In our previous article we examined 5 LED grow light brands that sell their products on Amazon. We looked at their products and contacted their support to ask a few basic questions about their lamp. We got surprisingly poor answers from all brands except one. In this article we’ll take a more general look at the LED grow light market on both Amazon and Ebay and how to tell which lamp you should buy.
A quick rundown of what this article contains:
- The general state of Amazon’s and Ebay’s LED lamp category.
- The cheapest is rarely the best choice.
- Don’t fall for reviews, good or bad.
- Understand what you need.
- Be skeptical about each seller’s product.
Ebay has for a long time been dominant by Chinese sellers who primarily compete with price.
Amazon is quickly becoming the new Ebay. We see fewer and fewer US/EU sellers and more and more Chinese sellers. We’re all for a free global economy but when companies with no real knowledge about their product or a quality/safety mindset get to sell practically anything, things will go south sooner rather than later. While a $100 lamp might be considered a fairly expensive purchase, we have to consider that online marketplaces such as Amazon and Ebay put around 25-30% of the sales price into their own pockets. Fulfillment costs, warehousing costs, pick & pack fees, etc. Of the remaining ~$70, the seller needs to manufacture, test, and ship a fairly big and heavy product that contains both diodes, fans, drivers, wiring, and various steel parts. Then there needs to be a bit of profit left for the seller or else they can’t remain in business.
We see that products that used to sell for around $150 are now being pressed down to under $100. While price reductions can sometimes be explained by cheaper manufacturing costs, new technologies, and more streamlined processes, this would still only be half the truth. What’s actually happening is that more and more sellers compromise on product safety and quality. At a first glance, a LED grow light may look decent and few people look “under the hood”. But it’s here that the truth is hidden. Parts like proper wiring insulation, heatsinks, quality diodes, and tested and certified drivers are now far from common in lamps sold on Amazon and Ebay.
This goes hand in hand with the race to the cheapest price. The fewer parts a manufacturer puts into a lamp, the cheaper the manufacturing cost and the cheaper the lamp is sold for. When a product becomes too cheap, even if it has a $100 price tag, one ought to give it a second thought before making a purchase.
If you are a cannabis grower, consider the end result while comparing lights. How many grams more do you need to harvest to justify spending X dollars more?
Will a lamp that costs $150 compared to a lamp that costs $100 produce a yield worth $50 more? In most cases, yes. It comes down to the quality of light and the quantity of light emitted by the lamp. We have a lengthy article about this topic here:
Reviews on both Amazon and Ebay are easily manipulated.
We read about this on a weekly basis, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Sellers are fairly easily (but not legally) able to buy either positive reviews to their own listings or negative reviews to put on competitors. We’ve seen plenty of listings go from freshly created to having hundreds of reviews in a matter of weeks. The average review conversion, i.e. how many people actually place reviews after a purchase, is below 3%. Assuming it’s 3%, it would mean that a listing that has sold 100 units would get 3 reviews. A listing that has sold 1000 units would have 30 reviews, etc.
So if a listing created four weeks ago has 100 reviews, it means it should have sold over 3333 units. 111 a day since creation. This happens about as often as you and I win a trillion dollar jackpot. Still, it is these sellers that gain their reviews through illegitimate ways that often rank the highest on Amazon for common search phrases. Point being: do not blindly trust reviews. Look for listings that present a product truthfully and as thoroughly as possible instead of exclusively looking at reviews.
Know what you need. If you’d go to a car dealer and say “I want to buy a car” he’d try to sell you the most expensive car that fits your budget. If you instead say “I need a small car that I’m only using myself and only needs to fit two grocery bags” then it’s a different situation altogether.
When it comes to indoor growing, whether it’s cannabis, vegetables, or houseplants, your requirements can typically be broken down into three categories:
- Grow area that needs to be illuminated
- Amount of light your plants need
- How efficient and high quality you want the lamp to be
Area is simple. Measure the width and length of the area where you expect to grow and you have it. Grossly simplified, a small sized LED grow light will typically cover about 1.5×1.5’ (45x45cm) or 2-3 sqft with enough light. A medium size grow light might cover around 2×2’ (60x60cm) 4sqft while a larger grow light covers anywhere from slightly larger to much larger area.
Since the light emitted by grow lights fall downwards but spreads a bit, we can vaguely estimate that a lamp’s coverage is approximately 3-4 times it’s own area.
A lamp that’s 1×1’ (1 sqft) would therefore cover about 2×2’ (4 sqft).
Different plants need different quantity of light. We measure light quantity in PPFD and unit umol/m2/s. Sometimes sellers refer to PPFD as “PAR”. Either way, a cannabis seedling/clone will need around 100 umol/m2/s, a plant in mid veg will need around 300-400 umol/m2/s and a plant in late flowering will need around 600-700 umol/m2/s. The manufacturer should provide a PPFD light footprint to show what PPFD levels the lamp emits over what area.
Cheaply made grow lamps are cheap for a reason
Quality costs. Efficiency or efficacy goes a bit hand in hand with quality. The efficacy rating tells us how well a lamp converts electricity into light. A lamp with low efficacy needs more electricity to produce the same amount of light as a lamp with high efficacy. Efficacy is measured in PPF/W or umol/J. A low efficacy rating would be below 1.0. Around 1.3 umol/J or up is good and above 2.0 umol/J is considered excellent.
A lamp with an efficacy of 1.0 umol/J needs to consume twice as much electricity as a lamp with 2.0 umol/J to emit the same quantity of light.
Cheap lamps typically run at 0.6-1.0 umol/J whereas more premium lamps have higher efficacy ratings. In other words, the initial cost for a high performing lamp might be higher, but it will use less electricity which could possibly pay dividends on the higher purchase price.
If a lamp manufacturer doesn’t show its lamp’s efficacy rating, you can safely assume that it’s so low they don’t even want to tell you.
With all this said and done, our final advice is to be skeptical rather than trusting when browsing for grow lights. Ask the seller questions about the product and based on the response as well as your own external research (such as looking at their website, Youtube channel, social media, publications) make an educated purchase. Don’t believe numbers or specs that offer no insight or come without any proof.