LED Grow Lights are an viable option when it comes to indoor farming. Indoor farming is definitely the future of urban farming. It ensures that you can grow crops/plants that belong to any specific season, at any time or any place. Using LED grow lights for growing plants is the perfect alternative to using HPS Lamps or MH (Metal Halide). Recently, LED Grow lights are getting popularized due to the high yield they offer and also because of the fast results.
Why are LED Grow lights better?
Well, there are numerous reasons for that. They use much less energy, up to about 80%, this reduces your power bill and saves up a lot of your hard-earned money. It’s much easier to control temperature in LED grow lights and they last over 50,000 hours. The heat is much lesser as compared to other options.
Even though there are dozens and dozens of LED grow lights in the market, the prices can be pretty daunting. Sometimes, you might even need to find one that suits the kind of space you have and that, in itself, is a difficult job for a layman. And at that time, we’ll come to your rescue. It’s pretty easy to make a DIY Version that suits your needs and is customizable too.
Tools & Material Required:
1. Drilling Machine.
3. A pen to mark the measurements.
5. Soldering Iron (or a iron smith nearby)
6. Cooling Fans (according to the size of your space)
7. Silicone glue or Thermal Glue.
8. Basic items such as nuts, bolts etc.
9. Some AWG Wire (3 feet or more)
10. A metal panel (the size you want)
11. Three LED drivers
12. DC Transformer (The voltage required by you)
13. A power cord/plug.
14. LED Lights (The wattage you need your fixture to be. i.e I have four 3W Blue(455nm), four 3W Red (630nm), Twelve 3W of a darker red (630nm), and four 3W Blue (445nm).
A little side note here, you should have a little prerequisite knowledge of wiring as this can be dangerous if you plug in without knowing what you’re doing. Sometimes, you might even face some kind of a blast and ruin your cord for eternity. So, please do your research before proceeding further. Also, You can use your own configuration of the lights. The ones I used are for a 108W fixture but you can keep adding 3W Blue and Red lights to have more heat for your plants.
The total cost of the DIY version is around 100-150$. It can also be reduced if you buy the LED lights, nuts, bolts, Silicone glue, cooling fan etc. in bulk. It will decrease or increase according to the material you’re using. I highly recommend buying equipment that is sturdy and has a strong built. This will ensure that your DIY fixture lasts for a long time.
STEP BY STEP:
You can start by drilling 6 holes in the panel for the LED drivers and on hole for the cord to pass through. Use a scale/ruler to measure and find the middle point of the LED drivers when they are placed side by side.
With a pen or a marker, mark the place where you’d drill 6 holes for the LED drivers. Also, mark one hole for the wire to pass through.
This is when you can easily drill the holes. Drill the LED driver holes about the same size as the bolts but use a bigger one for the wire to go through. When finished, you’d have a metal panel with 7 holes. (six for LED drivers and one for the wire.
Now, it’s time to mark the placement for each LED to be placed. For me, I measured it by taking one side of the panel and dividing it by six. This is easy, measure one side of your panel, take that measurement and divide it by 6, this is because each side would have 6 rows and 6 columns.
You need to make 6 x 6 rectangles on the panel. This will ensure you have 36 squares for different LED lights. Draw a dot on each rectangle, this would be the place where you place the LED. Once you’re done, you’ll have 36 dots. You can use the same configuration or customize it according to your needs.
Now, it’s the time to attach LED lights to the panel. Take the silicone/thermal glue and apply a tiny amount and stick the light to the panel. You need to make sure that LED terminals (the + and – signs) face the same way. If you’re doing your own configuration, this can be done differently. Press it a little, gently and twist it slightly to ensure there’s no air in between and that the LED’s get stuck to the surface well. You need to wait for a couple of hours or overnight for best results to make sure the glue has hardened and cured. Now is the time for some super messy wiring.
When the glue has hardened and cured, and the LED’s are secured, you are ready to solder the LED’s. I recommend soldering these in a rectangular shape but you can go for any shape or size you want. You can go to your nearest Iron Smith and explain that this is what you’re looking for and he’ll help you out.
If you don’t know how wiring works, it’s pretty basic, just solder the + terminal into the – and so on and so forth. This way each LED will have two open connections. If you have seen a battery, this is pretty similar to that!
Cut the wire of the length of one terminal next to the other one. With the help of the sire stripper, get rid of a portion at the end of the wire. I usually bite of the outer covering of the wire but that’s not recommended and a wire stripper is much handy at that time.
Now solder the terminal a little and add the wire and then solder all of this together. This makes the job of soldering the wire onto the terminal easier. Once that’s done, solder the positive and negative terminals of each drive to each LED.
TIME FOR BOLTS:
You can easily find bolts at any hardware or electrical appliance store. They’re easily available at repair shops too or you can even recycle them from old machines that you no longer use.
Now you can place the bolts on the LED drivers on the panel. Screw in the bolt first and then use the nut to tighten it to the panel. This procedure is pretty basic. Just add the nut close to the bolt. Repeat the same steps for all the bolts and then place the driver on top of the bolts and tighten the previous bolt to secure the whole thing in place. Repeat the same for all drivers. So, now you’ll have a little space beneath the drivers of the panel and have more air circulation which in the end allows heat dissipation.
BRINGING IN THE POWER:
Now, all you need to do is solder the AC wires together and then attach those to one of the wires of the plug. Do the same step for all the wires. Use bolts to secure the wires and plug together for both AC wires. Plug both AC wires together. You can add switches at this point. So basically, now you simply have a 120V/220V plug to your drivers. Also, if you can’t find a plug anywhere, you can use it out of any old appliance that is not working. You can also use retractable cord or a normal one, whichever suits your requirement.
If you didn’t know already, cooling is very important to have perfect temperatures and have a long lasting life of the LED lights. You can add a thermal switch to the circuit just in case your fan fails. The cooling and mounting can differ for each person and you can use various equipment for this that you have lying around at home. This cuts the cost of making the whole thing. You may even have an old CPU fan from a CPU that you don’t use. You can buy a fan instead and/or get one from a thrift store or a garage sale. The panel can get very hot and reach high temperatures if not cooled at the proper time. It can be a danger to your family and a fire hazard so, extra cooling can never hurt.
You can use any cooling system you like and since you’re going to outsource this one, it’s not very difficult to install it. The fan will help cool down the panel and pushes air out. Some lights get very hot and need fans to run constantly for a long time. Make sure that yours are suitable for the same time. Some panels reach dangerous temperatures that require a cooling of 12 hours straight, so get fans that will be able to endure all that hours of running.
There you have it. The DIY LED Grow Lights work very well and can actually give you amazing results. The yield is marvelous and you can customize the whole fixture according to your needs with your own fans.
TOTAL TIME TAKEN:
This can anywhere 16 hours to several days, in total, to make, which obviously includes the time spent to wait for the glue to harden and cure. You can leave the glue for 12 hours or overnight, and the build the whole thing the next day. Overall, the process is pretty simple as long as you know what you’re doing.