What to Look for in LED Grow Lights for Growing Marijuana Indoors

As we’ve mentioned in Types of Indoor Grow Lights for Growing Marijuana, there are 3 types of lights often used for cannabis growing: CFL, HID, and LED. Of these three, LED seems to offer the most benefits. LED technology is also still maturing and in a few years it is expected to completely outperform HIDs which is still considered to be the gold standard for indoor growing. 

What is a LED?

As opposed to older light technologies that typically use heated filaments or gas tubes, LEDs use semiconductors that emit light when electricity is passed through. There are currently 3 kinds of LED  

  • Dual inline package (DIP) – DIPs, which use individual LEDs, are the oldest LED technology with the lowest LED density. These are still used today for some large panel outdoor display screens. 
Sven Killig, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Surface mounted diode (SMD) – SMDs pack 3 LEDs (red, green, blue) in a single encapsulation. These encapsulations are packed in an array at a much higher density compared to DIPs. These are typically used in display applications like monitors. 

wdwd, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Chip on board (COB) – COBs are the latest in LED technology and have the highest density of LEDs in a given area which make them the brightest LEDs available. COBs have more diodes than SMDs but a single chip can only have one color, which is why you may see chips of different colors on a single LED grow bulb. 

Why LEDs? 

LEDs seem to hold the future for grow lights but at present, what advantages do they offer compared to other types of grow lights?

  • Energy efficiency – While there are a lot of metrics that need to be factored into computing efficiency (ex.PPF/watt, lumens/watt, etc) the bottomline is that LEDs operate at a fraction of the cost of HIDs and even CFLs. 
  • Longer life – Since LEDs run much cooler than HIDs, they can last almost 3 times longer at around 50,000 hours.
  • Discreet and private – Discretion is important in growing marijuana and since LEDs consume relatively low power, you won’t have to worry about any electricity bill spikes that might give away your indoor growing setup.
  • Falling initial cost – Good LED growing lights are quite expensive but since the technology is evolving fast, prices are also quickly dropping.
  • Low heat output – Unlike HIDs, LEDs do not waste power by converting it to heat. This lowers moisture evaporation and the need for additional cooling.   
  • Wide availability – Nowadays, you can buy LED grow lights almost everywhere. 
  • Safe – It is hard to overload your circuits with LED lights, decreasing the risk of fires. LEDs also do not contain toxic materials, unlike HIDs.
  • Ease of use – Most LED grow lights are plug and play, no need for additional equipment.
  • Covers the whole color temperature spectrum – LEDs can cover a wide range of the color spectrum. You can even change the color spectrum of the same set of LEDs in some LED grow lights. 
  • More durable – LEDs are much tougher than CFL and HID bulbs, which are quite fragile.
  • Saves space – LEDs run much cooler than HIDs and can be placed much closer to the plant if needed. 

Not all LEDs are created the same

If you’ve already looked online you may have noticed that LED grow lights come in a variety of shapes, sizes and price ranges. This is because some LED products are manufactured poorly and although some are well-made, they may not be suited for growing. Good LED growing lamps are quite expensive but they do pay for themselves overtime, which is why you need to be wary of the cheap ones. 

Since LED technology is also evolving rapidly, manufacturers are also quick to put out newer models. This means that the prices on older models are also quick to drop and while these LEDs are still quite suitable for growing, they surely won’t be as cost efficient as the newer ones.  

Types of LED grow lights

The type of LED grow light that you choose will also significantly factor into its price. The more optimized a LED light is for growing marijuana, the higher the price. However, there is no “best” type of LED grow light, only ones that are best suited for your grow setup. To know which one makes the most sense for your indoor setup, you have to consider the following:

  • Budget – Are you growing to sell or just for yourself? Are you looking to recoup the amount you spend on your grow lights? 
  • Growing space – What is the size and shape of the space that you are looking to illuminate? How many plants will need light? 

Once you’ve taken these into account, you are ready to choose your LED grow lights. Most will fall under one of these categories:

Traditional panels

Sunshine 117, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These are one of the most popular styles of LED grow lights that you’ll see online. They are popular for a reason since all you have to do is hang them, plug them in, and you’re done! Traditional panels typically use small to medium wattage diodes with lamps grouped close together.  

Spread style

Organic hydroponic vegetable grow with LED Light Indoor farm,Agriculture Technology

As the name suggests, these grow lights use an array of LEDs arranged in an optimized way to scatter light evenly and efficiently over a wider area. Some of the more popular styles are the Quantum board and the Spider Style which are suitable for bigger growing spaces with greater canopy area.

COB lamps

Grezur, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

COB lamps can be a single “bulb” or an array of lamps in a single package. Some lamps can even be screwed into regular light sockets. Since a COB lamp is packed with LEDs, it produces the highest intensity of light of all styles of LED grow lights. Single COBs are ideal for growing in smaller spaces and you can also use multiple bulbs to illuminate an irregularly-shaped growing space.  

One good way to narrow down your choice for LED growing lights would be to go with some of the most recommended within the marijuana growers community and work from there. Here are 10 choices from some of the most reputable brands that you can’t go wrong with:

  1. California Lightworks SolarXtreme 250 Full Spectrum 200w LED
  2. HLG 100 V2 4000K Quantum Board
  3. Advanced Platinum Series P300 300w 12-band
  4. Phlizon PL-1000 Watt with Samsung LM301B LEDs
  5. Black Dog PhytoMAX-2 200 Watt
  6. Covert UFO 150 Watt Full-Spectrum
  7. KIND K3 XL300 210 Watt
  8. Viparspectra V450
  9. Electric Sky 180 V3 200 Watt
  10. Giixer 1000W Full Spectrum

Frequently Asked Questions

Are LED lights the best for growing marijuana indoors?

LEDs are quickly overtaking HIDs as the choice of most growers for indoor marijuana cultivation mainly due to their cost-efficiency.

Which is the best kind of LED light for growing marijuana?

There is no “best” kind of LED growing light, only the most suitable to your growing setup. Your choice for the most suitable kind of LED growing light will largely depend on your budget, grow space and canopy size.

Conclusion

It’s safe to say that the high initial cost of LEDs are for the most part justified since it will eventually pay itself off. One thing to keep in mind though, is that LED prices are dropping fast and it’s unlikely that you’ll wear out your LEDs from use so it might not be wise to invest in higher end models if you’re just growing for yourself. However, if you’re planning to get serious with breeding and you plan to maximize a 4×4 growing space or bigger, then a more expensive model might be worth the investment.

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