HID vs LED Grow Lights: Which is the Best?

I have noticed over the years, there is a near constant debate among growers about HID vs LED Grow Lights. 

Growers talk about bud yields, light penetration, cooling considerations, power consumption and of course the cost of the equipment. 

Now that LED grow lights have matured, it’s more important than ever to talk about which grow light solution is best, or at least which is best for you.

Which type of grow lights are the most effective? HID vs LED grow lights! Let’s get into it. 

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So what are HID Grow Lights?

The acronym HID stands for High Intensity Discharge. These lights are known for their impressive light output and brightness. I have seen these used in the biggest and best commercial grows throughout the world. 

The lights used today for commercial growing are modernized versions of the gas lamps used for centuries. 

The lights are made from special gas-filled bulbs with two electrodes inside. The electricity arcs from one electrode to the other and interacts with the gas within the bulb, generating a brilliant light.

 

The Best HID Grow Lights

There are many forms of HID lights available today, but the two important ones are Metal Halide (MH) and High Pressure Sodium (HPS). 

Metal Halide lights create blueish spectrum of light that’s best to use during the vegetative stage of a plant’s grow cycle. 

High Pressure Sodium bulbs create a more yellow-gold color that’s optimal for the flowering stage, but still effective in the vegetative stage.

There is a sub-category of Metal Halides called Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) grow lights. These are also HID grow lights, but they use one or two special CMH bulbs, usually 315 watts each. These lights put out an impressive spectrum of light that replicates natural sunlight better than any light I know of. 

 

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What Are LED Grow Lights?

Light Emitting Diode (LED) grow lights are actually a grid of hundreds or thousands of individual LED chips. These chips are known as diodes, and they are capable of producing a specific narrow ranges of color. 

Any individual chip will produce only that specific color, blue, red, ultra violet, infrared, or whatever. They are usually combined in a specific manner to maximize the spectrum of light they produce.

When the diodes are combined, they can appear to create any color to our eyes because of the way light colors mix. However, LED grow lights usually appear purplish in color as you can see in the photo above. 

The light LEDs produce is not as intense as HIDs, and more of them are required to get the same sort of yields that HID lights are capable of producing. Also, the LED grow lights need to be kept very close to the canopy. 

Even still, LED lights are known for their efficiency, cooler operating temperatures, and a comparable set will use less energy than the HID set.

Grow Light Color Spectrums

LED grow lights are designed to offer any light spectrum that you select. Some can be controlled using apps or a touchscreen device. 

That means that the same array of lights can be used throughout the vegetative and flowering stages. There’s no need to swap lights out as is the case with an HID light setup. 

But altering the light spectrum usually means you’re shutting off a portion of the LEDs, thereby lowering the photosynthetic light output. 

Also, the purplish color of the lights can make it very difficult to clearly see the plants leaves and identify problems quickly. However, grow room glasses can correct the color for either HID or LED grow lights, so you can see the plants leaves better.

 

Which is the Best Grow Light?

Deciding which type of light is best isn’t as simple and straightforward as you may think. There are definite benefits and disadvantages with each type of light. Let’s go through some of the major differences when we talk HID vs LED Grow Lights. Hopefully, this information will make it clear which option is best for your needs.


LED Grow Lights Produce Less Heat

LED grow lights at a similar power level to HID grow lights produce significantly less heat. This means you won’t spend as much energy on cooling with an air conditioner. It also makes them a bit better for growing in small concealed spaces. 

On the other hand are HID grow lights from DimLux with NanoTubes, like the 1000 watt HPS and the 630 CMH with Square Wave. The NanoTubes are a DimLux proprietary cooling system that extracts the hottest air from the grow lights directly, using a separate air system.


LED Grow Lights Use Less Air Conditioning

When energy usage is a major concern for your grow operations, LED grow lights will really stand out. Because they require less cooling, they can cut your energy greatly compared to the demands of conventional HID grow lights. 

This makes them a pretty favorable option for very long-term operations in the right conditions. 

I want to repeat the idea of DimLux NanoTubes here because they allow the direct cooling of the bulb, fixture, and ballast. The DimLux NanoTube grow light systems become very competitive with the cooler temperatures of LED grow lights.

 

LEDs are Less Maintenance, or Are They?

Expect HID bulbs to typically last around 10,000 hours for MH and 18,000 hours for HPS. A top quality set of LEDs can last as long as 50,000 to 100,000 hours. This means they require less maintenance. And you won’t have to worry about changing bulbs over top of your active grows nearly as frequently.

BUT!! I have to say constantly adjusting the height of the LEDs over the canopy is a pain in the neck.. and lower back! HID grow lights need fewer height adjustments over the canopy because their light intensity is so much greater. HID grow lights are suspended much higher above the canopy than LED grow lights. As the plant grows closer to the light, the intensity of the HID doesn’t change as dramatically as it does with LEDs. LED grow lights are usually suspended only 6 inches above the canopy.

Think about adjusting the height of your massive LED arrays every couple days during peak growth at the beginning of bloom. Skip a couple days, and the lights might be blocked by new leaves and branches, literally light starving the rest of the plant.


HID Grow Lights are More Reliable than LED Lights for Results

Probably because HID grow lights have been used for indoor growing successfully for far longer than LED lights they’re more straightforward to work with. 

There is ample information available about growing successfully with these light, and that information makes it much simpler achieving successful indoor grows with HID lights. 

With that said, plenty of growers are successful with LED lights, it’s just a more challenging.


HID Grow Lights are More Affordable 

HID grow lights are also the more economical grow light option by far when getting started initially. 

Some of this cost difference is offset by the lower energy use of LED lights and their reduced cooling demands. But it will still take many years of harvests to make up for that cost difference. 

Especially when you consider the lower yields per LED light compared to HID. We’re seeing near four pounds per 1000 watt DimLux DE and a little more than half that with a 1200 watt LED light system. 

 

HID Grow Lights Provide Full Plant Light Spectrum

HID grow lights are praised high and low for their intensity and full light spectrum. Especially when using high quality HID grow bulbs. This is really helpful for generating bigger yields from the plants. 

I’ll say it in another way. If you’re using LED lights it’s essential to prune carefully to maximize even canopy and cola height. Less pruning is necessary for effective results using HID grow lights because the lights penetrate deeply. 

Plants literally consume light. The more complete spectrums tend to produce healthier plants. LEDs work great, but the plants are usually not as healthy when we compare the same variety of buds.

Consider Using Both LED and HID Grow Lights

Most professional growers find the most success with HID lights. But there is still a huge market for LED grow lights. In fact using both together can help you get the best of both worlds.

They are an excellent supplement to standard HID lights. LED grow lights make a solid addition to the space. They’ll help you bring more light to your space, especially as under canopy lighting. 

Try supplementing a high quality double ended HID, like the DimLux 1000 Watt with Nanotubes, with the Thrive Agritech Boost LED Grow Light. We’re seeing great results filling out the lower buds and branches using these as under canopy lights.


HID vs LED Grow Lights: Deciding on the Best Grow Light Setup to Use

It’s not easy to pick a winner in our discussion about HID vs LED Grow Lights. 

No doubt, LED grow lights have come a long way, and now there are significant benefits to using both types of grow lights in a commercial or personal indoor grow room or cultivation. 

That’s why it’s more difficult than ever before to choose whether you want to use LED grow lights or HID grow lights. 

I’ll leave you with a few points of consideration down below to simplify the decision-making process for you a bit more.


Choose HID Grow Lights:

  • The best possible light penetration for your plants.
  • More reliable results.
  • Simpler pruning process.
  • Save money on your up-front investment.
  • Changing bulbs annually is cool.
  • The best light spectrum.
  • Larger yields per light, maximize the yield for your space.


Choose LED Grow Lights:

  • High up front cost, repaid over years.
  • Minimize cooling needs
  • Growing in a confined space
  • Experienced with advanced pruning techniques
  • Adjusting the lights height often to keep it 6 inches above the canopy is acceptable


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