Home > Uncategorized > LED grow lights on the cheap

LED grow lights on the cheap


With all our little seedlings popping up all over the place, I needed some grow lights in a hurry.  In the past I’ve used shop lights from the local big-box hardware store, as well as an official fluorescent grow light – I think I got it from Gardens Alive.  It worked great, but it was very expensive; and this year the bulb got broken.  Tired of constantly buying new bulbs all the time, I looked into LED grow lights.  EXPENSIVE!!!!

So, I thought I’d engineer one myself, in my low-budget way.  I needed something that would be LED-based- to save on power consumption; water-resistant- plants do require moisture; cheap- obviously; and easy to store- since we only use them for a short time each year.  So I came up with something based off of a product I don’t really like – plasticor.  That’s that corrugated plastic stuff that all those political campaign signs are made of.  But it’s light, sturdy, water resistant, and reasonably priced.  I picked some up at my local sign shop, and they even cut it to the size I needed for me.  Since I didn’t care about the color, I got an even better deal on them.

Here’s my bill of materials to make 1 light:

  • 1 piece of plasticor, cut to the size I need on my growing shelf.
  • 1 set of stick-on LED lights (ordered from Amazon)
  • A length of mule tape – you can use rope, or chain – I just had this laying around
  • A 12 volt power adapter – again, had one a bunch laying around



I used a soldering iron to melt the holes in the plasticor that I needed for the mule tape and the LED strip’s power cord.  You could probably use a hole punch, or a knife, or scissors, but the soldering iron make a nice neat round hole.  This is the view from the top side.25479556245_b8a28acdbb_z

I tied a piece of mule tape, cut twice the width of the plasticor at each end, thru the holes I’d “drilled” with the soldering iron.  I then slid the plug for the LED strip thru the center hole.

On the other side, I started the adhesive for the LED’s and ran them in a sorta-circular pattern sticking them down tight to the plasticor.  They don’t make sharp bends very well, I tried to do square corners on 1 of the others I made, but it didn’t come out very well.  Here’s the LED’s all stuck down and ready to light up.25361241742_b4cf981f92_z

And here it is plugged in to the 12 volt power supply.25184107560_4c7f136218_z

Here it is hanging on the shelf over the seedlings, providing the light they need to grow and thrive.25114747769_f6bd675b4f_b

I simply tied another piece of mule tape to the loop that I made, and then tied that to the shelf at the height I want.  It’s adjustable so they can be raised up as the seedlings get taller.  Once we’re finished starting our seedlings, these should store nicely; taking up a lot less space, plus without having to worry about broken bulbs.

All together, each grow light cost about $14 in materials that I had to buy, and took approximately 10 minutes apiece to assemble.  To purchase a pre-built LED grow light would cost $35 or more apiece, and take up 4 times as much space.  We should see a decrease in the power usage as well, 24855509763_5c4d634370_zsince these are LED lights.  Each strip of 150 LED’s draws 24 watts, and provides PLENTY of light.  If you look in the window at night, our pantry is VERY bright.  I have the power connected to a power “strip” so I can just switch them all off when we go to bed at night.  Hopefully this bit of engineering helps someone out, and gives a jump start on getting the garden plants started.


Until next time…..

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Aunt Martha
    March 7, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Cool – thank you! I am always using the “CASE” method – Copy and Steal Everything. Happy growing :)!

  2. March 7, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    LOL! Never heard it referred to that way, but it works! I always thought of it as “improving on existing design” 🙂
    I’m re-potting things like crazy, seems like our little seedlings are doing exceptionally well this year. Hopefully we don’t have any of the crazy late frosts that always trick me, I’d love it if all our starts made it!

  3. March 8, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Good info. You didn’t say anything about the $160 shelves your seedlings sit on.

    • March 8, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      Hi extexanwannabee – thanks for stopping by. Oh, the shelves – I scrounged them up for FREE. It’s amazing what people get rid of – if I see it on the side of the road in the trash pile it’s up for grabs!

      • March 8, 2016 at 4:20 pm

        Wow! What a deal! Those shelves run around $160 depending on how many shelves one actually installs on the legs. Very sturdy too.

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