LED Grow Lights: Essential Education, Comparison, and Buying Guide 

By  Mitch Mandell

 October 20, 2021

Spider Farmer SF1000 Led Grow Light

Spider Farmer SF 1000

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Mars Hydro TS 1000 Led Grow Light

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Vivosun VS1000 Led Grow Light

Vivosun VS1000 LED Grow Light

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If you are in a hurry and want to do a quick comparison between popular LED Grow Lights, you have come to the right place. In addition to taking a good look at the lights and how they are built, we used a PAR meter to compare some popular brands (more on that later on this page).  The 3 most popular are above. Check the links for today's current prices as these lights frequently go on sale.

What you need to know about Growing with LED Lights

LED is an acronym for Light Emitting Diodes and growing with LED lights represents the future of agriculture, and not just marijuana agriculture, ALL agriculture. When it comes to grow lights LED can’t be beat.

Not only are LED grow lights economical, they can actually produce better plants at a lower cost as compared to traditional lighting options like metal halide (MH) and high pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs. 

That was not always the case, but LED grow lights have come a long way in the last 10 years or so.

The first LEDs had relatively low light output and a limited selections of color temperatures. Today’s LED grow lights are so bright you should wear protective eyewear (sun glasses) while working around them. They closely mimic the light spectrum of the sun and come in varieties of colors both visible and invisible, such as infrared and ultraviolet spectral ranges.

Advantages of Using LED Grow Lights as Opposed to Metal Halide or High Pressure Sodium Lights

Using LED lights to grow cannabis, whether it is one or two plants or a huge industrial grow, offers the cultivator many advantages. Let’s explore.

  • The cost of running LED lights is about one third that of running traditional metal halide and high pressure sodium lights.
  • Of course less cost means less electrical usage which is better for the environment over all.
  • Today, most LED lights for growing cannabis canned be dimmed in order to produce just the amount of light you need while using even less power. So you can save even more. HPS/MH lamps use the full light intensity all the time,
  • LED grow lights are incredibly environmentally friendly. An LED light uses no mercury, no lead, no gas or filament, and no fragile glass bulb.
  • LED grow lights run substantially cooler than traditional lights. This is better for your plants but also better for you as cooling your grow tents becomes less of a worry, if any worry at all (depending on ambient temperatures where you live). HPS/MH bulbs also need additional fans for cooling which adds to the electrical costs of growing indoor cannabis. How much cooler are LED grow lights? LED lights for growing marijuana usually run around 100 degrees F.; HPS/MH lights run between 200 – 300 degrees F. depending on the bulb.
  • Because LED growing lights run cooler than conventional grow lights, they are likewise safer to use from a fire prevention perspective.
  • LED lights for growing cannabis have the ability to match the light to the needs of plants. Likewise, cannabis growers should buy lights designed specifically for that purpose. Most of todays LED grow lights are “full spectrum” and have numerous diodes of different color temperatures that attempt to mimic the sun. So, the need for different lights for veg or flower is no longer necessary for the home grower.
  • LED grow lights have a much longer life span compared to HPS lights which might last for a year or so if you’re lucky. LED grow lights, on the other hand, can last up to 8 or more.
  • LED lights for growing are smaller in size and can help you get by with less overall grow space as they can be set closer to the plants.•It wasn’t always the case, but recent tests have shown that LED grow lights produce better crops in terms of plants getting bigger and growing faster, compared to the HPS lights.
  • When you get into more advanced growing, know that LED grow lights can be designed to create specific plant goals such as flowering inhibition, or enhanced rooting.
  • Because less heat is emitted and because UV light can be added to LED lights for growing, there is less chance for bacteria and mold to form on your plants. Likewise, the need for pesticides can be reduced or eliminated.

If you're curious, (or in a hurry):

 👍  This specific LED Light is the most popular with our readers.

This is an excellent grow light, you'll see it is one of the best values for the money you'll find online.

How do LED Growing Lights Work?

LED’s are small electronic components made of two different types of semiconductor materials, one which has a negative charge known as an electron, the other which has a positive charge, known as a hole.

When electric current starts to flow through an LED, it causes the electrons and holes to collide and release energy in the form of photons in a process known as recombination.

Anatomy of an LED Grow Light

The following image shows you the parts of a typical LED light for growing cannabis. All LED grow lights are the same, more or less, but each brand has slight variations in the ways they put these components together and the brands of parts they use.

  • Driver: LED drivers (also known as LED power supplies) are similar to ballasts for fluorescent lamps, they provide the LED lights with the electricity they require to function and perform at their best. Two popular and reputable brand names for drivers are Meanwell and Osram.
  • Dimmer Switch: Since marijuana plants do not require full light during their growing cycles, the dimmer switch lets you control the amount of light your plants receive, and helps reduce the amount of energy required to power the LED grow light.
  • LED Diodes: These are the LED equivalent of lightbulbs, although they do not look like traditional light bulbs. Each tiny diode, and your LED light board witill covered in them, emits a strong, concentrated beam of light.
  • Casing/Housing: This holds the light board.
  • Cooling Ribs: Many LED gow lights have ribbed aluminum housing, this ribbing feature helps keep thing cooler.
  • Hangers: Hangers allow you to hang your LED light for growing inside your grow tent. They also allow you adjust the height of the light so you can move at as your plant(s) grow.
  • Electrical Controller and Cord: This allows you to plug the LED light into a power source. Know that many lights come with outlets that allow you to piggyback the LED growing lights together for larger crops. This is a nice feature if you ever plan to increase the size of your indoor cannabis grow space, as it allows you to control all the lights that are piggybacked together with a single control.

LED Grow Light Terms Defined

You might see the following terms when reading about LED grow lights and while trying to decide what is best for you.

  • Spectrum refers to the combination of colors, both visible and invisible, a given LED grow light produces.
  • Full Spectrum means that the light contains all colors. Full spectrum lights mostly closely resemble sunlight, and are likewise what we are looking for when growing cannabis indoors.
  • Photons refers to the light’s brightness
  • Lumens are a unit of measure that describes the total quantity of light from the visible spectrum that is emitted from a source of light (in all directions).
  • Lux refers to the amount of light that the human eyes sees that actually does reach the plant and is calculated by lumens per meter, squared.
  • IFR is infrared light, which is at the lower end of the light spectrum and invisible to the human eye.
  • UV is invisible ultra-violet light which is at the upper end of the light spectrum.
  • PAR meters measure a spectral range including how many photons fall on the the plants in 1 sec within that spectral range.
  • Photoperiod refers to the number of hours a plant is exposed to light with a 24-hour period.
  • Light uniformity refers to the degree to which the light is equally distributed across the entire canopy of plants (see our comparison tests at the top of this page).

What to Look for When Choosing LED Lights to Grow Cannabis

What should you look for when buying LED lighting for cannabis? To some degree it will depend on your individual situation. But here are some factors to consider:

  • Adjustable dimmer switch – some go in increments; others are fully adjustable. Either will work but all things being equal, more adjustability is better.
  • Does your light have IFR, UV, or both? While you can get quality results with one or the other, all thing being equal, both are better.
  • Watts win! In our tests the lights with more wattage, unsurprisingly, produced more light. Not that any of the lights we tested were bad. You could get good results with all of them and other considerations such as price or heat profiles might come into play. But generally speaking, the more wattage the more light.
  • Is the light made with quality components such as Samsung diodes and Meanwell or Osram drivers? I am not saying off brands can’t work well, they definitely can. But again, with that all things being equal…
  • Does the light have a guarantee?
  • What are the light’s PAR values? A good PAR value to have for flowering is about 1000. That’s not to say you can’t get flowers from lower values, you definitely can. But the higher the PAR value of an LED grow light, the bigger and denser your flowers will be. It’s also important to note that lower PAR values are fine and actually advised through dimming your LED grow light during veg and early flower stages.

Comparison Between Popular LED Grow Light Brands

In addition to taking a good look at the lights and how they are built, we used a PAR meter to compare some popular LED light brands.  

If you don’t know what a PAR meter is, read this page in its entirety and you will become an expert on the topic of using LED lights to grow cannabis. But for those who want to get straight to the point, we did a comparison between a number of popular brands of LED grow lights. The chart below is what we found (by the way, sign up here to be alerted when we add new brands and LED grow lights to the chart, as we do so frequently.

Using a PAR meter inside of a 2x2 tent (perfect for small home grows), we checked the amount of light falling at 17 different locations within the tent.  The chart below shows how much light the PAR meter detected from each light at 12, 18, and 24 inches above the meter.

Reviews of LED Grow Lights:

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