The grow lights you choose will have a huge impact on how much it will cost you to grow, how much extra equipment you’ll need for ventilation and cooling and the quality and yield of weed you can achieve. The best lights for growing weed will differ for each grower so today we’re going to compare the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular lighting types to help you choose which way to go.
LED grow lights
LED grow lights are the newest entry into the grow light arena and they’re rapidly growing in popularity. For us personally, we think LEDs are now the best lights for growing weed but another type of lighting might easily work better for your needs.
The advantages of growing with LEDs
- On a ‘per watt’ basis LED grow lights deliver the biggest bud yields of any lighting type.
- They're the cheapest to run over the length of a full grow cycle.
- Good quality LEDs last a long time - up to 90,000 hours!
- Compared to huge amount of light they produce, they don’t generate a lot of heat
- A fan and heatsink is built into the case.
- LED’s don’t require a ballast and can plugged directly into a standard electrical socket.
- They are ‘full spectrum’ lights which means they deliver perfect light for both the vegetative and flowering stages of growth.
- They are environmentally friendly to dispose of and don’t contain any dangerous chemicals.
The disadvantages of growing with LEDs
- Compared to other lighting types they are pretty expensive, but this will likely change as they become more popular.
- The LED diodes are very sensitive to heat and will fail if it gets too hot. The heat sink and built in fan is very important to prevent this from happening.
- As they age, cheaper diodes can shift color but good quality lights shouldn’t suffer from this issue.
- Because of the huge amount of light they produce, LED lights need to be placed a long way (12 - 30 inches) from the tops of your plants to ensure they don’t burn them. This means that a taller grow room or grow tent is required if you want to grow taller plants.
- Because different manufacturers use different light spectrums, lense angles and components to build their lights, looking at the watts produced by a light is not always a reliable measure of how much light it will produce. Comparing coverage area or power usage is a more reliable benchmark.
The best LED grow lights for growing weed
Check out our article on the best LED grow lights to read detailed reviews of the best options you can buy.
These two options are currently among our favorite LED grow lights. Both are available in a number of different wattages depending on how big you want to go.
VIPARSPECTRA Reflector Series 600W
PlatinumLED Advanced Platinum P600
HID grow lights
Before LED lights became high quality and reasonably priced, HIDs were the best lights for growing weed. They're still the most common and popular lighting choice but LEDs are catching up fast!
There are two main types of HID bulbs - High Pressure Sodium (HPS) that emit an orange light and Metal Halide (MH) that emit a cooler blue light.
HID bulbs can also be used with three different styles of reflector hoods. We recommend air cooled or cool tube reflectors which connect to your exhaust system and do the best job of managing the high heat produced by HPS and MH bulbs.
The advantages of growing with HID lights
- They give excellent yields for the money you spend.
- They are generally cheaper than LEDs (but not by too much these days).
- HID grow lights are extremely powerful and give excellent coverage and penetration into the leaves of your plants. If don’t want too many plants, a 150W HID light might be all you need to grow.
The disadvantages of growing with HID lights
- HID lights require a bulb change when switching from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage. MH bulbs produce a blue light that plants like during the vegetative stage and HPS bulbs give a more orange light that’s optimized for bud growth.
- A separate ballast is required to regulate the current but this is normally included in the lighting kit.
- HID lights create a lot of heat and anything over 150W is probably going to need a ventilation and heat extraction system to be installed in your grow space.
- The high heat HID lights produce means they need to be placed further away from the tops of your plants to prevent burning. This means a taller grow space if you want tall plants.
- The bulbs contain pollutants (such as mercury) and can’t be disposed of as easily as LEDs.
The best HID lights for growing weed
Read our detailed reviews to compare the best HID grow lights on the market. We've compared complete HID lighting kits that include a ballast, reflector and bulbs and also recommended the best individual components in case you want to build your own.
These are currently our two favorite HID grow lights kits you can buy. Both come with HPS and MH bulbs included.
Apollo Horticulture 400W HPS/MH Grow Light Kit (air cooled reflector)
iPower 600W HPS/MH Grow Light Kit (air cooled reflector)
Fluorescent grow lights (T5’s)
There are a bunch of different styles of fluorescent light bulbs but the most popular for growing weed is the T5 bulb. The T refers to the fact that the bulbs are ‘tubular’ and the 5 refers to the diameter of the bulb in increments of ⅛ inch. So a T5 bulb is ⅝ of 1 inch in diameter.
The advantages of growing with T5 lights
- T5s are the cheapest grow lights you can get.
- They don’t produce much heat at all and may not even require a ventilation system in your grow space.
- They don’t use much electricity
- Excellent for beginner growers or those who just want to grow 1 or 2 plants.
- Low power and low heat makes them a good stealth option if that’s important to you.
- They’re available in different lengths and different numbers of bulbs which makes them scalable and great for many different sized grow spaces.
The disadvantages of growing with T5 lights
- T5 bulbs don’t produce as much light as LEDs or HIDs
- The light from T5 bulbs only penetrates 1 or 2 feet so they need to be placed very close to your plants.
- Like HID lights they need a ballast to control the current but this is normally built into the light fixture.
- Like HID lights, different bulbs are available that produce blue or orange light. Although a single bulb can be used for the entire grow cycle it’s highly recommended to switch from blue bulbs to red for the flowering stage.
- The bulbs contain pollutants and aren’t easy to dispose of.
The best T5 lights for growing weed
We’ve covered the best T5 grow lights so check out our article to read detailed reviews and compare options.
These are currently our favorite T5 lights you can buy.
Agrobrite FLT44 T5 Fluorescent Grow Light System
Durolux T5 Grow Light
We hope this discussion has helped you choose the best lights for growing weed based on your needs. Let us know in the comments below what lighting system you use!