What on Earth is a Lumen and How Does it Affect Plant Growth?
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Understanding How Lumens Affect Plant Growth

When you’re getting involved in any new adventure, whether it’s for your own private benefit or as a business venture, it’s important to understand the lingo. This is definitely true in the indoor plant growing industry and there are quite a few terms which may not be familiar to most people, as these don’t generally come up in everyday conversation. In particular, one term that I’m thinking about is the lumen; understanding what this term means is extremely important in making sure you have healthy plants going forward.

The word itself may provide some clues as lumen does sound similar to illuminate, which we all know is another way of saying let’s introduce some light onto the subject. We all love fireworks because of the spectacular way that they illuminate the night sky, and as it turns out your plants love the idea of illumination just about as much as you do. Below we’ll explain exactly what lumens are and what the optimal amount is for healthy plant growth.

What Is a Lumen?

In pure scientific terms a lumen is the amount of light emitted per second from any particular light source. Sounds very simple right? As it turns out the process pretty much is that simple, but think of it in terms of how it affects your plants. For plant growth there is an optimal amount of exposure to lumens that will result in the healthy plants you’re looking for, and that’s really our main concern. You want to make sure that your LED lights give off enough lumens to spark the photosynthesis process to ensure that your plants have a healthy growth cycle and produce crops at the end of that cycle that you can either sell or use for your family.

If you’ve ever sat in a room with a dull bulb there’s a good chance you started to get sleepy after a while; that’s because the bulb wasn’t emitting enough lumens to trick your body into believing that it was still daylight, so your natural inclination is to want to go to sleep. A bright bulb, on the other hand, will likely make you much more alert and focused on the task at hand. Your plants are affected in a similar way, only probably even more so. Without enough light they simply don’t function as they should and the more lumens that your bulbs are emitting the brighter they will be.

What’s the Difference between a Lumen and a Watt?

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably grew up believing that it was wattage that indicated how bright a light bulb was and what you should be interested in, but that really isn’t the case. A watt is a measure of energy consumption and really has nothing to do with how much light your plants will actually receive. As it turns out, LED lights consume much less energy than traditional bulbs which means, for example, that an LED light that consumes between 6W and 10W of energy can actually produce the same amount of light as a 50W halogen or florescent light might do. This is because it can produce the same amount of lumens at a much lower level of energy consumption. If you’re going to have a successful grow operation it’s important to move away from looking at watts and instead look at how many lumens the light you’re using produces.

Useful Lumens Versus Wasted Lumens

By now you probably have a good understanding of why lumens are important, but it’s also important to understand that your plants won’t be exposed to all of the lumens produced by the light you use. There is bound to be a little waste as light is directed off to the sides and not always directly at your plants. The bottom line is no matter how efficient LED lights are they’re not perfect, so you have to take this into account when you’re putting together your grow operation. Once you figure out the optimal amount of light your particular type of plants needs, then you’ll have a better idea of which lights are best for your particular purpose. It’s always best to make sure you find a light that will actually produce a little more than your plants actually need, as you have to take into account this wasted light as well.

So How Many Lumens Do You Really Need?

How many lumens do your plants really need? That’s a very difficult question to answer and it really depends on a lot of different factors. You have to consider how big your room is, what type of plant you’re growing, and what type of yield you’re looking for. There may be no ideal amount, but, generally, if you can produce somewhere between 300 and 800 lumens per square foot your plants should prosper quite nicely.

Hopefully this Was Illuminating

If you’re going to become a successful indoor grower you need to understand all of the terminology involved and how it affects you; part of that is knowing what a Lumen is. Hopefully this article has made that a lot clearer for you and if you’ll pardon the pun I hope it was illuminating! In all seriousness though, understanding how lumens affect plant growth can only help you to make a more informed decision when choosing an LED lighting system.

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