LED grow lights are an emerging technology you can use to grow orchids. They are much more energy efficient than other lighting technologies, such as fluorescent grow lights, metal halide grow lights, and high pressure sodium grow lights; you can expect to save 75-80% on your electric bill. There's also no need to change bulbs every 6-12 months, as they last a decade or more and are quite durable. Between these two savings, you can usually offset the relatively high installation costs quite quickly.
The energy savings comes from a significant reduction in heat output, which can be useful if you are concerned about keeping your orchid growing area cool enough for your plants; this is especially important for Pleurothallis, Masdevallia, and other cool-growing orchids.
Look for LED lights specifically intended as grow lights; the spectrum that they output will be more useful for plants. Plants make the most use of blue light (for foliage) and red light (for stems and flowers). Some LED grow lights just provide red and/or blue light; these will make the lighting look unnatural, but the plants will grow more vigorously. Use them if you usually show off your plants in a separate area when they are in bloom. You can also get LED's that look very similar to natural sunlight.
Unlike fluorescent grow lights, LED's contain no mercury; you needn't worry about environmental damage. Because they last so much longer, you won't be filling landfills with old bulbs, either. And the greater energy efficiency has environmental benefits as well: by reducing the amount of electricity that is needed, there is less demand on fossil-fuel-based power plants and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. (This just might help to conserve orchids in the wild by preventing climate change!)
LED's can provide plenty of light intensity to grow orchids. There are an increasing number of types available; some fit into standard sockets for other bulb types, including sockets for fluorescent bulbs, incandescent bulbs, halogen track lighting, and other standard sockets. Others have more unique fixtures. If you grow orchids under lights, do some research to find out what type of LED bulbs you want to use in your setup, as the technology is developing rapidly at present.
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