If you’re looking for an affordable LED grow light to break into this exciting new market, Mars Hydro (or “MarsHdyro” as Amazon spells it) has an economical solution for you. The benefits of LED grow lights are already well known. They’re significantly more efficient than HID lights, producing more viable light per watt than any other technology on the market. This means that you’ll get a better yield than equivalently rated HID lights, and can save money while you’re doing it. By this logic, the Mars Hydro Reflector should be an obvious purchase.
Unfortunately, the primary disadvantage to LED grow lights is the up-front cost. Sure, you’ll save money over time. But indoor grow operations take several months before you’ll begin to see a return. If you’re turned off by the purchase price of LED lighting, you’ll definitely want to check out the Mars Hydro Reflector. On paper, the Mars Hydro Reflector looks like one of the best deals on the market. But before we can recommend them, we’ll have to try them out and see if they can live up to the high standard of professional-grade LED grow lights.
Construction & Design
These lights are enclosed in a space-saving panel. The bottom face of the unit is covered with a specially designed reflector that carefully shapes the light to the correct spectrum. The backs of the LEDs are connected directly to a special cooling system. It’s face-mounted design allows them to keep these panels much more compact than equivalently priced models, letting you use your grow space more effectively.
On the back, you’ve got four anchored mount points that lets you string the lights up at the correct height. The exhaust fans are located on the back, as are the power inputs. This means that you’ll need to keep a little space between the top of the light panel and the ceiling. In spite of this, their thin design means that they’ll still be suitable for use in compact grow rooms.
These lights use a very thin aluminum sheet to make up the panel. Internally, they’ve got an aluminum frame that provides a little more rigidity. Each of the mounting points is anchored directly onto the frame, ensuring that they’re durable when treated correctly. While the thin paneling keeps the weight down, it does mean that they won’t hold up to much abuse. As long as you don’t drop these panels, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Visually, the lights are given an attractive light green coat of paint. They certainly stand out a little more than the more industrial looking models. If design is important to you, this is one of the few grow lights that will cater to your needs.
The MarsHydro Reflector is available in 4 different models. You can get the Reflector 48, Reflector 96, Reflector 144, and Reflector 192. Each of these models refers to the number of LEDs located on a panel. Obviously, the more LEDs you have the higher your light output. This simple design allows differently sized lights to be used in conjunction with each other. If you’re just starting out, this is a great way to start small.
Energy Use & Efficiency
Although they are not the most power efficient LED grow lights on the market, they are still much more efficient than HIDs. The highest end model, the Reflector192, uses 410 Watts (± 5%) at 110V. In an industrial environment, you can cut this power draw to 397W on a 220V circuit. Where light output is concerned, this light can easily replace a 450 Watt HPS/HID/MH light fixture.
If you’ve been shopping around for grow lights, you might be a little surprised at these efficiency values. Looking strictly at power draw, it appears that they are only 10% more efficient than HPS lights. The reason for this is the 5W LED lamps. They require more power to produce the same amount of light output. In an inexpensive lighting system, this is actually a good thing. When LEDs are pushed to their limit, they need complicated cooling systems to prevent them from burning out. Those cooling systems are just not possible in this price bracket. The previous generation of the Reflector series suffered from disappointing lamp life. Increasing the power rating was the best way for them to improve the longevity of these lights, without increasing the cost.
When calculating your efficiency, another thing to consider is the transformer. The transformer is one of the largest sources of power loss in LED systems. This means that a single Reflector192 will be more power efficient than four Reflector48s. While this isn’t the most power efficient design, the ability to start small and scale up is certainly financially efficient.
Most growers who are interested in the Mars Hydro Reflector series LED Grow lights will be on a tight budget. If you don’t have quite enough money for the top-level model, the smaller ones still offer great value.
# 5W LEDs
Light Spectrum, PAR & PPF
When it comes to growing, not all light is equal. Some wavelengths of light don’t even produce synthesis. For this reason, we can’t compare grow lights just by measuring their light output. We have to measure the amount of usable Light output. Specifically, we’re looking for PAR, or Photosynthetically Active Radiation.
Now, The Mars Hydro Reflector doesn’t just blast light all over the room. To keep them efficient, reflectors are used to focus the light into a specific area. This means that the PAR values are different depending on where the light is measured from. As you can see from the diagram above, these lights produce 1200 umol of PAR at the center, slowly fading to 169 umol as you move outside of the coverage area.
These LED grow lights use a number of different spectrum LEDs in order to cover the bulk of the PAR wavelengths. They produce light from 430 to 440nm, 450~475nm 620~630nm, 650~660nm, and of course white.
PAR at 18 Inches
Coverage at 18 Inches
2 x 2
12 x 12 x 2
2 x 3
23 x 10 x 2
2 x 4
28 x 10 x 2
4 x 4
26 x 21 x 2
When you have a grow light that spreads PAR evenly over a grow area, you’ve got a lot more flexibility with your coverage area. With the Reflector series lights, you’re going to want to keep your plants away from the edges of your coverage area. Remember, the above values provide an average for the given area. Even though the Reflector 192 is really just four Reflector 48’s in the same case, you can see how much better your light output gets.
What does this mean for you? These lights are ideal for use in compact, dense grows. Because there is so much additional PAR at the center of the coverage area, the light will be better equipped to penetrate dense canopy. Another thing to consider is the number of lights you’ll be using. At minimum, you’ll want to work with either a single Reflector 192 or four Reflector 48’s. While this is certainly a challenge, it’s by no means an obstruction. With a little creativity, anyone can put these lights to work. If you want to see it in action, check out this video:
Growth & Bloom Function
Both the type of light and the lighting schedule will need to change throughout the growth of your plant. Historically, growers have had to change out bulbs as they move from growth to bloom. Fortunately, the Reflector series lights are capable of producing the correct spectrum for both cycles.
On the side of the light, there are two switches. One is labeled growth, the other bloom. During the growth stage, you’ll need to leave only the growth switch on. During bloom, you’ll want both of them to be turned on. During the final cycle, your plants need a lot more light. For grows operations with 192 or fewer LEDs, you’re going to want to reduce the height to 12” to ensure your plants get enough PAR. Otherwise, you’ll likely have trouble flowering them.
In order to keep costs low, the Mars Hydro Reflector does not have any special remote connectivity features. They only have a single input for the power cord. If you’re looking to schedule these lights, our recommendation would be to attach the power cable to a simple light timer. The light is already incredibly inexpensive, and a timer will add very little cost to your lights.
Air flow design is quite simple. Two high power fans on the top pull air in through the side vents, where they pass over the cooling fins on the back of each LED light. Some grow lights are pushing their LEDs to their highest potential, requiring much higher levels of cooling. The MarsHydro Reflector isn’t pushed too hard, so cooling isn’t quite as essential. There are, however, two considerations with this design.
First, because the case is so compact, there is quite a bit of air flowing through a small space. This makes these lights a little louder than some, although the nose level is still reasonably low. If you’re setting up a very large grow room, it may be recommended to add some additional air circulation above the lights. But for less than five or six panels, the included cooling is more than adequate.
Quality & Warranty
When we first saw how affordable these lights were, we couldn’t help but be a little skeptical. If you do a little research, you’ll find that the original 3W version of these panels had some serious reliability problems. Fortunately, we’re happy to say that Mars Hydro handled the situation well. They replaced defective panels for their customers, and upgraded the LEDs to a 5W model that will not suffer from burnout quite as easily.
Mars Hydro has a service center located in California. If you every have any problems, their customer service promises to respond within 8 working hours. Should you need a repair, they’re able to complete the repair or replacement within a single working day. The lights also include a 1 year warranty, so any issues during your first year will be fully covered.
Although we didn’t have any issues with our lights, and the company appears to be responsive, it’s important to consider the price. These lights are sold at a fraction of competing models, so it’s possible that a small number of issues may arise. Fortunately, this issue is mitigated by their impressive customer service. If you’re setting up a very large project, consider purchasing an extra light as a backup. But for the average consumer, we think this is a pretty safe buy.
Are the Mars Hydro Reflector LED Grow Lights Right for You?
If you’re looking for an affordable entry point into the world of LED Grow Lights, the MarsHydro is the perfect choice. Sure, they may not be quite as efficient as the top brands, but you’re still able to get a very high quality product for an impressively low price.
This would be one of our first recommendations for beginners on a budget. You’ll be able to get several years of use out of them, and they don’t come with any unnecessary frills that won’t be necessary for small grows.
If you’re starting up a massive grow and require reliability above all else, you may want to look at the Platinum Series Grow Lights. But if you’re tight on cash, this is the cheapest LED grow light that money can buy.