5 Big Ways Water Cooled LEDs Will Change Indoor Farming

Environmental control is arguably the hardest part of running a farm.

Most new farmers spendhours and hours wading through HVAC guides and product listings, trying to figure out how to balance temperature, humidity, and their rapidly multiplying costs. Many come out with almost nothing to show.

Why? Consistent, simple environment controlis antagonized by heat-producing lights.

Luckily, water-cooled lights change that.

Meet the water-cooled LED, CoolBar

We know how frustrating environmental control can be. Indoor farmers are trying to grow a lot of food in their spaceand to growit economically.The problem is that when farms are compacted, heat accumulation can have severe results.

Even with efficient LEDs (a huge jump from the lighting of the past) heat is a problem: you have to either use intensive ($$$) heat removal systems or compromise light intensity and coverage.water-cooled_1.jpg

In the end, the grower is either:

a) paying more or
b) producing less.

At the time that we first started using the ZipFarm, we were using boxy fixtures – big high-intensity box lights on movers with fans running. The lights we were usingwere great high quality lights – state of the art LEDs. But we wanted to push the limits of production, andin the case of vertical plane production, this meant switching from box lights to light bars.

There are just a few problems with bars. While they are slim and space efficient, there is no room for fans. Passive cooling just isn’t adequate, so light bars need a different kind of active cooling. The answer? Water cooling.

Using water to cool grow lights is not a new idea – growers have cooled HID and fluorescent lights with water before. But never before have we combined the efficiency of LEDs with the power of water cooling. Without one, the other isnt worth a ton of investment. Combine them, and youhave a combination that’s good for farmers and good for crops.

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Water-cooled lights come at the perfect time. Indoor ag, booming with innovation and growth, is ready to use them.

In return, water cooled LEDs offer five benefits to farms and their managers:

1) Water cooling removes heat instead of releasing it.

The problems with heat in high density crop production revolve around the fact that most lighting products remove heat from the lights, but not from the growing environment. While LED lifetime and efficiency are improved by lower temperatures, passive cooling like extruded fins and heat sinks onlymove the heat from the lights to the air around them.

Once released in the farm environment, that heat can cause other problems, impacting plant function and promoting pests and disease. Water cooled lights remove the heat with water, which runs to a chilleroutside of the growing environment. No secondary problems.

Screen_Shot_2016-10-05_at_9.55.47_AM.pngWater flows through the center of the light bars in a daisy-chain plumbing system, and finally is routed to a chiller outside.

2) Water cooling allowshigh intensity.

High-density growers need lights that can act as inter-lighting close up to the plant canopy. But the passive cooling on most bars is limited, and light designers have to give up wattage to avoid overheating.

Low wattage means fewer diodes, and this means lower intensity. Even with low wattage, a lot of LEDs spend time slightly overheated, which cuts their lifetime.

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At this point, farmers are seeing less production because of low light intensity. (And more frequent replacement costs.)

3) Better efficiency and lifetime= lower costs!

Higher efficiency is something that farmers should get excited about. It means that you spend more electricity on light and less on heat.

LEDs are rated at an expected operating temperature, which determines the efficiency and lifetime of the LED. When you cool them better, you lower that operating temperature. This completely rewrites the efficiency and lifetime of the LED! It means fewer replacement costs (esp. because you can replace individual boards yourself) and more light production.

That’s a win-win.

4) Farmers have more direct control over heat, so HVAC needs shrink.

Heat input into the growing environment is by far the biggest factor that called for HVAC, and now greatly reduced. Water-cooled LEDs give farmers more control over heat and cooling.

Because the system is integrated, you’re no longer playing different systems against each other (lights and cooling used to work against each other, not together). This means that capital expense (CapEx) will be reduced because HVAC is pricey, and you can reduce operating costs (OpEx), because chilled water systems are typically more efficient than HVAC.

Now that everything is integrated and working together, a lot of other processes become more efficient as well. For instance, if Farmer Joe wants to deliver more light to the plants, he would have to install more HVAC to deal with the extra heat. In a water cooled system, its all sized properly. I can adjust intensity without making changes to the rest of the operation.

5) Standardized controls mean more experience, tips, and info for farmers.

Integrated water cooling means that no matter where a farm is located, farmers can operate using the same principles and techniques. This means a rapidly-evolving web of support and resources.

Standardization of environmental control means two things:

1) Farms dont have to be recreated for each type of climate. This means less investment, less time, and a smoother operation.
2) Progress and information can be shared. Thousands of minds solving the same problems and innovating towards the same goals multiplies the rate at which farming is improved.

In the end, smart environmental control through water-cooled lights is a key part to the democratization of farming.

How will farmers get water-cooled LEDs in their farms?

Right now, water cooled lights bring the most value to the people who are dealing with heat and density problems the worst: indoor farmers. The CoolBar comes as part of the ZipFarm system and are installed by an install team.

Learn more about the CoolBar in the product guide.