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
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.
EDIT Jan 2021: As a key point for LED growing you may need to increase your grow temps as discussed here "Why we should be running Higher Temps for LED lights"