If you’re interested in growing weed indoors, the type of lighting you choose is the most important decision you’ll make when setting up your grow space. There are several popular lighting types to choose from, including LED lights, which are rapidly gaining in popularity, fluorescent lights such as T5s, and High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights which are still currently the most popular choice. This article reviews the best HID lights you can currently buy and will also teach you everything you need to know about how HID lights work, their advantages, how much light you need and what type of yields you should expect.
When choosing the best HID lights for your grow space, the first choice you need to make is whether to buy a complete MH/HPS lighting kit that comes with a reflector, ballast and bulbs, or build your own combination from separate components.
To make things easier, we’ve reviewed the best complete kits available as well as recommended the best ballasts, reflectors and bulbs if you’d rather mix and match. We picked our overall winner for each category based on a combination of features, quality, value for money and feedback.
Table of Contents
- 1 Product comparison table
- 2 The best HID grow lights: Complete kits
- 3 The best air cooled reflector hood
- 4 The best cool tube reflector hood
- 5 The best digital ballast for HID grow lights
- 6 The best HPS & MH bulbs
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
Product comparison table
Click the model links below to learn more about each option.
Complete HID kits
|Model||Image||Result||Reflector hood type|
|Apollo Horticulture HS / MH||Winner||Air cooled (cool tube, winged available)||Check price|
|iPower HPS / MH||Runner up||Air cooled (cool tube available)||Check price|
|Solid choice||Air cooled||Check price|
|Vivo Sun HPS / MH||Solid choice||Air cooled||Check price|
|Sun System HPS||Special mention||Reflector||Check price|
|Model||Image||Result||Reflector hood type|
|Hydro Crunch Air Cooled Reflector||Winner||Air cooled||Check price|
|iPower 6 Inch Cool Tube Reflector||Winner||Cool tube||Check price|
|iPower digital dimmable ballast||Winner||Check price|
|Apollo Horticulture digital dimmable ballast||Winner||Check price|
The best HID grow lights: Complete kits
Winner: Apollo Horticulture MH / HPS system with air cooled reflector
The Apollo Horticulture HPS / MH system wins our best HID lights review because it’s great value for money, well built and comes with an air cooled reflector. Air cooled reflectors are the most efficient type of reflector for drawing heat away from your grow light bulbs. This means you can place your HID grow light closer to your plants to get better penetration into the canopy and grow taller plants in a shorter grow tent.
Air cooled reflectors have a standard 6 inch round outlet port on each end that connects to the ducting of your grow tent exhaust system. An inline fan then sucks heat out of the reflector and through the ducting to be vented wherever you like. The reflector also has a glass cover that can easily be opened to change your bulbs.
The system comes complete with both an MH bulb for maximizing vegetative growth and an HPS bulb for flowering.
The ballast is digital, dimmable to 50% and 75% brightness and supports both 120V and 240V power outlets.
One minor negative of this system is the included time isn’t digital and can be a bit difficult to use until you figure it out. Unfortunately many of the grow packages we see seem to skimp on the quality of the timer.
This kit is also available in versions with cool tube and winged reflectors. The cool tube reflector won’t manage heat as well as the air cooled reflector but if you have a very small or narrow grow space it’s a great option. Unless you have a very open grow space with good heat management we’d personally stay away from the winged reflector because they generate a lot of heat and can easily burn your plants.
Cool tube reflector hood version
Winged reflector version
Runner up: iPower MH / HPS system with air cooled reflector
The iPower kit with air cooled reflector is a very similar system to the Apollo Horticulture package above but is a bit more expensive. iPower make good quality products and if you’ve had good experiences with their gear in the past then you might not mind paying a few bucks more.
This kit also comes with an MH and HPS bulb and the glass cover on the reflector can also be removed, but it doesn’t come out quite as easily as the Apollo Horticulture one.
The digital ballast is also dimmable to 50% and 75%.
You can also get this kit with a cool tube reflector hood for use in more compact grow tents.
Other good quality options
Yield Lab HPS / MH system with air cooled reflector
Yield labs stand by their products with a 3 year warranty on the air cooled hood and 1 year on the HPS and MH bulbs.
A few customers have complained that their kit only shipped with the HPS bulb so make sure you follow up with Yield if this happens to you. They seem to be quick to respond to feedback.
Grow ace has a closer look at what you get in the Yield Lab HID kits.
VIVO SUN HPS / MH system with air cooled reflector
Special mention (for small grow spaces): Sun System 150W HPS system
This compact Sun System kit deserves a mention because it’s really cheap and perfect for beginners who want to try their first grow or for those who just want to grow 1 or 2 plants. The system is unique because the ballast is built into the reflector hood and you can just take it out of the box, plug it in and start growing. It’s pretty low power at only 150W but if that’s all you need then is a convenient and cheap way to grow some weed.
One negative of this kit is that only an HPS bulb is included. You can do a full grow cycle with just an HPS bulb but you’ll get much better results during the vegetative stage if you get yourself an MH bulb as well.
The best air cooled reflector hood
Winner: Hydro Crunch Air Cooled Reflector
The Hydro Crunch air cooled reflector is our HID reflector hood of choice because it’s fairly cheap but well built with a quality finish. The glass panel opens on a hinge for easy access to your bulbs and it works with MH and HPS bulbs of any wattage. Just make sure you get a ballast that matches the bulbs you plan to use!
The 6 inch exhaust ports are a standard sized that will work with pretty much any exhaust system.
The best cool tube reflector hood
Winner: iPower 6 Inch Cool Tube Reflector Hood
Cool tube reflectors are less expensive than air cooled reflector hoods but they don’t do as good a job of removing heat and so need to be placed further away from the tops of your plants. This iPower reflector is affordable, works with any MH and HPS bulb and hooks up to standard 6 inch exhaust systems. If you’re planning on using lower power bulbs or have a small grow space this will work very well.
The best digital ballast for HID grow lights
A quality ballast should be digital and work with either MH or HPS bulbs. Most ballasts also have a dimming function that allows you to adjust the percentage of light your bulbs emit. A ballast designed to regulate a particular bulb wattage will ONLY work with matching bulbs so make sure you choose the right version for the size of your grow space and the bulbs you plan to use.
After looking at all the options we’ve awarded a draw between the iPower and Apollo Horticulture ballasts. They’re both reliable units that have identical feature sets and very similar prices (the iPower ballast is generally a few dollars cheaper and the Apollo Horticulture unit has a 3 year warranty instead of 2 years). Both are available in 400W, 600W and 100W versions, can be dimmed to 50% and 75% brightness and will work with both MH and HPS bulbs of the corresponding wattage.
iPower digital dimmable ballast
Apollo Horticulture digital dimmable ballast
The best HPS & MH bulbs
You can pay a lot of money for HPS and MH bulbs and there’s always debate around whether it’s worth it paying a lot more for expensive bulbs. In our personal experience we’ve gotten just as good results with cheaper bulbs. All the bulbs we recommend come with a 1 year warranty regardless of the price.
iPower bulbs (cheaper option)
EyeHortilux bulbs (premium / more expensive option)
Frequently Asked Questions
How do HID grow lights work?
HID light bulbs work by firing an arc of electricity between two electrodes. The electrodes are housed in a tube filled with gas and metal fragments. Different metal fragments and gases can be used and this dictates what color of light is produced by the bulb. The most commonly used and the best HID lights for growing weed are High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights and Metal Halide (MH) lights.
HID lights require a ballast to operate. The ballast provides a pulse of current to start the light and then regulates the current so the light doesn’t burn out.
HID lights produce an intense light that penetrates deeper into the leaves of your plants than any other grow light (LED lights are getting pretty good). More powerful ones also produce a lot of heat so they need to be carefully positioned far enough away from your plants to ensure they don’t burn them. If you’re using a grow tent, it should generally be at least 5 or 6 feet high to make sure there’s enough room to correctly position your lights.
What’s the difference between HPS and MH bulbs?
High Pressure Sodium (HPS) grow lights
You know when you fly into a city at night and the lights on the ground all have an orange reddish color? That color is a result of pretty much every street light in the world using an HPS light.
HPS lights can be used throughout the entire growth cycle of your weed plants, but the orange light they produce makes them the best HID lights to use during the flowering stage and they’ll encourage the growth of bigger buds.
HPS lights produce a lot of light, but they also generate a fair amount of heat so including an exhaust fan into your grow setup is a wise move if you’re using a more powerful HPS light.
Interestingly, the amount of light produced by HPS lights doesn’t increase in proportion to the power they use. For example, a 600 Watt HPS light produces 7% more light per watt than a 1000W HPS light.
Metal Halide (MH) grow lights
MH grow lights produce a light that’s more blue in color and this makes them the best HID lights for young wed plants or plants in the vegetative stage. The blue color encourages the rapid growth of leaves and stems.
MH lights can also be used throughout the growth cycle but they won’t produce anywhere near the same yields than an HPS light. Most growers using MH lights will switch to an HPS light when they trigger the flowering stage.
Combining HPS and MH lights for the best of both worlds
MH grow lights are best for the vegetative stage and HPS grow lights are best for the flowering stage, so an ideal solution is to use both! Many growers do this and if you buy the correct ballast, fixture and reflector it will support both types of lights so you can swap them out. Almost all the options on our list of the best HID lights support swapping between HPS and MH bulbs.
This video has a clear and simple explanation of the differences between HPS and MH bulbs.
What is an HID Ballast?
The ballast is a current regulator that HID lights need because they draw so much power to generate their intense light (and heat). Even if you only get one type of bulb, we recommend you get a ballast that will support both types of bulb in case you change your mind. Any ballast you get should be digital and a nice feature is dimmable, so you can lower the intensity of your lights to use less power and produce less heat.
Everest Fernandez has a good summary of what to look for in a digital ballast here:
What are the different types of HID reflector hoods?
The hood covers the top of your HID bulbs and makes sure all the light is directed towards your plants. If there was no hood, the light would shine in all directions and you’d waste a lot of energy. Some hoods are also designed to try and protect your plants from excess heat. There are 3 main types of hoods:
1. Air cooled reflector hoods
Kits including an air cooled reflector are the best HID lights for use in grow tents and other smaller enclosed grow spaces. They are designed to be used with your exhaust system and provide the best heat protection so they can be placed closer to your plants. Air cooled reflectors are the most expensive.
2. Cooled tube reflector hoods
Cool tubed reflectors aren’t as effective as air cooled reflectors but are compact and will remove the heat generated by your bulbs. They’re also designed for use with the exhaust system in your grow space.
3. Winged reflector hoods
Kits with a winged reflectors are the best HID lights for larger open grow spaces. They give the best coverage because they have a big reflective surface area but there is no temperature control included. This makes them cheap but you have to be careful to position them properly to avoid burning your plants.
What are the advantages of HID grow lights?
- HID lights are still the most popular lighting for growing weed and consistently give excellent results.
- They’re simply to set up and use – really the only difficulty is ensuring they aren’t placed too close to your plants.
- HID lights are extremely powerful and deliver excellent coverage and penetration into the leaves of your plants.
- If you only want to grow a few plants, a single 150W HID light might be all you need
- While not quite as efficient as some LED grow lights, HID lights are just as efficient as fluorescent lights and produce better yields.
How many HID lights do I need and what yields will I get?
On average, MH lights will give lower yields that HPS lights and keep in mind that the yields below are very broad averages. The strain you grow, the nutrients you use, grow times and lighting schedules are all huge factors on what yield you end up with. In our experience, the best HID lights for most growers are between 400 and 600 Watts.
150 Watt HID lights
- Coverage: 2’ x 2’
- Average yield: 100g
- Position: Minimum 6 inches above the tops of your plants
250W Watt HID lights
- Coverage: 2.5’ x 2.5’
- Average yield: 150g
- Position: Minimum 8 inches above the tops of your plants
400 Watt HID lights
- Coverage: 3.5’ x 3.5’
- Average yield: 250g
- Position: Minimum 10 inches above the tops of your plants
600 Watt HID lights
- Coverage: 4’ x 4’
- Average yield: 400g
- Position: Minimum 15 inches above the tops of your plants
1000 Watt HID lights
- Coverage: 5’ x 5’
- Average yield: 600g
- Position: Minimum 20 inches above the tops of your plants
This is a great tutorial on how far to position your plants from your grow lights to ensure you don’t burn them.