With the rapid advances in lighting technology in recent years, LED grow lights are set to become the next big thing in indoor garden lighting.
Once upon a time, the only indoor growing lights around were used for specialist use only, either very expensive, complicated and hot-running High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lights used by hydroponic growers, or low-output fluorescent lights used by aquarium hobbyists.
As more home gardeners experiment with growing their own food, or pursue a passion for indoor plants, finding space with sufficient light to grow more plants eventually becomes a challenge.
LED grow lights offer a simple, elegant lighting solution that can be used for all types of indoor gardening. There’s nothing to it, it’s a simple matter of hanging the LED grow light over the plants, and switching it on. Plug the LED light into a cheap electrical power point timer and it will turn on and off automatically!
What Can LED Grow Lights Be Used For Indoors?
The three main indoor uses for LED grow lights are:
1. Growing Culinary Plants
Smaller-growing kitchen garden edibles and herbs can be grown indoors quite successfully If they receive enough light, and in case you’re wondering, regular domestic lighting is too dim!
In the last few years we’ve been seeing innovative self-contained mini-hydroponic setups for the kitchen, complete with their own lighting, that allow for growing of often-used culinary herbs all year round. With these systems, plants that normally die down in the garden in winter can continue growing indoors. I’ve been growing chillies, Thai basil and chives in the kitchen since mid-2019 and the plants are still growing very well in one of these systems.
Culinary plants will also grow well in pots placed near a bright window that gets good light for most of the day, around 6 hours minimum, all throughout the year. LED lighting can supply some or all of the light required to grow edibles indoors.
2. Growing Indoor Plants
When growing indoor plants, LED grow lights can be used as either the main source of light where natural light is unavailable, or to increase artificial or natural light levels when if they are too low.
Ornamental indoor plants generally don’t need too much light, as they’re really subtropical and tropical groundcover and small shrub plants that grow on the dim forest floor of shady tropical forests. They vary in their light requirements though, some can cope with very low light levels, while others need fairly bright light.
A common problem indoor gardeners face is limited room to grow plants in the house. Sometimes space is available, but there’s insufficient light because windows are too small, or are facing a direction where they don’t get enough direct light. If it’s not possible to move the plants to where the light is, a simple solution is to use artificial lighting and move the light to where the plants are.
3. Plant Propagation
Growing new plants from seeds or cuttings, and raising seedlings requires bright light, otherwise growth becomes ‘leggy’, with long, thin, spindly stems as plants stretch out, struggling to reach the light. Plants need light to photosynthesise and produce sugars for energy, without sufficient light, their growth becomes stunted.
Many gardeners grow their vegies from seed, and it’s possible to sow seeds for warm-season plants indoors to start them early and avoid frosts. Warm season crops such as Capsicum, Chilli, Eggplant, Tomato, Watermelon and Sunflower can all be sown indoors in the last month of winter (August in Australia, in the southern hemisphere, or February in northern hemisphere locations).
Softwood cuttings and semi-hardwood cuttings of evergreen plants can be taken to produce new plants if there is sufficient warmth and light. If there’s insufficient warmth, a plant heat mat can be used, and if there’s not enough light, LED grow lights can give cuttings all the light they need to produce new roots, and put on additional growth.
LED lights also allow propagation equipment, such as aeroponic propagation units, to be used in rooms with no natural light, such as a garage or basement, where they can be left unattended until the cuttings take root.
Reviewing the ViparSpectra VA600 Dimmable 600W LED Plant Grow Light
LED grow lights really expand the possibilities for indoor gardening, so when eBay Australia asked me to select some home and garden products to review, I chose the ViparSpectra VA600 Dimmable 600W LED Plant Grow Light from their Hydroponics – Grow Lighting & Accessories – Grow Light Kits category.
I wanted to review an LED grow light because I’ve had great success with a small kitchen bench-top hydroponic system that uses LED grow lights, and was keen to test out a larger scale system, both for keeping my cold-sensitive plants healthy and growing in winter, and as a light source for an aeroponic propagator which I will review in a future article.
The reason for choosing the ViparSpectra VA600 LED Grow Light is because it looked like a quality product, appeared well made, was dimmable, had a cooling fan built in, was reasonably priced, and the seller also provided lots of useful specifications to assess the product on before purchase.
Unboxing the ViparSpectra VA600 LED Grow Light
When online shopping, ordering potentially fragile products can be risky if the packaging is not adequate to protect from rough handling by postal services and couriers. Thankfully, the LED grow light arrived without drama, as the packaging was in pristine condition, which was reassuring.
Opening the box revealed the meticulous packing, the manufacturer had gone to some trouble to ensure that the LED grow light survived its shipping journey. Dense white foam totally and tightly enclosed the LED light, with accessories neatly tucked into a side compartment, with the manual and warranty card laid across the top.
What’s in the box?
- 1 x VA600 LED Light
- 1 x Hanging Kit
- 1 x User Instruction Manual
- 1 x 1.8m (6ft) Power Cord (AU plug)
Lifting off the protective foam cover reveals the LED light snuggled safely inside the box. The foam surround needs to be lifted out of the cardboard box to take the LED light out, it doesn’t just slide out of the foam padding because the dimmer knob protrudes from the light, and there’s an exact cut-out in the foam into which the dimmer knob fits.
The 5-page manual is well written, and quite thorough. It includes extensive safety information, clear installation instructions, and detailed specifications.
The suggested use information supplied is excellent, as it takes all the guesswork out of using the VA600 LED grow light. It specifies the height to hang the light above the plant canopy, the number of hours to run the light each day, and brightness levels for the various stages of plant growth.
Inside the box is the LED light, a power cord, and a hanging kit for suspending it overhead.
The suspension kit is very well made, the quality is evident. The steel cables are crimped neatly into loops, with attachment clips on one end, and a regular carabiner clip holding them together on the other end.
ViparSpectra VA600 LED Grow Light Specifications and Features
Let’s start with the specifications list:
- Dimensions: 30cm x 20cm x 8cm (11.7 x 7.9 x 2.7”)
- Weight: 2kg (4.4 lbs)
- HID Replacement Light Output Equivalent: Replaces a 250 watt HPS/MH
- Application: Use for all stages of plant growth
- Vegetative coverage at 50cm (20″) height: 75cm x 75cm (2.5 x 2.5ft)
- Flowering coverage at 40cm (16″) height: 60cm x 60cm (2 x 2ft)
- Average Power Consumption: 132W±3%
- LED configuration: (60pcs) High Intensity 10W Dual Chip LEDs
- LEDs Angle: 90°
- Input Voltage: AC100-240V
- Frequency: 50-60Hz
- LED Lifespan: ≥ 50,000 hours
- Warranty: 2 years warranty
This LED light is quite compact, at 30cm x 20cm x 8cm, and at 2kg in weight it’s definitely not flimsy!
The chassis is really very solid, it’s constructed of steel (as confirmed with a magnet), with a grey powder-coated finish.
There are 60 LEDs arranged in a 10 x 6 grid, covered with a sheet of very optically clear glass.
This is a close-up, magnified photo of the LED emitters, and the electronics assembly looks very tidy. These emitters are described as Dual-Chip 10W LEDs, and a combination of different colours are used to provides full spectrum lighting, including IR (infrared) to cater for plant light requirements at all growing stages.
The rated lifespan of these LEDs is rated at ≥ 50,000 hours, so if they were run continuously at the longest cycle for vegetative (green growth) growing of 18 hours on / 6 hours off, they will last for approximately 2,777 days, which is 7.6 years! One of the main advantages of LED growing lights over other lighting technologies is how long they last.
There is only a single control on this LED light, a black plastic knob, with black-dot markings at the 25%, 50% and 75% brightness levels. Turned fully anti-clockwise, it clicks into place and turns the light off, turned fully clockwise the light runs at 100% brightness.
The brand name is cut (laser-cut?) into the front of the chassis, to provide additional ventilation for cooling.
Ventilation slots can be found on all sides of the chassis, to assist with airflow for better cooling.
The back of the chassis has a large fan opening, with a 120mm fan sitting beneath to keep the device cool.
The IEC-style power cord socket sits below the fan, with a power connector which I believe is used to link a series of lights together.
In each corner of the chassis are suspension points for hanging up the LED light.
The label shows that the device is made in China, and the true wattage is only around 132W ±3%, so it doesn’t really draw that much power. It certainly doesn’t draw 600W, and the 600W figure is derived form the fact that there are 60 x 10W LEDs, but if they’re all only drawing 132W then they aren’t running at full power, which would extend their life considerably.
There is also a warning on the label to not run the ViparSpectra VA600 Grow Light when the temperature exceeds 40°C (104°F), but it indicates that in can be run in damp locations.
ViparSpectra VA600 LED Grow Light Assembly and Setup
Assembly is quick and easy, there are only two simple steps involved.
The clips on the hanging kit are attached to the suspension points at each corner of the chassis.
Next, the power cord is plugged into the power socket. That’s it, it’s really that simple.
How to Set Up the LED Grow Light for Raising Plants
What height should the grow light be suspended above the canopy of the plants?
When measuring the height to hang the LED grow light, note that the top carabiner clip at the end of hanging kit sits around 35cm above the chassis.
The user manual specifies the height to hang the light above the plant canopy, the number of hours to run the light each day, and brightness levels for the various stages of plant growth:
|VA600||Height above plant canopy||Hour of lighting||Brightness|
|3-5 Day Acclimation Period||65-75cm (26-30”)||10 on / 14 off||40%|
|Seedling/Young Vegetative||55-65cm (22-26”)||12 on / 12 off||60%|
|Vegetative Stage||45-55cm (18-22”)||18 on / 6 off||100%|
|Flowering Stage||35-45cm (14-18”)||12 on / 12 off||100%|
If we look at the manufacturer’s website recommendations:
The Dimmable 600W LED grow light is perfect for 75cm x 75 cm (2.5’x2.5’) vegetative coverage at 50cm (20”) above the plant canopy and 60cm x 60cm (2’x2’) flowering coverage at 40cm (16”) above the plant canopy . We recommend hanging it at 60cm – 80cm (24″-32″) above the plant canopy and running the light 18 hrs per day during the vegetation stage. During the flowering stage, hang it at 35cm – 45cm (14″-18″) above the plant canopy with 100% brightness while running 12 hrs per day. Remember to properly adjust the height and brightness accordingly to your plants desired level for optimal growth.
As plants grow, the light might need to be raised, so allow for some adjustment if necessary when setting up a location to hang the light from.
As a practical exercise. let’s determine how much vegetable and herb seedlings it’s possible to grow under this LED grow light.
This grow light can illuminate a 75cm x 75cm square for the vegetative (green leafy growth) stage of plant growth.
How many seedlings could be grown in a 75cm x 75cm area?
- A seedling punnet usually contains 6 seedlings.
- 10 seedling punnets fit into a seedling tray, which is 35cm x 30cm in size, and holds 60 seedlings.
- 5.3 seedling trays, carrying 53 seedling punnets, and 318 seedlings will fit in the space illuminated by the ViparSpectra VA600 LED Grow Light.
When growing plants, either indoors or outside, it’s important to monitor them and make the necessary changes to keep them healthy and happy. Plants need the correct amount of light to grow, too much or not enough light is less than optimum, so watch how plants respond and make adjustments as required.
The user manual suggests the following advice for determining the best brightness level:
Adjust the height and brightness accordingly to desired coverage and how well each plant responds as the brightness increases. The key is always to observe your plants and listen to what they are telling you. if the leaves are pointing hard towards the light, they love it! Give them more! If they shy away or appear limp and unhappy, while all other components and environmental variables are correct, back off with the light!They’ll let you know very quickly how they feel. This is of course… the key to horticulture in general.
Testing the ViparSpectra VA600 LED Grow Light
In this section, we tested the operation of the LED grow light, and made some measurements of the light output and fan noise.
When LED light is switched on by turning the dimming knob, the fan starts and the LEDs shine brightly. The light appears purple, and that’s because of the combination of various colours of red and blue LED emitters. In the picture below we can see the different colours while the LEDs are illuminated.
The LEDs are listed as:
- 440-470nm (blue)
- 620-630nm (red)
- 640-660nm (deep red)
- 730nm (Infrared)
The colour temperature range of the LEDs is listed as:
- 3000-3500K (warm light – more red)
- 6500-7500K (cool light – more blue)
Why Are LED Grow Lights Purple?
The sun produces white light, and plants grow in the sun, so why not just use white light to grow plants?
White light is made up of all the colours of light in the rainbow combined together, but plants only use some colours of light to grow, and scientists refer to the range of light that plants use as the PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) which is in the range of 400 nm to 700 nm.
Grow lights produce light in the range of 450 – 730 nm because this is the light that plants use most efficiently for photosynthesis – the process where plants use light, carbon dioxide and water to make sugars, which they use for energy to drive growth.
We can see from the graph below that photosynthesis is the most efficient at 650nm, which is in the red light range, and this wavelength is important for biomass growth when plants are at the flowering stage.
The next highest peak of the graph where photosynthesis operates at a high efficiency is at 450nm, which is in the blue light range, and this wavelength is important for biomass growth mainly when plants are at the vegetative stage (growth of leaves and stems), but is also essential during the flowering stage.
When growing indoors, full spectrum lights, which cover the range of colours of light from 400 – 700 nm, from blue to red, are required to support the various stages of a plants growth. When bluish and reddish lights are combined together, they produce that characteristic purplish light of plant grow lights.
Note that two of the LEDs have a faint red glow only, and do not appear lit. These are 730nm infrared (IR) LEDs, and light in that wavelength is not visible to the human eye. They have a faint glow because they emit a tiny portion of visible red light too.
The human eye can only perceive a certain range of colours, with wavelengths in the range of 400-700 nanometres (nm), which are referred to as the visible light spectrum. Light outside of this range is not visible, which is why we can’t see the IR LEDs when they’re running.
Measuring the Light Intensity of ViparSpectra VA600 LED Grow Light
The most important measure when testing a light is its brightness. I used a UNI-T UT383 Mini Light Meter, to measure the light intensity with the ViparSpectra VA600 Grow Light suspended 30cm above the bench. Normally the LED grow light is suspended 35-55cm above the plant canopy but this was a convenient test height to compare the light at different brightness levels.
At the lowest brightness level, from 30cm away, the light meter reads 5761 lux.
At the 1/3 brightness level, from 30cm away, the light meter reads 1292 x10, or 12,920lux.
At the 1/2 brightness level, from 30cm away, the light meter reads 2083 x10, or 20,830 lux.
At the 2/3 brightness level, from 30cm away, the light meter reads 2847 x10, or 28,470 lux.
At 100% brightness level, from 30cm away, the light meter reads 3572 x10, or 35,720 lux.
What do these figures mean?
To make sense of these light intensity values, we need a basis for comparison.
How Much Light Do Plants Need?
How much light do plants receive outdoors in different weather conditions?
- On a bright, sunny day outdoors, direct sunlight measures around 90,000 – 110,000 lux.
- An overcast or cloudy day measures around 1,100 – 8,400 lux
How much light do plants actually need to grow and thrive?
- Very low-light plants such as some indoor plants can thrive with around 1000 lux.
- Medium-light plants require around 35,000 lux.
- High-light plants need at least 50,000 – 60,000 lux, possibly more to grow well.
Note that the duration of time that plants receive light also matters, hence the recommendation that grow lights are run 10-18 hors a day, depending on the growth stage of the plant.
One comparison I can make is against the UrbiPod hydroponic system I’ve been running on my kitchen bench for a few years now. I know that it can supply enough light from its inbuilt LED grow lights to keep many kitchen herbs growing happily.
Measuring at the top of the growing pods (pots), 20cm away for the LED grow light, the light meter reads 2,818 lux.
Measuring at the base of the growing pods (pots), to show how light intensity diminished over distance, 25cm away for the LED grow light, the light meter reads 2,255 lux.
If we recall, with the ViparSpectra VA600 LED Grow Light at the lowest brightness level, from 30cm away, the light meter read 5761 lux, which is more than twice what we just measured here.
Short conclusion, the ViparSpectra VA600 LED Grow Light produces more than enough light to grow kitchen herbs at its lowest brightness level, and its highest brightness level is 6.2 times brighter than that.
Measuring the Sound Levels (Noise) of ViparSpectra VA600 LED Grow Light
Any device that runs a cooling fan will make some noise, and it’s important that the sound isn’t loud enough the be annoying when used indoors. I used a UNI-T UT353 Mini Sound Meter, to measure the background noise with the ViparSpectra VA600 Grow Light switched off, then switched on, right against the unit, then from 1.5m (5’) away.
With the LED grow light switched off, the sound meter registered a sound level of 42.1 dB (decibels). For reference, 40 decibels is comparable to the sound level in a quiet room in home.
With the LED grow light switched on, at 1cm from the device, the sound meter registered a sound level of 67.2 dB (decibels). For reference, 60 decibels is comparable to the sound level of normal conversation or in a business office. Since the scale is logarithmic, 70 decibels is actually ten times louder, comparable to average street noise or a loud telephone ring. That may seem reasonably loud, but sound fades with distance!
Making the same measurement 1.5m (5’) away from the LED grow light switched on, the sound meter registered a sound level of 50.0 dB (decibels). For reference, 50 decibels is comparable to the sound level in a restaurant or private office, and less than 8db above the ambient background noise level.
For a more real world test, with the LED grow light switched on, I opened the door, went into the next room, and left the door of that room open too. I could not hear the fan running from the next rook with all doors open during the middle of the day.
I’m unsure whether I would be able to hear the fan running in the middle of the night from the next room with doors open, but you would typically want to close the door to the room with the grow light at night, because the purple light would be more annoying!
Product Summary – ViparSpectra VA600 Dimmable 600W LED Plant Grow Light
The ViparSpectra VA600 Dimmable 600W LED Plant Grow Light is a full spectrum indoor lighting solution which is designed to provide plants with all their light requirements through their various stages of growth.
This product is ideal for indoor growers who are new to using grow lights, as it’s really simple to use, and setup takes less than a minute. The single dimmer knob switches the light on and varies the light intensity from its lowest brightness level all the way through to 100% brightness.
In terms of efficiency, the manufacturer claims that this light can replace a 250W HPS/MH (high pressure sodium/metal halide) lamp while consuming only 132W of power. LEDs are a durable and cost effective form of lighting, with a lifespan of more than 50,000 hours, which is more than 7.5 years of everyday continuous use.
I’m most impressed with the high quality construction, this is a very impressive looking piece of equipment, it definitely looks like it should cost more than its modest price of around $100. The chassis is made of steel with an excellent finish, there are no rough edges or misaligned parts, there is great attention to detail here.
This product looks like it will last for years, but that’s only an assumption on my part based on the look and feel, as I haven’t put the product through any long-term testing. The manufacturer does provides a two year warranty though, which is reassuring considering that grow lights are normally run continuously for at least half a day, every day.
For such a compact lighting unit, it can illuminate an area of 75cm x 75cm for vegetative growth, it’s possible to raise over 300 seedlings in punnets in that space, and for flowering growth it can illuminate area of 60cm x 60cm, which can hold 16 standard nursery pots that are 15cm wide.
LEDs (light emitting diodes) are solid state semiconductor lighting, and the one thing that shortens the life of semiconductor devices is heat. To maximise the life of components, a lot of design consideration have gone into keeping temperatures down. The cooling system use a high speed cooling fan combined with built-in aluminium heatsinks to maximise heat dissipation.
The VA600 600W LED Plant Grow Light is the smallest model in the series of ViparSpectra Dimmable LED Plant Grow Lights, but in terms of convenience, versatility, and value for money, this one is a winner and comes highly recommended!
Deep Green rating for the “ViparSpectra VA600 Dimmable 600W LED Plant Grow Light” is 5 stars!
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