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If you have been paying attention to new advancements in grow lighting technology, chances are you’ve seen references to “COB” lighting. COB – which stands for “Chip-on-Board” – is a recent development in LED packaging technology where multiple LED chips are mounted directly onto a single substrate to form a singular module. Due to their many advantages over standard lighting options, full spectrum COB LED grow lights are creating a buzz within the hydroponics and cannabis growing communities. Let’s start by looking at some of these advantages, and then review the best COB LED grow lights on the market today.
The Drawback of SMD LED Grow Lights
As advanced as SMD (Surface Mounted Diode) LED technology is compared to older DIP (Dual In-Line Package), the packaging style of SMD still has a few notable flaws. For one, SMD lacks an efficient use of space, which is evident by the visible gaps between each chip. Another drawback of SMD is the less-than-ideal heat dissipating features. Fortunately, the latest LED grow light packaging style of COB LED lighting addresses both of these limitations
The Advantage of COB LED Grow Lights
So what is exactly is Chip-on-Board technology? The most notable design advantage of COB packaging is its ability to accommodate nine or more LED diodes on a single chip. LED diodes are bonded directly onto a ceramic, aluminum, or copper substrate to form an array on a single module. When a COB LED grow light is turned on, these diodes emit a controlled light beam with no visible individual light points. Because these lights can pack more chips into the light-emitting area, COB LED lighting maximizes the lumen output per inch and provides a denser array of light vs. other lighting options.
COB LED technology is actually quite simplistic. To operate, COB relies on just one circuit with two contacts – regardless of the number of diodes (single circuit design). This means that there are fewer components per LED needed to operate properly. The elimination of the standard LED chip structure packaging (and having fewer components) diminishes the heat generation from each LED chip. In addition, the ceramic/aluminum/copper substrate acts as a heat transfer (when combined with an external heat sink), further improving heat dissipation and increasing its overall efficiency while also lowering its chances of failure. Since each chip is mounted directly onto the substrate (and spot soldering of the individual LED isn’t required), less welding in the manufacture of COB lighting can also translate into lower failure rates.
Disadvantages of COB LED Grow Lights
A major disadvantage in the COB LED packaging is the lack of color-changing features. Additionally, poorly packaged COB lighting can be susceptible to cramming issues, where too many diodes are placed into the same substrate. Overcrowding the substrate could lead to overheating issues and result in a shorter lifespan, emitting fewer lumens, and having a lower overall efficiency. If the light is well-constructed, these issues may be non-existent. As COB technology advances, we can expect there to be improved functionality to most of the lighting on the market. For now, the COB LED grow lights of today certainly offer a compelling alternative to standard grow light technologies.
Now that you know a little about COB LED lighting, let’s look at some of the best COB LED grow lights on the market. We will start with a list of the most popular budget-friendly COB LED grow lights currently offered, and follow that with reviews of moderately-priced and advanced (ie, more expensive) COB grow lights.
This next generation Growstar UFO LED grow light includes a Cree COB and 9-Bands of full spectrum light – all at an affordable price. With wavelengths of 380-760nm that include UV & IR – plus a quality Cree COB (3000k) – this light generates high lumen output to ensure good light penetration to hydroponics or soil-based plants. Cannabis, basil, tomatoes, potatoes, pepper, lettuce, etc. will all respond favorably to the illuminating qualities of this grow light.
The Growstar 300W consumes just 108 watts ±10% while replacing a typical 300W HPS or HID. It is able to accommodate a 2.5′ X 2..5′ indoor growing area (or grow tent) at 24” height. Max coverage is roughly 3’x3’. The PAR value is about 710umol at a distance of 8″. The Growstar 300W manages heat very well, and the easy on/off switch makes this an intuitive COB grow light for beginner and expert growers alike.
If you are looking for highly automated COB LED grow light with lots of output, this probably isn’t right for you. However, for under $100, the Growstar 300W is a nice introduction into the world of COB LED grow lights and will serve you well with smaller grows.