Not all spectrums are created equal!
Analyzing photosynthetically active radiation (PUR)
Please keep in mind that the following is purely informational, and should be taken very lightly if at all when considering an LED fixture purchase!
One of the reasons LEDs can be so much more efficient than T5, compact flourescent, and even metal halide is spectrum output. The chlorophyll pigment is green in color, which means that it reflects the green spectrum of light to our eyes so we see it as green. This means that it absorbs all other spectrums of visible light. Check out this graph:
As you can see, plants absorb visible light very well between ~400-500nm and ~650-700nm. The absorbtion rate drops off significantly in the green and yellow spectrums. Here
are some LED emmiter comparisons in terms of specrum. Big thanks to redfishsc
for doing the footwork on this. Notice that the warm white LEDs put out significantly lower blue spectrum spikes, but much higher red-yellow spectrum spikes. Essentially this tells us that cool white LEDs are almost always better for plant growth.
LEDs put out very specific spectrums of light, which are defined by the manufacturer. LED manufacturers can fine tune emmiters to put out exactly the spectrum specified by the client. Since PAR meters measure light between 400-700nm, an LED array putting out less par than a broad spectrum flourescent fixture may actually be putting out more photosynthetically usable radiation (PUR).
Why is this concept important?
Say two LED emmiters read around 100 PAR on a meter. The first LED spikes highest in the 550nm range. The second LED spikes highest in the 450nm range. So while both emmiters have the same PAR value, emmiter two would actually grow plants very well because it is in a range that can be absorbed by the plant, while emmiter one would probably keep plants limping along, if they could even survive.