High Power LED Grow Lights M.k2





Introduction: High Power LED Grow Lights M.k2

Having played around with growing plants under LED lights before, I thought I'd have a go at building a larger system using high power LED's.

........ I do apologise if it looks like I'm flogging a dead horse, this will be my last instructable on growing things with LED's.....honest.
I haven't found any commercial units that use high power LED's (then again i haven't really looked, and I like to maintain the illusion I'm being original :) ), so i figure this is probably different enough from my other attempts to be worth posting.

I probably better say that you really shouldn't be attempting this unless you have a sound knowledge of electronics and have experience working with mains electricity. Also there will be high voltage near a damp environment, which is generally not the best of ideas.
It also uses really bright light, and can probably do nasty things to your eyes if you stare at it, then again if you can read this you probably don't spend so much time staring at the sun/bright objects, so hopefully common sense will prevail.

Basically be safe, and don't attempt this unless you are positive you know exactly what you are doing.

Step 1: Parts

Here's what you'll be needing:

1x Large Tub.
1x High current 5v/10v supply.
4x 3w high power red LED.
1x 3w high power blue LED.
2x 100K 0.25W resistor.
2x 0.47R 3W resistor.
2x BC549B.
1x Aluminium Box.
1x Mains Lead.
Some wire.

Step 2: Theory

Here's the theory behind this:

Plants are green, therefore they reflect green light, which means they don't use it for photosynthesis or anything else they might do.
If we grow plants under only red and blue lights (they colours being absorbed), then we aren't wasting energy by producing green light. Which means not only is energy and money being saved, but it looks like the plants are having a disco too. Do you really need any other reason to build this!?

This all may or may not be better explained here:

Step 3: LED Current Limiter 1

LED's generally aren't the best behaved of things, they need some way to limit the current through them otherwise they have a habit of dying.
With smaller LED's its possible to just use a resistor in series, but when you begin dealing with higher power LED's too much energy can get dissipated in the resistor, and things get inefficient and hot.

There are a couple of ways to limit the current, and pretty much all of them are discussed in this most excellent instructable:
Its well worth having read through as it contains some great electronics theory and is a goldmine of information.

I'm going to be using the constant current source #1 circuit from the above mentioned instructable.
Below is the circuit diagram, (NOTE: i haven't drawn this myself its taken straight from the above instructable, i figure its ok since its under a Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike license, but let me know if its not cool)

The LED's i'm using are rated for 700mA, so using the equations given we get a value of R3 of around 0.47ohms.

I'll be building 2 of these, one to power 4 red leds in series from a 10v supply, and one to power the single blue from a 5v supply.

Step 4: LED Current Limiter 2

It's time to get out the soldering iron and start making!

Solder up 2 of the current limiters on a piece of breadboard (or etch some PCB's if your feeling fancy) and test them to make sure nothing gets too hot.

note: the zener diode you can see on my breadboard eventually blew up (i don't know why but i have a habit of doing that) so was omitted in the final version.

The second image shows the circuit being tested with 4 of the red LED's in my bedroom at night with all the lights turned off. They really are amazingly bright, they lit up my entire room.

Step 5: Super Extra Bonus Step!!

This is a super extra bonus step for the very few people that got posted a 47ohm resistor instead of a 0.47 ohm resistor like I did, and are resentful at the ridiculous prices of Maplins and the fact it would actually involve going outside to catch the bus to get to Maplins, only to have to explain to the guy behind the counter what a resistor is, then get sold the wrong one anyway, but not realise until you get home. So the above situation repeats itself indefinitely in a ground hog day type escapade.

Enough of this silliness, here's what i did to change the value of a 47ohm resistor to 0.47 ohms.

1.) Slowly crush the ceramic type coating around the resistor with a pair of pliers, don't scrape it otherwise you'll damage the very fine wire.

2.) Once all the outer coating is removed unsolder the fine wire from one side of the metal end caps.

3.) Make a connection straight across the 2 end caps with the wire, and measure its resistance. if its not right make another another connection straight across with another length of the thin wire. this can get pretty fiddly.

4.) Wrap it up in tape

note: This is a very silly idea, the resistor cannot handle 3w's any more, and tends to get pretty hot when used in the circuit, i did this because I was desperate, and include it merely as a point of interest.

Step 6: Mounting the Leds

The LED's get exceptionally hot, without some kind of heat sink they'll die on you, and you'll probably need a larger heat sink than you think, I chose to use the metal box I used to enclose the electronics as the heat sink, it's quite a bulky piece of meal, but it gets surprisingly hot, I'd recommend you use some thing larger.

The LED's I got had a star type heat sink attached to them, this makes it a bit easier to mount them, i marked out some fairly random positions and used some small bolts to hold the LED's in place, it would be a good idea to use some thermal paste to improve the heat conduction if you happen to have any lying around.

Step 7: LED Current Limiter 3

You'll probably need a heat sink on the MOSFET of the current limiter circuit. Now here's the catch, you cant have the 2 MOSFET's attached to the same heat sink, as the tabs tend to be at different voltages, and unless you can insulate them, you'd end up with some nasty short circuits and erratic behaviour.

I made 2 aluminium heat sinks attached together with a piece of perspex, which was then mounted inside the box making sure the heat sinks didn't touch any part of the inside of the box.
This set-up got really quite warm after extended use and I would highly recommend using larger heat sinks or some kind of cooling.

Step 8: Putting It Together

I chose to drill a couple of holes and use some plugs and sockets too attach the power to the box holding the lights and current limiter stuff.

Holes where then drilled down through the aluminium box and some nuts and bolts used to hold it to the lid of the tub.

I was fortunate enough to be able to pick up my power supply for £2.50 from JPG electronics in chesterfield (they're really good, they have shelves full of random things). It had some useful holes i used to bolt it to the lid with as well.

When choosing your power supply keep in mind the current and voltage requirements, and make sure it wont get too hot under load, and is suitably protected from shorts/current spikes. Remember this will be running for extended periods of time! you don't want anything bursting into flames.

Step 9: Test

You'll be wanting to make sure nothing gets too hot or blows up. Here's my usual method for testing stuff.
Plug it in, if it doesn't work unplug it straight away and try and find the fault. After a few seconds unplug it and check to make sure nothings getting too hot and have a smell around for burning stuff.
If its ok plug it in for 5 minuets keeping a constant check on it, assuming all goes well leave it on for an hour, checking regularly. If it gets hot you'll be needing a larger heat sink for the LED's or the Mosfets, or beefy-er power supply.
If everything turns out ok its probably fine for use. To be on the safe side make sure your in the house for the first 24hours or so that you have the system running.

The first photo below shows the system running in my room at night with the lights off and the curtains drawn. It literally lights up my entire bedroom.
One odd thing to note is that there is no green light in the room whatsoever, this means beer bottles look black, which is kinda odd.

Step 10: Fin

That's pretty much everything. My original intention was to build a totally enclosed grow system using hydroponics, but i wanted to get this done in time for the LED challenge.
I might make another instructable on how i go about doing that, but there's quite a few decent ones around the place anyway.

Here are a few potential improvements i'm going to make in the future:
Fans to blow on the plants and encourage thick stem growth.
C02 producer (yeast, sugar, water).
Larger heat sinks all round.
PWM light control using microcontroller.
Timer to turn lights on and off.

Happy electric gardening!

P.s I know what your all thinking.....I'm growing pot, well I'm not. Honest. I do things like this because it interests me.



    • Make it Move Contest

      Make it Move Contest
    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest
    • Planter Challenge

      Planter Challenge

    We have a be nice policy.
    Please be positive and constructive.




    How much did all this cost you?

    Who is the author of that Signals and Systems book

    1 reply

    It's a book by Alan V. Oppenheim from MIT. You can hit MIT OCW for the very popular course. He also did a more recent one on edx under MITx (if I recall correctly) but you can't access the archived version and have to wait for a new class to be in session. You can also check out Discrete-Time Signal Processing.

    Even though I profit when people buy LED grow lights from my site, I always advocate people build their own, if they're short on money, but have sufficient free time. Let's face it, top quality LED lights are expensive and lower quality lights are not worth buying. If you make your own (and do it right), you end up with a great light for a fraction of the cost.

    can these lights besourced as strips or do you need to know about soldering etc?

    LED grow lights are absolutely a wonderful thing.And these products helps in indoor and greenhouse use Top LED Grow Lights for growing Plants, food, medicine and More.

    It doesn't look as nice as those fancy LED grow lights in the market, but I guess it will do for some small indoor plants. Besides, it's a lot cheaper too. Looking to try this on. Thanks, man!

    Plants do absorb green light, their green colour is due to chlorophyll beeing the major pigment in plants. Chlorophyll may not absorb, it reflects it, green light but other pigments can.

    It's so clear and helpful. I want to share how to choose led light that I found.Please visit my profile to gather more information: http://www.ledgrowlightjudge.com

    Amazing article there man! You really know what you are talking about. This is one of the finest led grow lights that's been made via DIY that I've seen. I'm planning on assembling one myself using your instructions. A couple of question though: how big is your grow room and how many lights do you use? Are they all LEDs?

    Really cool man! I wish I have the guts to make this awesome LED grow lights. I have some basic knowledge about electronics stuff but I not really confident about it. I guess I have to read more. Thanks for this idea.

    1 reply

    use the emergency lights you get every where swap L.E.D's for Nm yr choice and use a PC PSU to beef it up perfect for beggining

    pc power supply can give you alot of power for yr leds

    HI guys i found that collecting emergency lights from buildings can make the job alot more easy ..up rate the suppply and re solder your desired L.E.D's and hey bang

    case and everything

    these are low power but are built for you .. thay also have battery back up :)

    great for starting yr grow until you need to move on to upgrading power output

    fixing a timer is easy too ...

    Hope This Help

    very nice setup, i love the box and the use of LEDs. i am trying to prove another theory, here it is;

    we don't need so much power, it's all about the angles, i have a 7W plant arm with no fan - no heat sink... check it out. you can attach these plant arms to any pot !

    can be powered via USB, rechargable battery or solar even !

    visit my profile; https://www.instructables.com/member/0bios0/


    Really nice build. This guy did a build using 165 Watts of CREE LEDs to get a full spectrum LED grow light for his very small grow space.

    DIY LED Grow Light - 165 Watt 

    - CREE LEDs
    - CFLs as an additional boost
    - Small stealth grow space
    - Passive cooling, no fans which I thought was cool
    - Over one gram per Watt which is better than most do with HIDs

    I would like to know if anyone could improve on his design, he mentions the CREE XLamp CXA3590. Maybe that would help? howtogrowmarijuana.com/DIY-LED-grow-light


    Good job. I know what you mean. I grow herbs (basil, cilantro, rosemary, chives), radishes and various vegetables in my basement year round with artificial light and anyone I know asks if I am growing pot. It's so annoying. To me it's just interesting, a good hobby, and a bit mad scientist like. I guess we are just wired differently than most people. But I think that's a good thing. I would be bored to tears if I couldn't experiment and play around with interesting stuff! I'm using CFL bulbs so it's not as energy efficient as LED. I joke that my radishes are probably $15 a pound, but meh, it's a fun hobby. Hopefully LED can cut some energy consumption down. By the way, hydroponic lettuce is next but I need to learn more about nutrients and such.


    Why didn't you just use one power supply?
    Couldn't you just use all 5 leds in series with one current source?

    1 reply

    Yup! I do this all the time. One controller and a bunch of LEDs. Put the LEDs in series if you have more voltage and in parallel if you have lower voltage. Then adjust the r3 value accordingly. Beware though: If you have LEDs in parallel on the same driver and one LED disconnects (or dies?), then the remaining LEDs can get overdriven and you could get a cascading failure. I think this is a bigger problem with fewer leds.