How Important is LED Chip Size?

One questions that we continually hear is what size chips do you use?

For the record, in our Dragon XL products we use a combination of 7 watt white and 5 watt red LEDs manufactured by Cree and Luminous Devices, respectively.  Our Dragon LP utilizes 1.4 watt white LED’s manufactured by Lumileds.  I am sure our engineers are freaking out right now thinking I just gave away company secrets, but at the end of the day, anybody could buy the same LED’s. It’s our optics, custom power solutions and software controls that really set our lights apart.

Just like a car, you have to start with a good engine to build a quality vehicle!  The three most popular consumer diesel trucks all have engines made by somebody else: Cummins (Dodge and Nissan), International (Ford) and Isuzu (Chevy).  The engine is the base, but it doesn’t make the truck.  Just as LED’s are important but they don’t define the light!

Today though, we are talking about LED’s and how quality LEDs can help or hurt the end product. Everybody has become an expert on LED’s as of late, so let’s review a bit what an LED is.  According to the good ol’ interweb:

A light-emitting diode (LED) is a two-lead semiconductor light source. It is a p–n junction diode that emits light when activated. When a suitable current is applied to the leads, electrons are able to recombine with electron holes within the device, releasing energy in the form of photons. This effect is called electroluminescence, and the color of the light (corresponding to the energy of the photon) is determined by the energy band gap of the semiconductor.

That sounds relatively simple, it’s a device that emits light when voltage is applied, but now let’s talk a bit about how they differ!

LED chip size can be anything between 0.1 and 30 watts for each individual chip.   Using a quality LED with good efficiency from a known manufacture will contribute more than size ever will matter. What you do with the light matters 1,000% more than what size chips they are.

Selecting LED’s is a fine art.  With hundreds if not thousands of LED manufactures how do you know where to start?  There are really 5 top tier manufactures: Cree, Osram, Nichia, Lumileds and Luminous. Samsung and LG are even starting to make their own (they make a few phones and TV’s!).  These companies have billions of dollars in R&D and the testing to stand behind their products. I have personally been to both Cree (North Carolina) and Osram (Germany) and can attest to the quality of product they release.   It is tempting to buy cheap parts, but at the end of the day, how confident will you really be not knowing what went into it?

“But name brand LED’s are more expensive!” Absolutely and they’re worth every penny!  Horticulture lights will be run hot, long and in a tough environment.  Assuming you flower on a 12/12 schedule, that means the lights will be on 12,000 hours over the first 3 years.  Are you willing to make an investment in an unknown quality “engine.”

There are many criteria when selecting an LED from efficiency, efficacy, total output, thermal resistance, voltage, current, beam pattern, color shift, etc.  I could spend 10 pages talking about those, but it is important to know that every one of those criteria matters!

A quality manufacture will make a good LEDs in 0.1w and also in 10w.  The size of chip doesn’t make a bit of difference in performance.  What matters is that they are used correctly in the right application.  To the left is a picture of our Dragon XL board.  You can clearly see the Cree 7w white led’s (the ones that look yellow) and the Luminous 5w red. All LED’s are soldered down to a quality aluminum PCB for long life, heat abatement and good alignment. Did we mention that all of our electronics design and assembly is done in Arizona?
Yep, 100% of Scynce electronics are done locally, ensuring short lead times and high quality.

To the right is another picture of our Dragon  LP PCB.  These are 1.4w LED’s made by Lumileds. We selected these over many other brands due to their efficiency and thermal resistance being almost 300% better than other options.  How come we don’t use low cost LED’s?  Even though the spec’s might be very similar, it is not worth risking our customers crops to save 30% per LED.  With our streamlined US manufacturing, we can still compete, even with quality components!

The last picture we’ll share today represents the typical low-cost LED’s found in any one of hundreds of cheap grow lights plastered across the web.  These LED’s are already 10 years old in design, very cheap to manufacture and have very poor performance.  They might be cheap to buy, and work for awhile, but what happens in 3-5 years when you notice your yields are down, and lights start failing?  The money you save today won’t seem like that good of a deal!
There are 100’s of decisions that go into the design of an LED fixture.  LED selection is just one of them, but hopefully this will shed some light on what goes into that decision and give you confidence in your Scynce LED light purchase!

-Steve Adams, CEO