Best HID lights for growing weed: Reviews & buying guide

Best HID lights for growing weed

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 but 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. The brands we recommend for supplying HID components are:

We picked our overall winner for each category based on a combination of features, quality, value for money and feedback.

Table of contents


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 Apollo Horticulture MH HPS system with air cooled reflector Winner Air cooled (cool tube, winged available) Check price
iPower HPS / MH iPower MH HPS system with air cooled reflector Runner up Air cooled (cool tube available) Check price

Yield Lab HPS / MH

Yield Lab HPS MH system with air cooled reflector  Solid choice Air cooled Check price
Vivo Sun HPS / MH VIVO SUN HPS MH system with air cooled reflector Solid choice Air cooled Check price
Sun System HPS Sun System 150W HPS system Special mention Reflector Check price

Reflector Hoods

Model Image Result Reflector hood type
Hydro Crunch Air Cooled Reflector Hydro Crunch Air Cooled Reflector Winner Air cooled Check price
iPower 6 Inch Cool Tube Reflector iPower 6 Inch Cool Tube Reflector Hood Winner Cool tube Check price

Digital Ballasts

Model Image Result
iPower digital dimmable ballast iPower digital dimmable ballast Winner Check price
Apollo Horticulture digital dimmable ballast 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

Apollo Horticulture MH HPS system with air cooled reflector

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Available in 400W, 600W and 1000W versions.

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

Apollo Horticulture MH HPS system with cool tube reflector

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Winged reflector version

Apollo Horticulture MH HPS system with winged reflector

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Runner up: iPower MH / HPS system with air cooled reflector

iPower MH HPS system with air cooled reflector

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Available in 600W and 1000W versions.

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.

iPower MH HPS system with cool tube reflector

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Other good quality options

Yield Lab HPS / MH system with air cooled reflector 

Yield Lab HPS MH system with air cooled reflector 

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Available in 600W and 1000W versions.

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

VIVO SUN HPS MH system with air cooled reflector

Check price

Available in 400W, 600W and 1000W versions.


Special mention (for small grow spaces): Sun System 150W HPS system

Sun System 150W HPS system

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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

Hydro Crunch Air Cooled Reflector

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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

iPower 6 Inch Cool Tube Reflector Hood

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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

iPower digital dimmable ballast

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Apollo Horticulture digital dimmable ballast

Apollo Horticulture digital dimmable ballast

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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)

HPS bulbs

MH bulbs

EyeHortilux bulbs (premium / more expensive option)


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.

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.

Components of an HID grow light system

Bulbs

As we’ve discussed, the best HID lighting systems can use either HPS or MH bulbs. You can use either for your entire grow but HPS bulbs will give better yields because the orange / red light they produce encourages the growth of flowers (buds).

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:

 

Reflector Hood

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

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

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

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.

Timer

This is important so that you can switch your lights to a 12/12 light/dark schedule to trigger the flowering stage of growth. To learn more about this, check out our beginner's guide to growing weed indoors.

This one is cheap, simple and will get the job done perfectly.

Buy on Amazon

Grow tent & exhaust system

Because of the intense heat and light that HID grow lights produce, growing in a grow tent with an exhaust system is a great idea. Check out our article on the best grow tents to learn more. We’ve included kits that come with an exhaust system and options for extra high grow tents that will work well for HID lighting systems.

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.



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