Cheap LED Strips : A Viable Alternative

Well figured id start a thread just to share for anyone thinking and looking for a viable alternative to SIL “Screw In Light” Led arrays to rigid DIY options such as QuantumBoards, Solstrips, Meiji Lighting products, or any pre built options out there like marshydro, and the likes.

I’ll leave this thread open to discussion and post ups of other cheap strips and product lines as well because tech is always changing, and getting better and cheaper everyday.

So to get this started let me introduce you to some strips that myself and a few other people on these boards have been playing with as of late due to there bang for the buck.

The Bridgelux EB Series Gen 2 strips

https://www.bridgelux.com/products/eb-series

Where to start on why some of us have started using these, multiple reasons but let’s start with Price, these are damn cheap for what you get.

To give you an idea these strips currently retail for between $2.80 to $8.40 depending on the size of the strip, and can be purchased from bigger electronic parts retailers such as Digikey, but ill get into cost breakdowns later.

Next reason and to go off the “size of strip” comment above they come in three lengths, 280mm/11" , 560mm/22" , and 1120mm/44" so you have a couple options to fit them to whatever your space is, now why those sizes well they are marketed towards replacement and retrofit of fluorescent tube lights in the commercial and residential world, as that is where the sales are, doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of that ;).

On to efficiency i’m not gonna get into PPF and PAR readings here even though that is more relevant to us as growers but that’s just cause they don’t list them because there were designed for general lighting needs, and not like the light sources i’ll be mentioning below were measured by the manufactures that way, or that i have that info on either side to compare to so for comparison sake i’ll use Lumens/Watt as that info is freely available from the various manufactures.

Currently these Gen 2 Strips when running at nominal current and voltages output at a decent 175-180lm/w range depending on strip color temperature. To give an idea comparison wise your standard SIL led bulbs range from 85-110lm/w and people do plenty of fine growing with them to say some lm561c samsung diode strips aka Solstrips which when run at an overdriven 50w a strip are actually 173lm/w efficient to upwards of 180lm/w efficiency if run at a more reasonable 35watts a strip. Compare that to say Quantum board QB288’s V2’s which use the better lm301b diodes when run at around 100watts those run at 181lm/watt output.

So these bridgelux strips are pretty on par then… But let’s do a break down cost wise.

Say we wanted to light a 2’x4’ space with roughly 5000lm/sqft of light as thats a reasonable metric to go by and has been around for ages, or 40000lmunes in this example. Counting only light cost in these initial equations and not added driver costs till later.

The Bridgelux EB Series Gen 2’s if using the 560mm/22" length strips you would need roughly 16.7 strips to get 40,000 lumens of output so let’s round up to 17 strips, for a total cost 17x$4.82 = $81.94

Solstrips If running at reseller/manufactures 50watts a strip which puts out roughly 8600 lumens per samsung spec sheets you would need 4.65 strips so lets round that to 5 for a total of 5x$19.99 = $99.95

Realistaly due to higher heat generation and them being run at 250% samsungs listed nominal ratings lets work it out for 35w a strip just for fun, at that wattage they would put out roughly 6200lumens per samsungs spec sheets, working out to roughly 6.45 strips, so i’ll round down in this case even if taking a 3000 lumen hit for 6x$19.99 = $119.94

Alright on to the QB 288 v2’s Going off HLG site and ill trust those figures instead of double confirming with samsung’s data sheets, You will need two of there QB288’s v2 running at around 110w a piece to put out right around that 40,000 lumen mark, total cost 2x$69 = $138

Looks like we have a clear winner in the price department so far…

Now something to consider and another bonus is the bridgelux strips don’t need heat sinks as they are barely warm to the touch at nominal wattages, where as the other options need heatsinks to run at those levels. So let’s see how the price compares when adding in heat sinks.

Bridgelux strips still = $81.94
Solstrips with Solstix heatsinks = $149.99 or $179.94 priced to the strip amounts above
Quantum Board QB 288 v2’s with 2 of the HLG slate heatsinks for them = $216

Ouch you could buy enough strips to fill a second tent for the cost of the last two, and their pretty much the same efficiency…

Now let’s go on the Cheap end of the spectrum, take the 14.5w Philips LED Bulbs for example my prefered SIL well that and the 8w ones for all you SIL users out there, standard listed output for the 14.5w bulb is 1500 lumens working out to be 26.6 bulbs to meet that 40,000 lumens so lets round that up to 27, going price right now is $9.70 a 2 pack working out to be (27/2) x $9.70 = $130.95 *

*But they have build in drivers so that has to be counted, so let’s jump into driver costs for the led strips and boards above and final cost barring small miscellaneous stuff like screws, rivets, frame materials and wire.

First i’ll finish up using SIL’s, factor in with SIL’s you’ll need bulb splitters and keyless sockets for your array, let’s say 4x 7 way splitters are used at a going price off amazon on $8 a piece and 4 leviton keyless lamp holders at $1.60 each for a total of $38.40 extra for a total of $169.35 for SIL’s and most people use the 5 way splitters anyways for coverage reasons.

Driver cost will roughly be the same regardless of the strip or board in use, there will be a difference between them slightly but just in selections for what’s best suited for what. But to put some figures out with working out wattages above we need roughly 240w of driver capable power, so let’s pick some Meanwell drivers, going with the tried and true HLG series they have a HLG-240H which depending on options retails for around $64-68, or take their new XLG series which is my new favorite, the XLG-240’s run at around $44.50

So drum roll please… for final prices considering drivers, strips/boards, heatsinks, and splitters and sockets.

SIL’s coming in at around = $169.35
HLG Quantum boards QB288 v2’s with heatsinks and driver at = $260-284
Solstrips with solstix heatsinks and driver at = $194-218 running at 50w a strip
or $224-248 running at 35w a strip
Bridgelux EB series Gen 2’s with driver and no heatsink needed = $126-150

Think we have a clear winner in the price department even against SIL’s mind you cheaper less efficient ones can be found but you essentially gonna have to use twice the wattage for the same light output so, cost will be made up in extra electricity costs over time.

Now all that math aside other bonuses for the bridgelux strips include more coverage due to having more strips that can be spaced how every you want, and the heat thing i mentioned earlier where the strips are just warm to the touch, sure overall heat generation is somewhat comparable from multiple strips at lower temperature vs fewer strips/boards at higher temperatures but i have noticed same if not lower overall temperatures as well.

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Now to share my build and these new XLG drivers

as shown above and below is one of two of the light i just recently built.

I decided on the 280mm/11" strips as they fit my space the best, each array is composed of 14 of the 3500k bridgelux EB series Gen 2 strips, coupled to Meanwell’s newer XLG-100-L-AB driver, with one for each panel, the strips are mounted to an aluminum backing plate made from an old cut down sign with rivets, not for heatsink purposes but for air deflection purposes for my space cause otherwise i would have some dead air pockets in one of my corners without having a circulation fan dedicated to that spot, but i won’t argue that i used aluminum with heatsink capabilities in mind but really it was just what i had laying around

Here’s a shot of a new XLG-100 driver compared to a HLG series driver, notice the smaller size, and they are about 2/3rds the price even for same wattages, being that the xlg is not hand built like the HLG but machine line produced supposedly, efficiency between the two is within 2% with the HLG being more efficient.

Note the added purple knobbed potentiometer i added for dimming control ;), and i have my set to be slightly over drive at max at 800ma instead of 700ma factory set for the xlg driver.

Here’s are some not that old shots of one just installed on the right side of my closet cabinets with some solstrips on the left, the solstrips were pulled out as soon as i had the second light order and built.

So what was my cost, all in rivets, drivers, strips, free signs ;). and miscellaneous bits included ?
Each panel cost me. $94.50usd or $125cnd all said and done, ive been enjoying them ever since.

Edit: Safety Precautions

So a safety precaution should be brought up from some discussion that was had with @TrevorLahey over in discord chat , its something i wasn’t concerned about myself but its a good measure to be safe about it.

These bridgelux EB2 series strips on one side of the strips have bare solder points for your positive and negative sides of the circuit if one wasn’t using the attached wire connectors, saying that if handling these strips while turned on which you shouldn’t anyways these would have a potential to short out through these points and potentially electrocute you.

So just to be safe applying some Liquid Electrical tape, silicone, rtv, or non conductive paint to these spots will help eliminate any potential issue.

Bare contact points

Covered contact points by use of Liquid Electrical tape.

Others feel free to share your builds and or potential builds or fruitful helpful discussions.

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Thanks for taking the time to post this, Mr. S…

It is certainly helpful for people who are unsure, or perhaps wondering with regards to cost analysis of different venues for lighting…

You know I use SILs already, but I am pretty certain future upgrades will be the Bridgelux strips… I like the fact of the low heat as well as the low profile with strips, as with the SILs combined with socket is around 3 1/2"… a bit of extra room helps sometimes…

Peace
DaFozz

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thanks @Mr.Sparkle! I did not know these existed. Especially since we have a twice weekly shipment from digikey anyways

I have been watching the discussion you had in another thread. I have switched to LED and noticed that the claims vs. temps vs. actual draw did not add up. I’m still happy with the result, but just about starting the building of a large space (4x8 table in an 8x12 room), I now have options.

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Definitely now im not gonna blow smoke and say leds are hands down better or anything like that cause for bigger rooms there is something to be said about options like the Gavita Pro 6/750 de’s for setup ease and light output vs costs, sure on going with bulb replacements and heat generation safety issues with HPS and the likes, but all depends on one’s setups.

Also big rooms are truly outside my normal realm, and at certain sizes and above obviously end results can quickly pay for offsets in electricity costs, but again outside my realm of experience.

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Well that is another added benefit to these as well definitely in compared to the SIL’s and reason why i tended to dismantle or remote mount my drivers on the SIL’s when i used them, cause i needed the extra height, but with these strips all that breakdown and modifying and repurposing seems like a total waste now, think if i could of ran PC cases in the past with the 280mm/11" strips id be laughing, or at least in hindsight i am now lol.

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awesome write up. Thanks for taking the time to drop some knowledge…

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Excellent write up @Mr.Sparkle. Information such as this is invaluable for people looking at purchasing new grow lights. The savings you make from building your own light to your own specs instead of buying pre built sub standard commercial lights should be enough to get any of our members to give the diy approach a try. This thread should be stickied :v:

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This is awesome, props for doing this bro!! I was just looking at getting some more Samsung strips but after crunching the numbers these are better bang for the buck by a decent margin. I think I might use some 50 mm aluminium channel and run two side by side, only because I think I’ll go with the longer strips… neat setup you got there man!

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Nice work! And then some

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Thank you for taking the time to put this together.

-GH

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Thanks for putting this together! Been following along with you and I think toasty building these out. Made me rethink how I’m going to go about getting set up. Really wanted to do the strips for coverage, but was looking at SILs for price. Glad to have it broken down in one place.

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Great thread! Thank you for sharing. I am extremely interested in this because I have been wanting to put together a multi-tiered, low-profile shelf garden for a really long time (since the fluoro tube days, actually, lol), and things are still a little too pricy for me, with the sol strips and the like. Looking into these now! :slight_smile:

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I was convinced enough lol

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What’s the coverage with that, may I ask?

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AWESOME write up, thank you!!!

Can you show the wiring of them for us??? There will be ONE driver per “board” is that correct?
They all (the strips) are wired to the single driver???
Also, can you show how you built your “dimmer switch”

You went @ 3500…they are for flower or veg too???

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That looks exactly like what I need times 5

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@Mr.Sparkle; from the pics you posted I see that you are running the L0280s at 140V and about 400mA per side on that XLG.

Are the low temps you referred to at this amperage, 50mA above nominal?

I’m getting really curious, will probably order a set to play with. My local hydro store has a loaner PAR meter that I can borrow to compare. Solstrips in a manufacturer recommended array gave me about 800-850 at 12-ish inches, with nice and even coverage. Curious to see what these will do

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Yup, this looks like the way to go

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:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap::clap:


What is the distance that these lights & similar start to ‘lose’ PAR?

As I understand it good ole HID penetrates the canopy as much as 6’ & probably burns the tops. :joy:

Just asking because it seems like LED can’t “throw” light :confused: but then again there are lensed car headlights & outdoor lighting that are incredibly bright. :thinking:

Is it just me or is there a determining factor in garden height/plant size?

In other words, “LED can’t be used to grow large, tall trees”? And “don’t put a 600w HPS in a 5 gallon bucket micro-grow.”

Sorry to stray off topic if I am. Just can’t make up my mind about these vs. HID when I spend those precious sheckels. :sweat_smile:

:evergreen_tree:

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