LED Vs. Fluorescent Grow Light – Everything You Need To Know

(Last Updated On: November 14, 2021)

Light is one of the significant factors when you’re planning to build a hydroponic grow room. It’s definitely an essential expense. An intelligent investment in these grow light systems can go a long way.

The comparison between LED vs. Fluorescent is pretty straightforward. LED grow lights are built on the electronics system. Whereas, Fluorescent lights depend on the chemical compositions of their elements. LED grow lights are more efficient than Fluorescent ones. But the fluorescent bulbs are more popular because of their lower cost.

So, to have a better idea of the topic, go through this guide where we’ve discussed and made a comparison between LED vs. Fluorescent grow light. Hopefully, this will enlighten you!

LED Grow Lights

The term LED is short for Light Emitting Diodes. An LED light is built from a semiconductor chip that’s called an LED die. This die turns electric currents into light particles through the electroluminescence process.

These lights can be configured into two separate types. One is a single-die emitter and is connected to a circuit board. The other one is a group of dies that’s mounted directly onto the circuit board. It’s also known to be the chip-on-board (COB) module. LED lamps are made by mounting LEDs to a heat sink. Directional lenses and power supplies are usually included with it.

LED grow lights manufactured nowadays are designed to emit similar wavelengths that mimic the natural daylight spectrum. Another amazing fact is that these lights can be precisely adjusted and set to an ideal wavelength for different kinds of plants. They also have an additional cooling system that helps increase their overall efficiency.

Advantages of LED Grow Lights

The LED grow lights are the most beneficial in the sense that they are the most long-lasting and energy-efficient lights. Here are a few factors to help you get a better grasp of what LED lights can offer.

Efficient Energy Consumption

Energy efficiency is a massive benefit for hydroponic grow rooms. And these LED lights are very popular for this too. The use of unique LED technology has brought a revolutionary change in grow rooms in terms of efficiency.

Advanced Technology

Because they use solid-state technology, the LED grow lights have a long lifespan.

In addition, these lights have some features like a built-in heat sink. It pulls the heat away from the body of the lamp and emits it into the air. This feature also helps to increase their longevity and improve brightness.

Temperature Management

Low temperatures of LED grow lights are beneficial for these types of hydroponic setups for a few reasons.

The first thing is that if the light used in the process emits too much heat, it can create an uncomfortable environment. That’s mainly because of the closed structure of the room.

So you have to have a cooling system, but it ends up increasing your electricity bill.

Closer Placement

Another benefit is that these lights have very low heat output. So they can be placed near the plants.

It’s very crucial for growing plants indoors. That’s because if you put the plants far away from the light sources, they’ll have less energy for photosynthesis. So, the closer it’s placed, the better the efficiency gets.

Simple Setup

These lights have another benefit which is that you don’t require any directional lenses or ballasts. Thus, it helps save some space and enables you to avoid the headache of assembling your system. Another perk to notice is that you can plug these lights straight into your standard outlets.

Technologies like the COB modules provide growers with highly customizable options. This feature helps fit different environments, depending on the growth stage of the plants. The white LED grow lights can excellently copy the natural sunlight and assist the photosynthesis process in plants.

Disadvantages of LED Grow Lights

Being a revolutionary technology doesn’t mean that it won’t have some caveats. The LEDs have some disadvantages too. Here are a few to keep note of.

High Setup Cost

The biggest drawback of these lights is their cost. The cost of these lights is pretty high compared to other types of grow lights. But the prices are decreasing almost regularly.

However, the high investment will surely pay off as the energy costs are very low. Also, these lights have an extended lifespan. But if you can’t go for them initially, it won’t matter anyway.

Fake LEDs

As so many LED grow lights are becoming available in the market, it means that you’ve to be extra careful when you go get one for yourself. It can get a bit overwhelming and can even be disadvantageous for you too.

There are some low-wattage LED grow lights that emit far less light than the better quality ones. So you need to be cautious and do your homework on the brand and previous records of the company.

Heat Sensitive

LED grow lights are heat-sensitive. Therefore, an increase in temperature can end up causing a failure. That’s why purchasing quality LED grow lights is a must, as they include a heat sink and a fan.

However, heat sinks can be pretty heavy. So you have to have a solid ceiling to support them. You’ve to give special attention to this matter if you’re using high-powered grow lights.

Fluorescent Grow Lights

Fluorescent lamps work by converting clean electricity into light energy. It runs a wave of current through the mercury vapor. This vapor is exceptional because it emits UV radiation.

This radiation stimulates the external coating of phosphor inside the fluorescent bulb, and that produces light. The light changes color with respect to the changes in the chemical composition of phosphor.

Fluorescent grow lights have two types. One is CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lights), and the other is fluorescent tube grow lights.

CFL grow lights are quite different from regular CFLs. The reason is that they usually offer high output, are more prominent, and have an extended spectrum of light.

Fluorescent tube grow lights have various sizes and varieties. They also have reflectors and ballasts that offer a sleek profile.

Advantages of Fluorescent Grow Lights

The CFL bulbs provide outstanding efficiency and are easy on the money. In addition, these lights have been known for emitting a natural light spectrum that’s perfectly suitable for the growth of certain plants.

The newer fluorescent lamps are being manufactured to assist in different stages of plant growth. Here are a few other cases where CFL bulbs will bring in glory.


Fluorescent bulbs are popular and very common due to their low cost. In fact, they are the most cost-efficient grow lights. So, hobbyists and beginners are especially attracted by this type of light.


When you compare fluorescent tubes vs. LED tubes in terms of versatility, the fluorescent tubes have been really popular for this factor. They are available in all sorts of varieties.

As the heat output is meager, CFLs can be placed near plants so that all parts of the plants get the necessary amount of light. In addition, fluorescent tubes have a thin profile that’s perfect for fitting in tight spaces.

To make things easier for you, let’s look at the different types. For example, in comparing T5 vs. T8 grow lights, T5 has a more compact design. Similarly, between T5 vs. T12 grow lights, T5 is the winner again.

Easy to Use

Fluorescent grow lights attract hydroponics growers as they’re effortless to use and don’t require any extra skills. In addition, they’re not very hard to get used to for those who aren’t already familiar with this kind of stuff.

Disadvantages of Fluorescent Grow Lights

Good things have their respective bad sides too. That’s how life works, and CFL bulbs are no different. Below are some drawbacks of the bulbs that you should be aware of.

Less Compatible

Unfortunately, CFL grow lights aren’t suitable for the flowering stage of certain plants. They simply don’t have the sufficient light intensity that’s needed. But you have to admit that these lights are perfect for stimulating the growth of a plant. So in a debate between LED vs. T5 grow lights, LED wins this round.

Significant Heat Buildup

CFL has a very high intensity which adds up to the heat output of the device. High output fluorescent vs. regular bulbs is beyond comparison. So, the grower needs to be extra careful about keeping them too close to the plants.

They also have to be aware of the buildup of extra heat in their closed grow rooms.

Shorter Lifespan

Another demerit of fluorescent grow lights is their lifespan. Fluorescent lamps have a surprisingly shorter lifespan than LEDs. There are much more light, efficient bulbs available today that offer a better lifespan.

Hazardous to Health

To add to the overall discussion, you must know that fluorescent lights have mercury inside them. Mercury is a toxic metal.

As the vapor is released after breaking, they pollute the surrounding environment after they are disposed of. Therefore, these lights can be pretty hazardous to your health.

Face To Face: LED vs. Fluorescent

LED vs. CFL grow lights- both technologies have their merits and demerits. Now, let’s look at the entire scenario and compare the two grow lights head to head. It will help you understand things better and make a definite choice between LED tube lights vs. fluorescent.

Energy Efficiency

LED lights have a better score than CFL lights in terms of efficiency. However, you must look at the visible light levels delivered to plants rather than just calculating watts.

A low-powered LED lamp can be equal to a high-powered fluorescent grow tube in terms of microscopic photons delivered to the plants. So, it can save a lot of light energy while providing an equal level of light. However, while looking only at fluorescent lights, as in compact fluorescent vs. T5, T5 bulbs are more efficient.


The hue of light has to be considered when looking for certain grow lights as it influences plant growth. The sun generates the full light spectrum that’s also known as white light. It includes all the different shades of color in it.

Indoor hydroponic growers have been using a fluorescent fixture that comes with two tubes. One of the tubes consists of a cold bulb, and the other one has a warm bulb. If you compare the fluorescent light spectrum vs. sunlight, the fluorescent tubes can emit the full spectrum just like natural sunlight.

However, in comparing LED vs. T5 for veg, LEDs use separate cold and warm LEDs and combine them into a single bulb during production. It allows the LED bulbs to emit a balanced light.

Amount of Heat

If we compare LED vs. CFL heat output, LED grow lights dissipate a minimal amount of heat. But fluorescent grow lights stay cool most of the time. So you should consider the heat dissipated by the fluorescent lighting system to at least some degree.


LED grow lights have a unique system that permits you to calibrate the light according to the individual requirements of the houseplants. In addition, the diodes can be manipulated to dissipate light of a particular wavelength.

But in the case of most fluorescent lights, you’re not able to customize them so freely. That’s because fluorescent lamps have a significant relation with the chemical composition of some elements. Once the composition is set, changing it can be a rather tricky task. That’s why customizing the fluorescent lights isn’t actually an option.


LED grow lights leave the fluorescent grow lights behind when it comes to longevity.

LED lights have a much larger lifespan as compared to CFL grow lights. So, comparing fluorescent vs. LED costs, LEDs are preferable for people who aren’t interested in increasing their costs.


The overall LED vs. CFL cost comparison is now coming down to a much convenient level. However, LED grow lights are way more costly than fluorescent ones.

LED lights use less energy than those required for fluorescents. It can use the exact amount of energy and last up to seven to eight times longer. So the overall initial cost is somewhat balanced out in the long run.

We can say that, in the comparison between LED vs. Fluorescent efficiency, there’s no clear winner here.

Which One Should You Get?

Choosing between LED and CFL bulbs can be a tricky decision. Unfortunately, there’s no distinct factor to help you decide. If you’re still in doubt, then asking these questions to yourself can help you make the best choice.

Are you planning to grow around the year or just want seed during spring? If all-year plants are your thing, go for the LED bulbs. But fluorescent bulbs are good if you just want to seed in the spring.

What sort of plants do you want to grow? If you’re planning to go for indoor garden seeding, then LEDs can assist you in this task. These lights are well known for growing small houseplants like orchids. You can even grow different kinds of fruits and vegetables too.

Fluorescent lights are best suitable for those plants which have very low light requirements. Let’s take African violets as an example. If you plan to grow these types of plants, then fluorescent should be your first choice. In addition, these bulbs can emit enough light to your plants if your grow room lacks window space.

Should the light be able to move? If the plants you’re planning to grow are taller in size, then your lights have to be mobile. You’ve to make sure that all parts of the plant get enough light so that they can grow evenly.

In this particular topic, fluorescent lights are very flexible. They offer a variety of sizes and shapes that can indeed be adjusted to fit any corner of your room.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I Use Fluorescent Light To Grow Plants?

It may seem that using regular fluorescent lights is an easy fix. But most basic lights will not go well with indoor plants.

Traditional indoor gardening lights have no effects on photosynthesis whatsoever. So the best choice would be to go for a grow light that’s designed only for photosynthesis.

Is LED or fluorescent light better for plants?

LED grow lights are better than the best fluorescent grow lights in terms of efficiency. So, if you do want to get grow lights, get the LED ones. But if you compare fluorescent vs. LED lumens, fluorescent has a much intense aura.

Do fluorescent lights make good grow lights?

Fluorescent lights are popular for indoor growing plants. They are adjustable with every type of plant, including different kinds of flowers, promoting vegetative growth.

In addition, fluorescent lights use around 70%-80% less energy than incandescent lights and produce an equal amount of light.

Can regular LED lights function as a grow light?

You can place LED bulbs near plants if they emit enough light because some plants look for warmth from light sources. But other than that, regular LEDs won’t be of much use. So, regular fluorescent lights vs. grow lights is a vague comparison.

Are LEDs worth it over CFLs?

LEDs, in general, dissipate a tiny amount of heat. Though they’re a bit costly, LEDs are actually very efficient. They use half the energy and last 5 to 8 times longer than fluorescent light setup.


Overall, the choice of LED vs. CFL grow light is only dependent on your personal preference. But if you want one for the long run, then LEDs are the better option. However, some plants may grow well if they’re near fluorescent lighting systems.

Hopefully, after going through this guide, all your doubts and misconceptions about grow lights are now gone. So, chill out and keep on growing healthy veggies!

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