P. L. Light Systems Expert Articles: New or Tried & True? Factors to Be Consider

Todd Phillips

Lighting Technologies, Sustainability | January 19, 2018

Buying equipment or technology in today’s environments can be confusing, and complex. Making sure you do your due diligence to ensure you are getting the best valuenot to be confused with the cheapest price―up front, is an onerous task and should always encompass a total cost of ownership model approach inclusive of CAPEX and OPEX considerations for the lifespan of the product. And ensuring you secure the correct technology for your specific application needs is also a must. Today’s debates on HPS or LED are discussed across the globe daily, and a host of differing opinions make it challenging to sort out fact from fiction.

HPS vs. LED?

The bottom line that I can share with you, from my perspective, where I get visibility to lots of opinions on the topic, see hundreds of sales cycles, and talk to lots of owners and CEO’s of businesses in the growing communities at large, is this. When it comes to LED versus HPS and spectrums, we are still in the investigative and development stage in this industry. No manufacturer, supplier, or customer can state they know the optimum LED recipe for cannabis, tomatoes, cucumbers, or orchids, as nobody has tested and tried multiple different spectrums with each one being tuned to a specific strain or cultivar of each plant type to be able to render a quantifiable opinion. They may be able to say they have played with one or two or three spectrums they think seems to do well for one or two strains/cultivars because that is all the time they would have had to test it on in the last three-five years that LED technology has been available on any kind of commercial level to use in the horticultural industry.

Factors to Consider

As a baseline for comparison, HID HPS/MH lighting has been around now in commercial horticultural growing environments for well over 25 years.  The point here is, when you go into different growers, they each have come up with their own “special sauce” for using lights, how they are hung for their perceived “perfect, optimized environment”; height from canopy, hung over trough or over crop, track or truss orientation to run parallel to the vine or at 90 degrees perpendicular to the vine; every tomato grower will tell you they have researched and tried things for years, and they know they have the best solution for their particular crop. And yet, you walk in to their neighbour’s facility, equally as passionate and professional, doing it a completely different way, and they too tell you their way is best. And that is after 25+ years of a lot of really smart people globally playing, experimenting, and failing with different lighting methods and spectrums and intensities with HPS; and still no definitive “best way or spectrum” after all that time, otherwise everyone would be doing it exactly the same way. So, even after 25+ years of playing with HID technology, you will find a wide variety of spectrums and mounting solutions that are all “the correct solution”.


Don’t strategically get sucked into the pressure discussion about the right LED spectrum other than at a high level. Discussing blue spectrum for vegetative/propagation growth, red spectrum for flowering is fine, but once you start splitting hairs on nano-metre ranges and what a ratio mix of red-blue-green-far red will do for his growth of a specific strain or cultivar of a plant, nobody has had enough years to experiment, fail, and then perfect the optimized recipe book for spectrums. Unless growers have the opportunity and time to have empirical testing on every single different spectrum for that specific cultivar, which then would potentially yield a “best spectrum” for the specific application.

The jury is still out, and as with any new technology disruptor, LED will eventually have its place as the dominant technology for growing. However, it will take thousands of hours and years of trials by very smart growers globally to settle on the “perfect spectrum per cultivar or plant type”, so we should all be a little patient and understand that, as with anything in business or life, the road to perfection takes a long time.


Written byTodd Phillips, President of P.L. Light Systems.