Grow lights are the single most important piece of your indoor grow room - lets break down the best grow lights. Those who are going to grow plants indoors need to think about the grow lights they are going to be using. It is important to remember that even though they might all seem to be the same to the untrained eye, not all light is equal. Plants will grow better depending on the type and color of light being used, which is one of the most important factors to consider when you are choosing the best indoor grow lights.
Metal Halide and High-Pressure Sodium (HID) Grow Lights
The HID, or high intensity discharge, lights for growing are popular amongst many growers today. The two main types of lights that fall into this category are metal halide and high-pressure sodium. The biggest difference between these two types of lights are that they will fall at opposite ends of the spectrum. The metal halide lights emit a cooler blue-white light, while the high-pressure sodium lights will emit a red light. Many growers find that having both lights is a good option. They will utilize the MH lights during the vegetative phase of the plant’s light, and the HPS lights for the flowering phase. For those who only want, or who can only afford, one of these types of lights, the HPS lights are the better option overall. The most popular of these types of lights are 600W, as this provides a nice balance of light emitted and efficiency for electrical consumption.
HID grow lights have been the golden standard of the grow light world for decades, and their watt to lumen ratio and light spectrum have many professional growers won over. They do however require three crucial components (bulb, ballast, and reflector) to work which adds to both the initial cost and complexity. There are two main types of HID lights: MH (Metal Halide) and HPS (High Pressure Sodium). MH’s bluish light is great for the vegetative period, while HPS’ reddish-yellow light offers a near perfect light spectrum for flowering.
The majority of the ballasts we sell can be plugged into a standard 120V or 240V outlet. Without a reflector, HID lights have too large of a light footprint and need to be reduced. Different size reflectors allow you to customize your light footprint.
- High intensity light
- Relatively inexpensive despite multiple components - can be purchased as a kit
- Favorite light among professionals
- Dimmable ballasts allow you to change wattage giving you control over footprint, power usage, and reduces the strain young plants may feel with higher wattage
- These bulbs need a special hood and ballast before they can be plugged into a regular light socket
- High heat output - will need to be removed from the room
- High height requirement - depending on wattage these lights will need to be around 1-2 feet away from plants
- Bulbs will need to be replaced every 1-2 years, but they are inexpensive
Double Ended HID grow lights improve on the quality and quantity of light compared to single ended HID grow lights. Double Ended HID lights commonly offer growers a 10-30% increase in both light intensity and PAR output. DE globes are also more durable and last longer than traditional SE (single ended) globes.
- All the great benefits that single ended HID grow lights have, but with the added benefits of bigger yields, less energy use, and lower heat output
- While more affordable in the long run compared to SE setups, they have a high initial cost
Fluorescent Grow Lights
These lights are very common among indoor growers who are working from home, generally because they are simple to install, and they are energy efficient when compared with some of the other options, such as incandescent lights. The bulbs also have a long life, with many lasting up to 20,000 hours.
These types of grow lights provide blue light for the plants, and they can be a good option for starting some seedlings. In addition, you will find there tends to be little heat emitted from the bulbs, which means they can be closer to the plants, reducing the space you need and limiting the amount of exhaust you will need to keep the room the right temperature.
For those who like the idea of fluorescent grow lights, but who also want to make sure that they have both ends of the spectrum represented, these can be a fantastic option. They will offer not only the blue spectrum, but also the red spectrum, which has the potential to be a better choice for growth overall. The newest version of these lights is T-5, and even though they offer a lot of light, they remain energy efficient. In fact, they can offer three times as much light as a traditional fluorescent bulb while keeping the wattage the same.
Fluorescent lights are often used by beginners due to their low price, low heat output, and the familiarity that comes with them. Household CFLs (compact fluorescent) fall under this category along with fluorescent tubes like T5 bulbs, which are popular with growers on a budget or who only want to grow 1-2 plants at a time. Most of our fluorescent options run on 120 volts and can be plugged into a standard home outlet.
- Very affordable startup cost
- Low heat output
- Great for growers whose grow space is short on height - these lights need to be very close to plants
- These lights are simply not as intense as other options
LED Grow Lights
One of the most common and popular types of grow lights to use are LED lights. These lights are relatively small, and they are easy to install and set up. Even with a heatsink attached, they are generally light enough to hang with ease. These types of light can provide a maximum amount of red and blue light, which is great for the overall growth of the plant.
LED grow lights are often called the lights of the future, but that future is just about here. They have been rapidly coming down in price and are usually sold as a complete unit - meaning you can plug most of them straight into a regular 120V home outlet. Soon they will rival HID lights in professional growing operations, and many home growers are already switching over. LEDs have a much smaller light footprint compared to HID lights and do not require a reflector.
- Extremely low heat output
- High intensity light with some models having adjustable spectrums for vegetative and bloom.
- Very affordable in the long run - the lights have an incredibly long lifespan and they are extremely energy efficient
- High initial cost
- Lots of confusion regarding best light spectrum and diode color ratio.
- High height requirement - Often these lights need to be at least 24” away from plants
CMH Grow Lights
Ceramic Metal Halide or Light Emitting Ceramic grow lights operate similar to HID lights, but instead of using quartz it uses a ceramic arc tube. Many CMH lights are “plug-and-play” which means they have a ballast and reflector included, and can usually be plugged right into a standard house outlet (120V) or a 240V outlet.
In addition to providing your setup with the broadest spectrum of light by creating a light source with similarities to the sun, there are plenty of other benefits that can come from using this lighting. The lights can provide UV lighting, along with a high color rendering index rating, and better overall color stability when compared with other types of grow lights.
The bulbs tend to be quite efficient, as well. They have been shown to be about 20% more efficient than a traditional metal halide bulb, as the yield of light per watt is higher. These types of bulbs tend to last longer than some of the other types of grow lights, too. They can work for 24,000 hours, which is longer than halogen and incandescent bulbs.
- High lumen and Par output
- Low heat output and energy efficient
- Bulbs last longer and keep their brightness longer than traditional HID grow lights
- Offer a natural light spectrum i.e when the lights are on they don’t “color” your plants purple like LED lights or yellow like HPS, and this make spotting plant issues very easy
- Smaller light footprint than their HID counterparts
- Not as common and as such they are more expensive.