp, we have
tons of different brands now. I tend to anymore separate them out into kind of like bars, fixtures, and then water-cooled versus air-cooled. But the type of fixture that you choose should be solving a
specific problem for you. So if you choose to optimize CapEx, you’re probably gonna end
up with an HID fixture. If you’re gonna optimize OpEx, you’re gonna end up mostly
likely with an LED fixture. The lifetime of those
things, the upfront cost, whether or not you can
get a loan to cover them, what those loan payments are. All of these things
factor into that decision as to what type of lighting to purchase. You need to very carefully consider the amount of light that you need. You know how much each fixtures
can deliver, essentially. You know that there is going to be, the upside is the amount
of light it produces, the downside is the amount
of heat that it produces. We’re talking about the amount of light. You know what your crop needs. If you’re growing a very
light-intensive crop, let’s say tomatoes or
something like that, basil. Something that you’re driving at very, very high light intensities, you’re of course going
to need more fixtures, or different types of fixtures, compared to just growing lettuce, right, which needs a lot less light. And so that’s something to
really think carefully about. Now, there’s, you can get the same, the same effects out of
HID as LED, and LED as HID. That’s just the reality. The thing to keep in mind there though, is of course, all the
other peripheral stuff. The cost of it, how many fixtures you’re
gonna have to put in, how intensive you have to get it, to get the coverage you need, and the intensities that you need. So that is definitely something that you need to be thinking
about on the front end. So we haven’t talked about this stuff yet, but in the next video, we’re going to. We’re gonna talk about some of the metrics that you use for evaluating light. Ultimately, it ends up
being fairly subjective, because we can run down
through cost per watt, we can run through
PPFD, we can run through all of the different coverage, maps, all of these different things for these different lighting types. But at the end of the day we’re gonna be talking about things
like maintenance labor. We’re gonna be talking
about light quality. We’re gonna be talking
about the user experience. So there’s gonna be some
subjective elements there. But by and large, we can
nail down the big ones, which are things like the cost per watt, the amount of heat
produced per watt of input, which tells us the
efficiency of the light. We can talk about things like whether it’s a fixture or a bar, how it’s oriented, how it’s set up, and all of these things can help us to make really nice objective decisions before we start digging into things like warranties and the user experience. So this is an overview
of all the things that go into a decision when
it comes to buying lights. This will be the first video in a series, in a playlist that we’re gonna
put together for you guys. In the meantime, if you
wanna do a little homework, check out the free lighting guide, we’ll include a link below,
leave questions for us, and check out the Upstart
University course. We put together a lighting
course on Upstart University that has some really
great information there for beginning growers
who are trying to better understand lighting and how it all works. So check that stuff out, and
as always, please subscribe.

3 comments on “Understanding Your Situation | Grow Light Buyers Guide

  1. Nice video. I am looking forward to the next one. In your next video, could you please give us some average figures of how many watts of electricity for lightning a plant would need ? I fully understand it depends on the kind of lights you use, but I have a pretty hard time seeing how you can turn a profit after paying your electricity bill (even with very good LEDs, low electricity cost per watt, and without taking in consideration the price of the lights themselves, just the electricity bill).

  2. Hi Nate,

    What is your opinion on homemade LED lightning? That you buy COBs, heatsinks, LED drivers and build your own fixtures. After much research I found that it could be much cheaper, but also better. You can buy the newest more efficient COBs, cool them properly and above all, choose the right size, intensity and spectrum. If you guys had any experience with this, please let us know.

    Also, what is your opinion on white LEDs VS. Red & Blue (or some kind of purple)?

    Thank you.

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