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HID vs LED Grow Lights: Which is the Best?

Over the years, there has been 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. 

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 over a century. 

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.

Our Favorite HID

DimLux Expert Series MKII 1000W

Top of the line HPS grow light that shows off the full capabilities of HID lighting.

Ultra Optics reflector, dimmable, optional with nano-tube for heat extraction.

Cutting edge and works with the Maxi Controller for complete grow room environmental management.

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 a 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. They are HID grow lights, but 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 lamp today. 

What Are LED Grow Lights?

Light Emitting Diode (LED) grow lights that are made from a grid of hundreds or thousands of individual LED chips. These chips are also known as diodes and emitters. 

LEDs come in two general types – individual colors with specific narrow ranges of color and white. Just like light bulbs for your house, white LEDs come in a variety of “temperatures” (think cool white, warm white, etc.).

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. 

Most modern LED grow lights combine chips with individual colors (typically red but often blue, far-red, and recently ultraviolet) with white emitters.

Legacy LED grow lights just combined individual LEDs (typically red and blue). When the diodes are combined, they can appear to create strange colors to our eyes because of the way light colors mix. However, these legacy LED grow lights usually appear purplish as you can see in the photo above.

The light from an individual LED emitter is not as intense as an HID, requiring more of them to get the same sort of light levels and yields that HID lights are capable of producing. Also, many 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.

Our Favorite LED

DimLux Xtreme Series LED Fixture

Full featured LED grow light that works with the full DimLux ecosystem of products.

You can easily control it from your mobile phone or tablet.

Super high power efficiency. Use it alone to grow and bloom, or use it in conjunction with DimLux HID light systems.

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 often shutting off a portion of the LEDs, thereby lowering the light output. 

If using legacy LED grow lights, the purplish color 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.

led-grow-light-over-plants
Purple color common in many LEDs

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 about 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 light directly, using a separate air extraction 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. 

Running your air conditioning less saves you money and is a win for the environment!

LEDs are Less Maintenance

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.

Another maintenance-saving feature of LED grow lights is they do not have reflectors that need cleaning and replacing. Both cleaning them and replacing them add additional costs.

With LEDs, there are no ballasts to replace. In many HID setups, the ballast is required to be replaced every 3-4 years. Depending on the fixture it can take lots of time to open them up make the swap and put them back together. In a commercial grow with tons of lights, this can get expensive.

Are HID Grow Lights are More Reliable than LED Lights for Results?

Until recently… Yes! Probably because HID grow lights have been used for indoor growing successfully for far longer than LED lights.

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

With that said, the market has shifted and plenty of growers are successful with LED lights. Our industry’s experience has grown dramatically in the last few years. No longer are you on your our if you choose LED grow lights. LED has become the dominant lighting technology.

Are HID Grow Lights are More Affordable? 

HID grow lights are the more economical grow light option when getting initially getting started. Upfront they simply cost less.

This cost difference is offset by the lower energy use of LED lights and their reduced cooling demands. But it will still take a few years of harvests (depending on YOUR electric rate) to make up for that cost difference. 

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 under canopy lighting. 

Try supplementing a high-quality double-ended HID, like the DimLux 1000 Watt with Nanotubes, with the DimLux 750 Watt LED grow light. Consider placing your HID grow lights on an automatic shut down system in case you have issues with your HVAC. It’s also a good idea to have that system alert you so you can work on the problem right away.

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: 

  • To save money on your up-front investment.
  • You/your team is very experienced in HID grow lights.
  • Rely on time tested results.
  • You have lots of cooling power.
  • Changing bulbs annually is cool.

Choose LED Grow Lights:

  • High upfront costs for lower long-term operating costs are acceptable.
  • Minimize cooling needs.
  • Growing in a confined space or a multi-tiered racking system.
  • Want to experiment with adjustable spectrums.
  • Having to adjust light heights is fine with you.

Want to learn more about LEDs? Check out The LED Grow Book written by Christopher Sloper.

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