How Many Watts Do You You Need For Red Light Therapy?
When shopping for Red Light Therapy panels, the most prominent feature is becoming the Watts (W). Many red light panel companies are now simply naming their panels by the number of Watts.
Should you get the 45W, 300W, 450W, 600W, 900W, or 1500W model from certain brands? What are Watts and what does it mean? Is a panel with 5 Watt LEDs better than one with 3 Watt LEDs?
Lets first understand the meaning of Watts in red light therapy, and then how to choose the right amount of Watts.
What is a Watt?
A Watt is a unit of power named after James Watt, a Scottish inventor. It describes the energy (Joules) delivered per second. In other words, Watts describe the speed at which energy is transferred.
Power and Energy can have many forms, such as electricity, heat, chemical energy, mechanical energy, and radiant (light) power. Accordingly, Watts can be used universally to describe all of these different types of power. So the context is always important when talking about Watts, which we will see soon.
Four Types of Watts:
Believe it or not, there are 4 types of Watts commonly discussed in Red Light Therapy (maybe more)!
Rated Watts: The maximum electrical power rating for all of the LEDs.
Consumed or Actual Watts: The electrical power that is actually consumed by the device.
Optical, Emitted, “Light”, or Radiant Watts: The total amount of radiant (optical) power emitted by the device. Where we may say Optical or Light as a general term even though the power can also be invisible Near-Infrared.
mW/cm^2 (milliWatts per centimeter squared): Is the intensity of the light. Which we can see is simply the Power (milliWatts) per unit area (cm^2). Sometimes called the Power Density, or Irradiance. It takes 1000 milliWatts (mW) to equal 1 Watt.
Now we will see now why it is important it is to understand the different types of Watts.
Why Rated Watts?
Many red light panel companies are naming their panels according to the Rated Watts. Most high-powered LEDs come in 3W or 5W style, but there are also many other types of LEDs like SMD and COB.
Lets look at the MitoRed MitoPro 300 panel, which has 60 LEDs that are rated at 5 Watts each. The math is simple, 60 times 5 equals 300. Hence, the name “300.”
Now, lets look at the PlatinumLED BioMax 300 panel, which has 100 LEDs rated at 3 Watts each. Same math, 100 time 3 equals 300. Hence, the name “300.”
Despite being the same “rated” Watts, we see a pretty big difference in the number of LEDs. The PlatinumLED Biomax version of the “300” model has 100 LEDs, and the MitoRed MitoPro version has only 60 LEDs.
Supposedly, the MitoRed MitoPro should be consuming more power with their big 5 Watt LEDs to compensate for the lower number of LEDs.
The consumed watts are the amount of electricity consumed by the LED device. It does not tell us a lot about the intensity yet. That is because LEDs aren’t perfectly efficient (usually only 15% to 30% conversion from electricity to light), as well some electrical power is spent in the drivers and fans.
The consumed watts for any device that plugs into a wall outlet is easily measured with an “electricity usage monitor” – with a popular brand being called a Kill-A-Watt meter. To make things easier, many Red Light Panels will disclose the consumed watts transparently now on their websites.
We can again compare the “300 Watt” version of the MitoPro and BioMax panels like we did before.
According to their websites:
MitoRed MitoPro 300 consumes 90 Watts of power.
PlatinumLED Biomax 300 consumes 140 Watts of power.
Hmm… if we trust these power consumption numbers, the MitoPro is severely lagging behind the Biomax – despite claiming to have the same Rated Power with the 5W LEDs.
In fact, when we do the math backwards, then we see:
MitoRed MitoPro 300 consumes 1.5 Watts per LED.
PlatinumLED Biomax 300 consumes 1.4 Watts per LED.
So, if we ignore the losses from drivers and fans – we see that the LEDs in BOTH brands are far-underutilized according to their “rated” power of 3W or 5W each. This is normal for LEDs to be under-driven, but it can certainly be confusing to the average consumer who isn’t aware of the differences between Rated and Consumed Watts.
And the MitoRed LEDs are not consuming significantly more power like we would have assumed for a 5W LED. They are barely consuming more than PlatinumLED’s standard 3W LEDs. Since the MitoRed is both lower power consumption and lower # of LEDs, it would be safe to assume it is emitting less power than the same-rating PlatinumLED panel. Unfortunately, It seems like neither the PlatinumLED Biomax 300 nor the MitoRed MitoPro 300 panels have posted 3rd party data for optical output so we can’t be sure.
Now it is getting interesting! More important than Rated or Consumed Watts, we need to know how many Watts of optical power is actually emitted from the device.
To do this properly, usually companies need to send their panels to a 3rd party lab. Where they measure the panel inside an integrating sphere to measure the Total Watts output.
Entire panels are placed inside the integrating sphere to measure the total watts output.
Obviously not many companies are getting 3rd party testing because they pretend it is too expensive. Lets compare a couple of panels that DO post some 3rd party data posted.
MitoRed MitoMax (Rated for 1000 Watts) emits 80.6 Watts of optical power. *
Joovv Solo 3.0 (Rated for 450 Watts) emits 75.3 Watts of optical power. *
GembaRed Reboot (Rated for 450 Watts) emits 71.3 Watts of optical power.
*Data from the respective companies’ website. No affiliation.
So we do see that indeed the MitoRed MitoMax is edging ahead of both the Joovv and GembaRed panels by 7.5 to 13% of optical power.
However, if you only compared the Rated Power for all 3 of these lights, you might have expected the MitoRed MitoMax to emit DOUBLE the power since it is 1000W compared to only 450W for the other two panels. And to reinforce the deception, MitoRed also uses solar power meter measurements which read falsely high to claim to be twice the intensity as the competitors.
Finally, Intensity (mW/cm^2)!
Lets finally discuss intensity. You will notice the companies that have 3rd party data are very careful to NOT show you the intensity from their 3rd party.
That is strange, wouldn’t these companies want to verify their intensity claims by a 3rd party? Isn’t that the point of getting 3rd party testing?
The typical way to test intensity is with an appropriate laser power meter or spectroradiometer. Since companies lie about intensity with solar power meters, we need to get creative.
One simple way to check intensity is to take the Total Watts (from the 3rd party data) and divide by the surface area of the device (area in square centimeters cm^2). This will give us an Average Intensity assuming an even output (usually at some distance from the light, depending on Beam Angle).
So lets look at the same panels again:
MitoRed MitoMax is 80.6 Watts divided by 1,916 cm^2* = 42.1 mW/cm^2
Joovv Solo 3.0 is 75.3 Watts divided by 2,013 cm^2* = 37.4 mW/cm^2
GembaRed Reboot is 71.3 Watts divided by 2,322 cm^2 = 30.7mW/cm^2
*Surface area numbers also come from the respective companies’ website. No affiliation.
So, we can see that the MitoRed and Joovv aren’t emitting an Average Intensity anywhere close to their claim of 100mW/cm^2. And the GembaRed Reboot Average Intensity corresponds with being 12 inches away from our panel, which might make sense based on our beam angle.
Now we can easily see why both Joovv and MitoRed are NOT transparent about the intensity that their 3rd party measures. The 3rd party data would prove they emit significantly less intensity than these companies advertise (or imply) at treatment distance.
How Many Watts do we need?
Now that we have an understanding of the different types of Watts in Red Light Therapy, and the massive amount of deception with these numbers – What type of Watts is important, and how many Watts do we need?
The intensity, sometimes called the Power Density, Irradiance, and units of mW/cm^2 tends to be very important. This is what is most often reported in the clinical science when talking about dose. Typically the effective range is between 5mW/cm^2 to 50mW/cm^2 in most panels.
Of course, more intensity does not always mean better results, and sometimes using lower power lights for longer time is more practical. Lower intensities might be used in products that are used with skin contact, where higher intensities are used for panels that are further away to counteract the reflection losses. Eventually, much intensity will start to cause heating or eye concerns.
We think the Total Optical Watts can also be important. Right now, Total Watts is the only reliable way to compare 3rd party tested red light panels. In the future, it could be very important to understand the Total Watts and Total Energy that the body is being exposed to, especially for large full-body treatments. But, we will need more studies and data to investigate how to properly dose full body red light therapy.
It is important to understand all the different types of Watts in red light therapy, and their meaning. This way you can ignore some of the misleading tactics and focus on what is important.
The Rated Watts can be quite misleading, especially since the LEDs are underdriven anyway. The Consumed Watts might actually be a cheap and easy basis for comparison – if you understand it is electrical power and not emitted power.
The Total Optical Watts seems to be used as a misleading cover-up for companies that HAVE 3rd party data but don’t want to disclose their true intensity. However, it may have some relevance to help us understand dosing and effectiveness in the future.
The most relevant number for dosing is usually the intensity (mW/cm^2). This is what is most prominently referenced in the clinical research.
We hope that companies in the future will measure intensity accurately and be honest and transparent about the results. Then, once we have realistic data – there will be better guidance for people who want to be scientific about dosing.