How to build DIY LED Grow Lights on a Budget for Plants

Planting your crops at home is a great way to get fresh crops, save money, and live healthier. But, it could be frustrating when you have to rely on nature to nurture your crops. Adequate sunlight is one essential factor in ensuring yielding vegetation.

For this reason, subsistence farming has raised its game with grow lights. And in this article, we’ll discuss LED grow lights. They are not only Eco-friendly but also one cost-effective option for grow lights.

To save costs, you can opt for DIY LED grow lights. And for the best part, you can customize your lighting system to suit your garden needs.

If you decide to make everything from scratch, you don’t need industrial knowledge.

You can also decide to buy some parts from Amazon, set them up, or build everything from scratch. Either way, you’ll use LED grow lights. 

Why LED is effective as a grow light

Why LED is effective as a grow light

LED lights usually run cooler than the other grow light options, including HID and Metal Halide. Hence, it saves energy, provides enough light, and still lasts longer before wearing out.

Unlike other lightening types, LED can last as long as 50 to 70 thousand hours before reducing its energy-strength by up to 30%.

You are most likely to want to grow your vegetables inside. So, you’d require long hours of light inside your home without burning too much energy and attracting massive electric bills. Subsequently, LED light will serve you much better for indoor gardening than its counterparts.

You may also prefer using LED lights because they come in different hue options. In agriculture, red and blue lights are essential for different aspects of crop production. I particularly enjoy using LED lights because they provide enough diversity of lights for plants to absorb when fruiting or flowering.

Creating DIY LED Grow Lights on a budget

How to build DIY LED Grow Lights on a Budget: Do-It Yourself

Building Do-it-yourself LED grow lights will take about 2-3 hours of your time. So, you need to prepare with all the necessary materials.

You can tweak some of the steps as you wish to personalize the design of your lighting system.

Materials you need:

  • Soldering iron
  • Solder
  • Wire cutters
  • One tiered shelving unit (optional)
  • Light holders (optional)
  • 40 red LEDs and 16 blue LEDs
  • Twenty 56-ohm resistors
  • Sixteen 100-ohm resistors
  • Two blank circuit boards
  • USB cable
  • USB charger
  • 5V and above 720mA power source
  • Hookup wires

Method:

Step 1. The lights.

You have two options for lightening: whether to buy a LED grow light or make it yourself.

If you choose to make your DIY grow light from scratch, I mean, from the tiny circuits, you will need all the electrical materials mentioned above.

You will also need some basic physics or electrical knowledge for this project.

A circuit board is built with two modules. And for this project, we’ll be using four modules. The number of modules in your circuit is proportional to the size of your light.

In each module, add ten red LEDs in series with a 56-ohm resistor. Then add four blue LEDs with a 100-ohm resistor, wiring five red LEDs parallel to the four blue LEDs. You need to alternate the colors to distribute the lights evenly.

Draw an 180mA current. The complete four-module circuit will draw 720 mA.

Solder the units together. Then, add some lead to the common anodes, and connect the cathodes. The anodes are positive, while the cathodes are negative.

Tear open your USB cable to reveal the green and white data lines. Make these lines of different lengths to avoid a short circuit.

Take the USD cable’s power leads and solder the red wire to any of the positive points on the circuit board. Then to any negative side, solder the black wire.

Test your lights, and if any LED doesn’t work, crosscheck your soldering and wiring.

If you can’t do the work of making DIY LEDs, you can get one here on Amazon.

Step 2. The framework

You have three options to use your lights.

First, you could buy, get, or make a solid rack with one or more tiers, depending on your plant goals. Your plants will be arranged on each tire with a lightening system over them. This technique is best if you want to grow more crops with little space. Your shelve will only be high, not wide.

Second, you can use a light holder. With a 3D printer, you could print one to fit your lights. Or, you can improvise with an actual holder to get your LEDs on a solid framework. This system is most suitable for one tier of plants.

Third, you can hang the lights over your planting space. It’s efficient for one row of crops, as the light won’t spread to the ones beneath the first tier.

Step 3. The extras

At this step, you are done with your grow-light project. But, some additions will sure improve your farming experience.

  • A timer. You can attach a timer and set it to about 12-14 hours. This will save you troubles of turning the lights on and off. Besides, 24-hour lightning will kill your crops. So it’s best not to take chances.
  • An immigration system. You can use small water bottle to water your plants periodically from a water source.
  • A Power strip. You can plug in all your lights to one power strip to the timer, so they go off and on together. You might need some extension cords to lengthen their reach.
  • Seedling heat mat. If you’re growing heat-loving crops like eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes, you may need some extra heat.

Conclusion

Setting up your own grow lighting system is beneficial to you and the quality of the crops you consume.

It may not be clear at first. But if you take one step after the other, you’ll get the hang of it! All in all, you only need to be creative.

If you don’t like DIY LED Grow lights, you could buy one on Amazon and get to work immediately.

References:

Growing Up Kemper. 2019. What I am gardening this week: budget-friendly DIY grow light. [https://growingupkemper.com/2019/03/04/what-im-gardening-this-week-budget-friendly-diy-grow-light/] Accessed October 6th 2020.

Creative Vegetable Gardener. 2014. How to Make the Ultimate DIY grow lights. [https://www.creativevegetablegardener.com/diy-grow-lights/] Accessed October 6th 2020.

Grow Journey. 2015. Here’s a simple and affordable indoor grow light setup. [https://www.growjourney.com/want-to-garden-like-a-pro-heres-a-simple-and-affordable-indoor-grow-light-setup/#.X3hQNvDPy1s/] Accessed October 6th 2020