The Best Grow Light for Cultivating Cannabis at Home

Grow lights

In this article, I’ll address the different types of available grow lights and how to choose the best light for you space and budget. I’ll help you understand the different potential lighting options as well as the pros and cons of each. There are several factors to consider when choosing a grow light, the primary ones are:

Decision Factors

  • Room Height
  • Budget
  • Energy Consumption
  • Light intensity/penetration
  • Light Spectrum
  • Heat
  • Fixture size
  • Bulb lifespan

Below I’ll address the basics of each type of light as well as the best and worst qualities of each – here's the breakdown:

High Intensity Discharge (HID)

Grow light types

HID lighting refers to a type of light bulb that is filled with gas but lack a filament. They are the most similar to your standard indoor light bulb but obviously more powerful. The most common bulbs for growing are High Pressure Sodium (HPS) in flower and Metal Halide (MH) in veg. These are still the basic, standard grow light – they’ve been used for centuries and for good reason – they’re reliable, cheap and produce great cannabis.

Pros

These are the cheapest fixtures that can be used for flowering and they can be purchased in a variety of wattages. Light penetration is pretty good on wattages 600 and above. Lower wattage, air-cooled fixtures can be placed closer to the canopy. Can be air cooled to manage heat output.

Cons

These fixtures run hot, especially without air-cooling. You’ll need high ceilings to run 1,000 watt HPS fixtures. Energy consumption is relatively high on all HID fixtures as they aren’t as efficient as newer fixtures as far as energy-to-output ratio. These fixtures can be relatively large and heavy. Bulbs should be replaced every 12 months.

Double Ended (DE)

Grow light types

DE fixtures are the newest advancement in HPS bulb technology. Essential the bulb is secured and powered on both ends, as opposed to the single-ended HPS bulb described above. What does this mean? Increased light intensity, broader spectrum, and longer bulb life. It’s safe to say that DE bulbs have become the standard for most commercial growers looking to implement an HPS grow light. These lights can be used for both veg and flower.

Pros

These fixtures provide incredible light intensity and canopy penetration. The spectrum is also superior to single-ended HPS options. The DE fixtures are also typically smaller than single-ended HPS fixtures. DE bulb life is nearly double that of a single-ended HPS bulb.

Cons

The downside to DE fixtures is that they are costly and use significant amounts of energy. They also produce immense amounts of heat as they can’t be air-cooled (thus, you’ll need to have A/C). Because of the high heat and strong light intensity, these fixtures often require ceilings in the 10+ ft range.

Light Emitting Diodes (LED)

Grow light types

LED’s have become more popular in recent years due to advances in technology. These grow lights utilize high-power Chip on Board (COB) technology to produce a much higher lumen output than standard LED’s. It’s important to recognize that not all LED’s are created equal – some are not very powerful, while others can outperform the standard HPS grow light. LED’s can be used throughout veg and flower.

Pros

LED fixtures are great for rooms with lower ceilings. They also have the greatest energy efficiency of any lighting option, which results in electricity cost savings. Light intensity and penetration rivals or exceeds HPS depending on the specific make and model. The spectrum on LED fixtures is more broad/complete than any HPS option. These fixtures are relatively small and produce little heat. The bulb life is substantially longer than any other lighting option. 

Cons

The biggest hurdle to implementing LED fixtures is the upfront cost – they are very expensive. The lower cost LED fixtures are simply inferior and do not produce the same results as high quality COB LED options.

Cermic Metal Halide (CMH) aka Light Emitting Ceramic (LEC)

Grow light types

LEC’s and CMH’s (generally used interchangeably) are also a newer trend in the cannabis grow light world. The primary difference with these lights over a traditional MH bulb is that they use a ceramic arc tube as opposed to quartz. The benefit is a more natural color spectrum, more light per watt, and longer lasting bulbs. CMH fixtures can be used during both veg and flower.

Pros

CMH fixtures excel in rooms with lower ceilings. These fixtures are energy efficient and produce a very natural spectrum of light with high lumen output. The light intensity and penetration increases with higher wattage fixtures. These fixture produce minimal heat and have a long bulb life.

Cons

Cost is considered to be middle of road – more expensive than HPS, but cheper than LED.

Fluorescent Lights

Grow light types

Most people are familiar with fluorescent lighting systems as they are common in offices, workshops, garages, etc. They are an energy-saving light bulb that was designed to replace the standard incandescent bulb. In fact, they are up to 4 times mire efficient and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. These fixtures a typically only used for vegetative growth.

Pros

Inexpensive fixtures with low energy requirements. Compact Fluorescent (CFL) fixtures are great in compact spaces. The heat output is manageable and the fixtures come in a variety of sizes. These fixtures produce a natural light spectrum. They also benefit from a long bulb life.

Cons

These fixtures can only be used for vegetative growth due to the low light intensity and penetration.