Best LED Grow Lights for Cannabi

2020 Guide | DIY LED Grow Lights on a Budget

Everyone involved in cannabis cultivation today wants LED grow lights…but nobody wants to pay for them. Though LED grow lights are the most energy-efficient option, they remain an expensive investment for many at-home growers. 

To take advantage of LEDs on the cheap, some cannabis enthusiasts have begun experimenting with DIY LED grow lights. Sure, it’s not as easy as buying a factory-made unit, but one could save a ton of money with a ‘Do it Yourself’ (DIY) LED grow panel – provided they know what they’re doing. Plus, people who make their own LEDs have an easier time managing energy costs and fitting their units into tight grow spaces. 

 

In this post, we’re going to examine a few of the basics of building LED grow lights yourself. Although this piece isn’t a comprehensive “how-to” guide, it will help you better understand the basics elements you need to construct your own LED light set up. By the time you finish this post, you should know whether you want tackle this project yourself or purchase one of the many pre-assembled products online. 

Marijuana growing under LED light

Getting Started with DIY LED Grow Lights

The top reason most people get interested in ‘do it yourself’ LED grow lights is to save money. Even low-end factory-made LED grow lights could cost around $100. Alternatively, you could purchase a box of LED bulbs or a COB for only about $10 – $20, depending on where you’re shopping. Standard LED drivers now retail around the $20 – $30 range, and heat sinks could be as low as $10.

But it’s not only cheaper to assemble your LED grow light upfront. Since you will have to calculate the input and output of your LED lights, you can maximize the efficiency of your grow light set-up. You could put as many or as few LEDs as you want, considering your ideal electricity costs.

As another bonus, making your own LEDs can be handy if you don’t have a ton of space. You’ll find it’s much easier to fit your DIY units in small spaces versus many of the LED grow lights now on the market. Just like a DIY grow tent, making your own LED lights provides you with the ultimate control over the features of your grow space.

Do I Need Experience to Assemble by own LED Grow Lights?

You don’t need any prior electrical experience to put together a custom LED light successfully. However, the more you know about skills like soldering and sequence wiring, the more natural this process will be for you.

The essential qualities you need to start setting up your own grow lights include patience, determination, and a willingness to learn. If you put the time into learning basic concepts like voltage, sequence wiring, and soldering, you should feel comfortable using any driver, LED, and heat sink to make your grow light set-up.

Terms Everyone Should Know Before Building my Grow Lights?

As you start researching LED grow lights, you might run across a few unfamiliar terms. Here are just a few words that you need to know before shopping for materials:

Terminology

COB LED

Chip On Board (COB) refers to a new type of light that has hundreds of tiny LEDs mounted on one circuit board. Although COBs are relatively new to the market, they have already gained a considerable following in the growing space because they are powerful and energy-efficient. Compared with standard LEDs, COBs usually cost more upfront.

Voltage

Every LED light has both a negative and a positive charge that only light when you supply enough electricity. The measure of how much energy is necessary to light your LED light is called “voltage.” So, your LED light’s voltage tells you the minimum number of volts required to turn on your bulb. 

Amperage

Keep in mind that voltage tells you nothing about how bright your LED will shine. The only way to determine how powerful your LEDs will be is to look at the amperage (aka the current). Since amperage tells you the brightness of your LEDs, it also relays useful information on how much power your bulbs will draw. 

Driver

An LED driver serves the same purpose as a ballast for an HPS grow light. Both of these units regulate voltage and amperage to supply your LED with power.

Heat Sink

As the name suggests, a “heat sink” helps absorb excess heat from your mounted LED light. There are two kinds of heat sinks you need to know about: active and passive.

 

Active heat sinks have a fan that pushes heat away from your LED light. By contrast, passive heat sinks are usually made with aluminum pins and radiate heat away from your LED lights without using electricity.

 

Generally speaking, active heat sinks are more forgiving and cost less, but they consume energy. Passive heat sinks are more energy-efficient, but they require more expertise to fit your LEDs. 

 

Solder

Solder is a special kind of metal alloy that you need to join your LEDs to wires. In addition to the solder material, you must use a soldering iron to connect your grow light successfully.

What Should You Look For In A Driver?

When you’re shopping for an LED driver, there are a few specs you need to inspect carefully. Most significantly, you need to check out the numbers listed for the driver’s input and output voltage.

Although most modern drivers work around the world, you should double-check that the input voltage range fits your country’s standard voltage. So, if you’re reading this in the USA, the driver should have a voltage that includes 120V.

Turning to the output voltage, this will tell you the total voltage and amperage your driver will supply to your LED lights. To find out how many LEDs you could successfully attach to your driver, you need to divide the total voltage in your driver’s output by the voltage of your LEDs.

After you’ve established how many LEDs your driver’s voltage can supply, you need to double-check the amperage of your LEDs. The maximum amperage of your LEDs must be able to handle the amps provided by your driver.

Necessary Materials Required for A DIY LED Project

Although there’s a lot of variation on how you could construct a DIY LED grow light, there are a few tools everyone needs to complete this project successfully. In addition to your driver, heat sink, and chosen LEDs, you’ll probably need the following materials:

  • Electric drill
  • Soldering iron
  • Soldering paste
  • Thermal compound
  • Wires and wire stripper
  • Nuts & bolts
  • Sharpie marker
  • Ruler

The most important thing to keep in mind when soldering your LED lights is to place each light in the same direction on your surface. You don’t want to mix up positive and negative charges as you’re soldering wires to each of these lights.

If you’re using a COB LED, then you should look into specialized COB holders. You will have an easy time fitting your COB LED into these holders and screwing them onto your heat sink. In some cases, you could even use high-thermal tape to stamp down your COB LED on an active heat sink.

Is a 'Do it Yourself' Approach worth it?

Are DIY LED Grow Lights Worth Your Time?

Building an LED grow light takes a lot of patience and perseverance, especially if you’re not technically inclined. The good news is that there’s never been a better time to learn how to make LEDs at home. Since more cannabis cultivators are interested in DIY LED projects, there’s a wealth of information you could access online.

If you’re still intimidated about making your first LED light, then you might want to research beginner-friendly DIY LED grow light kits. Usually, these starter kits have everything you need to build your first successful grow light. After you feel confident with this hands-on experience, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’re putting together sophisticated units. And lastly, if you’re still unsure about taking on a DIY project, try out some of the best LED lights on the market to help guide your choices for a DIY project down the road.

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