Assorted Gimmicks

There are a number of gimmicks offered with many LED grow lights which I believe can actually be harmful to your plants, your wallet, or both.

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Adjustable Spectrums

I personally feel that LED lights which let you adjust the spectrum is just a giant gimmick. In my experience, you're better off with the same spectrum for veg and flower, as long as it was the right spectrum to begin with. Having knobs, switches or buttons to change the color of the light is fun to play with, but any time you change the color of the light your plants are going to stress out while they get used to the new color.

You also aren't ever really getting a truly custom spectrum; all you can do is dim or brighten the specific colors of LEDs that the manufacturer put in to begin with, usually in batches of colors they already chose for you. If you want to add a different wavelength to your spectrum that wasn't already built-in to the light, the spectrum adjustment feature can't make it happen for you. You just can't get out something that wasn't put in in the first place.

I know many people will strongly disagree with me on all this, but I'd recommend trying out a full veg and flower run with the same, correctly-balanced spectrum yourself; you just might be surprised at the results. If you already have an adjustable-spectrum light, it could be as easy as turning all the knobs up or switches on and leaving them there for a whole run.

You may be surprised at the better yields and plant health you'll get by not adjusting the spectrum.

Dimming in the Morning or Evening

Kind LED's manufacturer also makes LED aquarium lights. Some have a built-in digital timer including a feature to automatically have the lights slowly increase in intensity when they come on, and decrease in intensity before they turn off. In aquarium lighting this is a neat feature because it replicates twilight and allows crepuscular (dawn- and dusk- active) animals to behave as they might in nature.

Kind LED incorporates this feature into their K5 LED grow lights. To their credit, Kind doesn't claim this feature helps plants grow better, but they do advertise it. From reading scientific research and my own experiences (I ran tests many years ago with low light in the morning and evening), it's clear that plants grown with less total light over the day give poorer yields than plants grown under full light. Several friends have tried this as well, and I haven't heard of anyone that did better with it. So, I consider this feature to be a gimmick. Plus, it requires you to use the integrated digital timer, which has serious issues as discussed below.

Herm-Inducing Integrated Timer

If you're growing plants indoors, you'll need a timer to turn your lights on and off, unless you're flawless in your ability to manually flip the switch at the right times each day. This is especially critical with daylength-sensitive plants such as Cannabis, and it is important to realize that it isn't the length of the day that these plants are sensitive to, but the length of the night. Without enough hours of un-interrupted darkness, these plants won't perform as they should.

Photoperiod-sensitive plants such as Cannabis use a pigment called phytochrome to determine night length, and phytochrome is sensitive to red light. This is why they sell all-green LED bulbs and flashlights for inspecting your garden at night; the green light won't activate the phytochrome and "wake up" your plants.

The Kind LED K5 series incorporates a built-in digital timer, which seems like a great feature to add to a grow light. However, the digital timer comes with a red LED display on the side of the light, which shines red light into your garden even when the timer has the light turned off. Had they chosen a green display, it wouldn't affect your plants, but the red LEDs shining all night could activate the phytochrome and "wake up" your plants, causing them to not flower properly, or possibly create hermaphroditic flowers in Cannabis.

Because it probably isn't that bright, it may only rarely cause problems, but why even gamble with that in the first place?

You really have to wonder what they were thinking when they offered a plant grow light with red LEDs that shine day and night. It certainly makes you wonder if they really are age old growers who spent years of research and development creating these lights, as they say on their "About" page. The research on phytochrome's preferential response to red light dates back to the 1960s, so apparently Kind's "research" wasn't terribly thorough.

Mixed 3W, 5W and 10W Chips that Just Don't Add Up

Kind LED offers 2 series of lights; the K3 series is all 3-watt LEDs, and the K5 is the perfect mix of 3W & 5W diodes. They don't specify the ratio of this perfect mix, but if we take the number of LEDs and divide by the total wattage to get the average watts they're running per LED, something very odd becomes apparent:

Kind LED Light Models
ModelWattsNumber of LEDsLED TypeAverage Watts per LED
K3 – L300220903W2.44
K3 – L4502701203W2.25
K3 – L6003201503W2.13
K5 – XL750430208Mix 5W / 3W2.07
K5 – XL1000650320Mix 5W / 3W2.03

They are running the mix of 3W and 5W diodes in their K5 series at less average watts per chip than their all-3W K3 series!

No matter how they have the wattage divided between the 3W and 5W chips, this means that even the 3W chips in the K5 series aren't being driven as hard and generating as much light as the 3W chips in the K3 series, and the 5W chips might as well be 3W chips. Perhaps the "perfect ratio" is one 5W diode per light? I bet this is why they still need to add secondary lenses to all the LEDs for the K5 series of lights; whatever 5W chips are actually in there are just a gimmick.

Advanced LED offers the XTE series with a mixture of 3W and 5W diodes; the average watts per LED here is better than any of Kind's K5 lights and indicates that they are probably at least running the 5W diodes higher than the 3W diodes, but again something interesting appears with a second series of their lights:

Selected Advanced LED Light Models
ModelWattsNumber of LEDsLED TypeAverage Watts per LED
XTE Series DS XTE 100 – 5W LEDs91 36Mix 5W / 3W2.53
XTE Series DS XTE 200 – 5W LEDs18572Mix 5W / 3W2.57
XTE Series DS XTE 300 – 5W LEDs274108Mix 5W / 3W2.54
XTE Series DS XTE 400 – 5W LEDs368144Mix 5W / 3W2.56
Diamond Series XML DS XML 15013068Mix 10W / 3W1.91
Diamond Series XML DS XML 350330154Mix 10W / 3W2.14
Diamond Series XML DS XML 650618280Mix 10W / 3W2.21

The XML series of lights with the mixture of 10W and 3W LEDs is pushing less watts through each LED on average than the XTE series' mix of 5W and 3W LEDs. What's the point of having these extra-powerful 10W LEDs if you're not going to drive them as hard as a mix of 3W and 5W LEDs? In my opinion, the 10W LEDs are just a gimmick.

Fluorescent UV Bulbs

California Light Works' Solar Storm series and Lighthouse Hydro's ION 8 lights both include UV in their spectrum, but they do this by including fluorescent UV bulbs in their fixtures instead of LEDs. UVA LEDs are expensive and UVB LEDs aren't really practical yet.

To me, one of the big advantages of LEDs is not having to change mercury-filled bulbs like you do with fluorescents and HIDs. I guess I'm willing to pay a little more to get UV LEDs to start with; they last longer and don't lose intensity like fluorescent bulbs — and lots of companies are starting to put UV LEDs in their lights or at least claiming to.

If you want to add UV to your garden and your LED grow light doesn't have it, or if your light has UVA and you want to experiment with UVB, you can go to a hardware or pet store and get a fluorescent UVA "black light" or a UVB "reptile bulb" to hang up. It will probably cost you a lot less than having the extra fluorescent fixture added to the LED light itself, will be exactly the same level of bulb-changing hassle and mercury contamination risk, and will allow you to put the UV light on a separate timer so you can get the right amount each day. If you're looking to experiment with UVB, you may want to check this out. And, don't forget to wear sunscreen and eye protection in your garden.


Comments

6 thoughts on “Gimmicks”

  1. I have several LED grow lights and I can say one thing here about the Kind LED K3 series and the K5 series. I had been using a Kind LED K3 450 with supplemental side-lighting (regular fluorescents). Well, I recently relocated to a new state so it was a BIG move, and in the move, I came to my new home and ensured that I had my space and lighting and everything all set up within the first week so it would get going (i had to start from beans due to the move). Well, I set it up at first with the K3 450 and kept hearing about how Kind LED’s K5 Series was continuously posting new accolades that they receive regularly from the marketplace and then even “won” some LED contests when up against other LED’s (and i think they used a control group of different kind’s of HID’s). Anyway, the first harvest using the K3 450 was definitely, in both potency and yield, among the top 5 that I have ever harvested. It was something to behold – so naturally, on the next grow, I purchased the K5 750 (my space, which i could expand but do not wish to at this point in my life, was 1 inch too small to fit the K5 1000, but they are both supposedly the same, except for the watt-equivalency). Talking to the retailer, I told him about my amazing harvest etc. while using the K3 450 and he told me that I would be “blown away” with the difference in the same garden with the K5 750. Well, I am about to harvest the first grow with the K5 and even with serious LST’ing, some HST and other unique training techniques that I employ in all of my grows, I cut the number of plants in half because he told me that the light penetration will produce 2x or more dry-weight per top… didn’t happen. I am 2 weeks from harvest and let me tell you something, the K5 certainly IS a great piece of technology, and the light penetration through the canopy is much better and the tops are something to behold – however, being an experienced grower, and being about 2 weeks from harvest, I can already tell that the yield is going to be noticeably less than when in used the K3 450 with regular old CFL’s as supplemental side-lighting … I don’t usually weigh it, as it is all for medicinal and personal use, so as long as it is good, gets the job done, and lasts (esp. if I don’t clone – and i don’t always clone due to strains , and what i like , and what i am ‘trying for the first time’ and – i have reasons) but i can truly attest to the fact that the KIND LED grow lights should NOT be rated among the lowest, not by far, as I have seen others’ and their gardens with LED’s and the KIND LED is unmatched when you see the full grow and the results (from my experience, which is more than “experience” but rather it’s a lifestyle). My grows with the K3 450 and the K5 750 were exactly the same, one of the plants in the garden was exactly the same strain from the same packet of beans, and the exact same grow medium (the system is one which I’ve been using and have had NO ISSUES now for going on 4 years straight), the same nutrients, and everything including the circulation fans and the intake and outtake Carbon Filter fans, and the water and everything is the same…EXCEPT THE YIELD. I am making it sound bad, i re-read, so PLEASE do not get me wrong, the K5 750 is a HELL OF A PIECE OF EQUIPMENT and i WOULD CERTAINLY recommend it to people, especially if you have a larger grow room and you grow for dispensaries or whatever your reason, a few K5 750s or 1000s, and some supplemental lighting (even a lower-end, cheap, UFO Bloom Boss to be on the sides as long as you have good white walls that reflect very well – as white is the best reflector, and mylar and especially aluminum foil, which far too many people still use, are not ideal, although mylar is better than foil, white is the best way to make sure you don’t trap any heat/create heat pockets, reflect not JUST light but also the HEAT will be directed to the same place all the time and so on, but even a cheap thing like the UFO Bloom Boss can work well as supplemental side-lighting with a dedicated red-spectrum during flower while you have your MAIN ones, the KIND K5’s going). But in conclusion, I was expecting to see some serious, serious yields, and yes, I do have them and will at harvest time, but honestly, it’s the same or even a bit less than what the K3 450 produced – and that was running over 6 plants…. if the K5 750 had 6 plants, the canopy would get so think during veg that it would create great tops but weak internodes, therefore causing the staking of the bud-sites to shrink in size as you go down the stem… HOWEVER, KIND LED NEEDS TO BE PUT MUCH HIGHER ON THE LIST. I have tried so many, and i know SO many others who also have tried other kinds, and we all have come to the obvious conclusion that KIND LED is the ONLY LED to use if going the LED route.

    1. Hello,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with the Kind lights! Kind is low on my rankings not because their lights don't work, but because their lights don't work as they advertise them to.

      Your own experiences show this well. You had to use supplemental side-lighting to get good results with the K3 450. When you tried using the K5 750 (which has 1.6 times the total power of the K3 450) without supplemental lighting in a space MUCH smaller than Kind advertises the K5 750 to cover, you aren’t getting great results.

      Kind claims the K5 750 covers a 48" by 48" area for flower, but you say you put it in an area 1 inch too small for the K5 1000 (which is 26×20 inches) so your growing area must be significantly smaller than the 48×48 advertised footprint and yet still you aren't getting the yield you want.

      There are other LED grow lights out there that work better than the Kind LEDs, and live up to the sellers' promises in advertising. Kind LEDs don't give the results they advertise, such as their claim that they don't add any heat to your grow, their large footprint claims which even their own PAR charts show are incredibly unevenly covered, claiming to have UV when it looks like they don't have any, and many more — that's why they are ranked poorly here. If they would make more realistic claims for their lights, they would rank much better here (except for the stupid timer that shines red light into your grow all night long, as discussed above).

      1. Isn’t it kind of a strange thing to rate a light based of what the company says, instead of the Upfront cost / Performance / Cost to run (electricity) / Reliability of the light?

        I understand that it’s important to treat your customers nice and be honest and fair and all that, but seriously, if I buy a light and keep it for 5 years, why do I care if the company lied to me during the few weeks I was dealing with them? Its the light I care about.

        my 2c

        1. I'd love to be able to rank LED grow lights based on performance and reliability, but I don't have that data for all of the 150+ lights I'm looking at.

          The only way to get information about the reliability of the lights is to have several of each kind and run them for many years to see how reliable they are. Even if I had the money, time and space to do that, by the time I had the data chances are most or all of those models of lights wouldn't be sold any more, making the data worthless!

          The only way to truly determine the performance of a light is to grow plants with them. Just looking at measurements of the lights' output aren't going to give you an accurate picture of how well it will grow plants because so many variables are involved such as spectrum and how evenly the footprint is covered. If we judged grow lights purely on the PAR per watt they put out, we'd all be growing with low-pressure sodium lights as they are the most efficient I am aware of at putting out photons per watt– but unfortunately plants don't grow well at all with LPS lights. Even assuming that we could just rate lights based on total light output, most manufacturers don't give this information, or when they do it is skewed or false.

          The point of this site is to try and compare many different LED grow lights on as many different things as can be fairly compared. Upfront cost is covered on the LED grow light cost comparison page; cost to run is covered in the LED grow light wattage comparison page (just multiply wattage by hours per day you're running, divide by 1000 watts per kWh, and multiply by your electric cost per kWh).

          I really, really don't understand your comment about not caring if the company lied to you; you say it is only the light you care about, but if they are lying about their light, that's why you should care! If the company promised you a 3 year warranty when you bought the light, but when it breaks after a year there is suddenly no warranty, you would care about that. If the company promised that their light had ultraviolet when you bought it but it didn't actually have it, you would care about that, right?

          1. I agree with you , I have a Sekonic spectrometer to test with as well as a par meter. I sent my kind led back as it didn’t match the claimed spectrum. Really get tired of all the hype and no data , thank you for all this info , please have a look at my YouTube page for videos on spectrum and par for many lights.
            https://youtu.be/mQn5rctxHr0

          2. Hello!

            Thank you for your independent verification of the Kind spectrum; I also recently got a SpectraWiz spectrometer and it showed the same results with a Kind test light! My spectrometer readings match yours, showing no UV at all and a very different-looking spectrum than Kind claims. I am putting together a hands-on review section that should be up on the site soon showing this.

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