Maximized LED Efficiency: not the fastest path to profit?

Busting Myths & Maximizing Savings with TotalGrow HI-Tops

  • Total cost matters: It’s crucial to consider total cumulative costs (initial + operating) when comparing lights.
  • Incentives factor in: Some utilities like Consumers Energy provide significant incentives based on power consumption/efficacy, not directly on power reduction.
  • Multiple options available: TotalGrow offers HI-Top lights with varying efficacies (2.6-3.3 µmol/J) and prices.
  • Lower efficacy can be best: The 2.6 µmol/J option, while less efficient, fully qualifies for incentives, lowering upfront costs and leading to faster ROI for most growers with limited light usage/shorter grow seasons.
  • Higher efficacy options exist: Higher efficiency models are available, but the ROI takes longer, making them less attractive for many greenhouse growers with less annual hours of operation. When annual power costs are high, higher-efficacy lights become more valuable.
  • Comparison: Compared to competitors, TotalGrow’s lower-cost options offer better bottom-line value for many growers.

Recent conversations within the Michigan growing community have raised questions about the TotalGrow HI-Top series, especially the base-efficacy model with seemingly too-good-to-be true incentive payback. The underlying question regards the trade-off between upfront cost and operational efficiency. Today, we aim to move beyond rumors and shed light on the facts, providing a data-driven analysis of the HI-Top’s value proposition within the context of Michigan’s energy landscape and grower needs.

We understand the importance of making informed decisions, especially when it comes to lighting, a major contributor to both yield and operational costs. Let’s address the elephant in the room – efficiency vs. total cost of ownership (TCO) in the context of Consumers Energy incentives and your unique growing needs.

The Incentive Landscape

Michigan growers fortunate enough to be under the Consumers Energy umbrella enjoy access to significant lighting incentives. However, these incentives, unlike some programs, are based on the total LED lighting power installed, not solely on power reduction, as long as the lights meet several strict efficacy, reliability, and safety standards. This creates a unique opportunity to leverage strategically chosen lights for maximum financial benefit, giving you a competitive advantage in the market.

Here’s where TotalGrow’s HI-Top lineup enters the scene. We offer multiple versions with varying efficacies (2.6-3.3 µmol/J), allowing you to optimize your TCO based on your specific circumstances.

The “Consumers Special” HI-Top: A Strategic Powerhouse

Turning our attention to the centerpiece of our discussion, the “Consumers Special” HI-Top 660W boasting an efficiency of 2.6 µmol/J. While its efficiency rating may not top the charts, the following analysis will reveal its unique value proposition within the Michigan (and similar) markets, especially considering the cost leadership strategy it offers. Worth noting, this base HI-Top efficacy level still produces 50%+ more light per watt than HPS lights.

This meticulously designed light strikes a perfect balance, qualifying for incentives that regularly value 100% of the lighting costs from Consumers Energy, translating to drastic upfront cost savings. This can be crucial in a competitive market, where margins are often tight. While it might consume slightly more power compared to higher-efficiency options, remember, we’re talking about TCO, not just raw numbers.

ROI Reigns Supreme

Let’s crunch some numbers with a realistic scenario: a 24×196 bay, $.14/kWh electricity, 15% volume discount on lights, and 18 hours/day usage. The results are clear:

  • The lower-cost “Consumers Special” HI-Top 660W boasts the lowest TCO until 28 months of light use, which is typically several years of operating.
  • For common usage patterns (3-4 months/year), it takes 7-9 years for a higher-efficiency model to pay back its initial cost difference. These premium price models therefore aren’t the most competitive choice given the use case outlined above.

Our analysis suggests that, for a significant portion of Michigan growers, the combined savings from the utility incentive and lower upfront cost of the 2.6 µmol/J  “Consumers Special” may outweigh the slightly higher operating expenses.

Ultimately, choosing the optimal grow light solution requires careful consideration of individual needs and financial priorities. Not to mention that a lower implementation cost allows broader implementation, improving more yields, revenue, and other profit-increasing aspects of the business than over-investing in a smaller area due to budget limitations.

Beyond Michigan: TotalGrow, Your Lighting Ally

While this specific example highlights the magic of the “Consumers Special” for Michigan growers, the core principle applies beyond borders. We, at TotalGrow, go the extra mile to understand your unique needs and utility landscape. We analyze various options, including incentives available, to recommend the light that maximizes your profitability, giving you a competitive advantage in your specific market.

Whether you’re in Michigan or another state or even abroad, know this: we prioritize your success, and sometimes, that means suggesting a lower-cost option like the “Consumers Special” if it leads to a faster and higher ROI in your specific context.

ROI-Focused Lighting Solutions

Transparency and trust are our guiding principles. We believe in empowering growers with knowledge and options, not pushing a one-size-fits-all approach. The “Consumers Special” HI-Top story is just one example of how we work tirelessly to align your financial goals with the right lighting solution.

We’re in your corner, analyzing, strategizing, and innovating to ensure your grow room or greenhouse shines bright, both figuratively and financially. We will meticulously assess your specific needs and present all relevant data, enabling you to determine the ROI for your unique variables.

Ready to explore the HI-Top lineup and discover the perfect fit for your operation? Contact us, we’re here to unlock the full potential of your growing operation.


Q: Is the “Consumers Special” HI-Top the best option for every Michigan grower?

A: Not necessarily, especially for indoor growers with higher annual hours of use and cooling needs. While it shines in many situations, the ideal light choice depends on your unique circumstances. Factors like light usage patterns, specific utility incentives, and budget play a crucial role. We recommend discussing your needs with our experts to explore all HI-Top options and identify the one that maximizes your ROI and overall success.

Q: What if I’m not in Michigan? Can the HI-Top lineup still benefit me?

A: Absolutely. While the “Consumers Special” is tailored to maximize Michigan incentives, both this model and other HI-Top models provide excellent efficiency and value across diverse regions. Plus, our team delves into your specific utility landscape and incentives to recommend the light that aligns with your financial goals.

Q: Does a lower-cost light like the “Consumers Special” mean sacrificing quality?

A: Not at all. As our 5-year warranties and litany of testimonials suggest, we prioritize offering high-quality, reliable lights across our entire lineup. Even our lower-cost options adhere to rigorous standards and deliver the performance you expect from TotalGrow. Remember, the key is selecting the light that optimizes your TCO and aligns with your specific needs, not just chasing the highest raw efficiency numbers. Keep in mind that the driver/power supply is the most likely cause of failure for an LED light, and all HI-Top models utilize the same top-end driver solutions.

Q: What is the difference between “efficacy” and “efficiency”?

A: Efficiency is the correct term when the output is a percent of the input, e.g. 0.5W of light energy produced from 1W of electrical energy = 50% efficiency (both units are watts). Efficacy is used when the output is a different unit or product than the input, e.g. 2.6 micromoles (µmol) of photons generated per joule of electrical energy input = 2.6 µmol/J efficacy. Clear as mud? Reach out, we’d be happy to go through it with you.

Q: Where can I learn more about the HI-Top lineup and find the perfect fit for my grow?

A: Explore our website to learn more about the HI-Top variations and their specifications. Additionally, don’t hesitate to contact our knowledgeable team. We’ll delve into your specific requirements and guide you towards the light that illuminates your path to success!

Jeff Mastin

Director of Lighting Science & Products

For over 12 years, TotalGrow has empowered growers to achieve their full potential. More than just selling lights, Biologist Jeff Mastin crafts customized lighting strategies through data-driven solutions and partnerships with growers, research institutions, and utility companies. This commitment to innovation and partnership ensures TotalGrow clients maximize results and enjoy significant savings. Over 1000 growers have trusted TotalGrow to illuminate their path to success with the latest technology and expert guidance.