LED Vs HPS Grow Lights – what is the difference

(Last Updated On: November 14, 2021)

The growing debate of LED Vs. HPS grow light has always been a point of interest for indoor gardeners. HPS lights have been in the industry for quite a while now, and truth be told, they’ve been quite dependable. But ever since LEDs came into the spotlight, people have been wondering whether to switch to the newer technology.

With the advancement of light technology, LED grow lights have become much more energy-efficient and powerful than HPS grow lights. Even when comparing costs, LED lights have a more upfront price. Factor in their lifespan, and LEDs will cost you less in the long run as well.

Despite their rocky start, LEDs have caught up to and exceeded the performance of their HPS counterparts. Some gardeners tend to use both LEDs and HPS lights to get the best of both worlds. But you should keep in mind that you may end up with the worst of both worlds as well!

Grow Lights: The Basics

If you’re new to the indoor gardening world, this part of the article is simply for you. What’s a grow light? Well, to put it simply, it’s a source of artificial light that can help stimulate your plants’ growth.

Just as we, human beings, need to eat, plants need food as well. So, with the help of the Photosynthesis process, plants convert light energy into chemical energy for sustenance.

But with the ever-growing population, your chances of nurturing a garden grow slimmer and slimmer. That’s where the grow light technology comes in!

By emitting an electromagnetic spectrum, these lighting fixtures can help grow your plants. Hence the term ‘grow’ lights!

That should give you a quick glimpse into the world of grow lights. Now, for a detailed discussion, let’s dive right into the topic of high-pressure Sodium lights vs. LED.

What Are LED Grow Lights?

The term LED stands for light-emitting diode. The standard LED lights are small semiconductor devices that create light as electricity flows through them.

However, there’s a massive difference between the standard LED light and an LED grow light. While standard LED bulbs will only provide you with illumination, their grow light counterparts can create a broader spectrum of red and blue light that can help your garden plants grow.

LED grow lights come in many shapes and sizes. But that shouldn’t be your main point of reference. Instead, you should focus on the chips inside the light that most affects the brightness (photon flux) and colors (spectrum) produced.

You’ll have to choose them carefully as these factors will play an essential role in your garden’s vegetative growth and flowering.

Benefits

To make the best decision, you need to know what advantages LED grow lights have to offer. Here are a few such benefits that come to mind.

Lower HVAC costs

LEDs produce much less heat compared to their other counterparts. Moreover, they come with their own built-in cooling system.

With their small fans and built-in heat sinks, LED grow lights can dissipate most of the light temperature and heat they create. Thanks to that, there’s little to no need for air-conditioning the room. This can help cut down your costs.

Moreover, if you’re building an indoor garden from the ground up and you plan to use LED fixtures, you can specify to your designer about a smaller HVAC system, cutting down your expense on capital buildup.

Easy to Use

The standard LED fixtures come with a plug-n-play system. That means you don’t have to do anything extra. You simply have to hang the light anywhere and plug it into the power source.

Longer Lifespan

One of the most significant advantages that LED panels have to offer is their durability. Unlike their predecessors, LED lights aren’t susceptible to breakdowns.

In fact, with little maintenance, LED lights can provide you with their services through three to four crop yields. It’s one of the leading advertising points that LED grow light companies use.

On average, LED lights have a runtime of fifty thousand hours, which is astonishing. And if you’re lucky, you can go for as long as ten years before any need for replacement arises.

Moreover, if your setup is equipped with the IP-67 rating, you can even clean them down with a hose between the crop cycles.

Personalized Color Spectrum

As an indoor gardener, you surely know that the color spectrum plays a massive role in determining plant growth. The full spectrum contains different colored lights, such as red, blue, yellow light, etc.

While most other grow lights have a rigid color spectrum to offer, you can configure each and every one of your diodes to emit a specific light to your choosing. That way, you can provide your plants with just the right light with the same diode.

However, be sure to research thoroughly about your plants’ needs to achieve the best result.

Drawbacks

There’s an old adage: there are no unmixed blessings on earth. Such is true for LED grow lights as well. Here’s why.

Higher Upfront Cost

If you’re just switching to the newer LED light technology, you may be surprised by the store price of LED grow lights. Unlike its predecessors, the materials and manufacturing process of LED light bulbs are a bit costlier. So naturally, they’ll cost you a bit more.

This makes it harder for some newer gardeners to abstain from investing in LED grow lights, especially if they’re on a budget.

Tighter Footprint

LED lights have lighting systems or footprints similar to that of a spotlight. It beams directly underneath in a tight path. While this can work in your favor if you’re working on narrow tables, you may find yourself facing some difficulties when trying to overlap the lit area.

So, if you’re working on a vast project, it’s better to work with a service provider who has specialized knowledge about beam angles and other factors.

Change in the Dehumidification System

As we said earlier, LED systems come with their own cooling system. So, there’s a reduced cooling load in the grow room.

However, the need for dehumidification increases when you use LED lights. That’s because, while the room has become significantly cooler, the grow room’s dehumidification needs to increase. Thanks to evapotranspiration and photosynthesis remaining the same.

So, you’ll need to take care of the mixtures in the air to prevent any fungal buildup, bud rot, and powdery mildew. Otherwise, you won’t receive the expected yield from your plants.

What Are HPS Lights?

The term HPS stands for high-pressure Sodium. Despite its name, it contains not only Sodium but some other added elements, such as Mercury.

Initially, as electricity strikes the system, HPS lamps glow up with a dark pink color. As the charge intensifies, the dark pink transitions into a pinkish-orange color and finally into an orange light.

Indoor gardeners favor HPS lamps because of the broad color-temperature light spectrum that they produce. Especially flower gardeners prefer HPS lights because of the light sources’ capability to grow flowering plants and flowers.

In fact, HPS lights have garnered popularity through their contribution to the flowering stage or reproductive phase of a plant’s growth. If you use these high-pressured Sodium lights in their flowering phase, the plants will grow much taller in a relatively shorter period of time.

One interesting thing about Sodium lights is that, while it mainly produces visible red light, it can create small amounts of all the other visible lights in the broad spectrum.

Benefits

Before LED grow lights took the industry by the storm, HPS lights were all the rage. Let’s take a look at what the hype was about.

Low Upfront Cost

One of the main barriers to entry into the indoor gardening industry is its expense. You’d need to set up your grow room with the right amount of lighting, ventilation, cooling system, and others.

HPS lights play a significant role in bringing down the cost of entering the market. As the manufacturing process and the materials are not that expensive, you can find HPS lights at an affordable price.

Boosts Harvest Output

Thanks to the enormous light spectrum they can produce, high-pressure Sodium lights are perfect for plants in the flowering stage. Their yellowish-orange hue has the ideal light wavelengths that can prove to be quite therapeutic for vegetative plants.

Moreover, HPS lights tend to be good for your plant’s vertical growth. The density of an HPS-grown flower tends to be relatively denser than any other grow light plant. As a result, you’ll lose less yield in the trimming session, helping you end up with a better and more robust yield.

In fact, some even go as far as to say that in a debate between LED vs. HPS bud quality, HPS may just have the win. So, you can have quite the added benefit by going with HPS or MH for flowering or MH or HPS for veg.

Wider Light Spacing

HPS lights have a broad beam allowing you to space them easily, especially in a greenhouse. However, you may not want to use HPS lights if you’re working on a tighter angle, such as a narrow table.

But if you’re working on a pretty big project, HPS lights might just do the trick for you!

Efficient

HPS lights are pretty economical. With an average lifespan of eighteen hundred hours (approximately twelve to eighteen months), HPS lights can serve you quite well for a long time.

However, after that allotted time, they’ll start consuming more electricity, and slowly their quality will degrade. Nevertheless, it’s a sound investment.

Drawbacks

After going through the benefits that HPS lights have to offer, you may be wondering that HPS lights may just be what you’re looking for. While that may be, there’s no need to rush. You should also take a look at their drawbacks to make the best decision.

Increases HVAC Expenses

The HPS lighting spectrum contains infrared light. Because of this feature, they produce a lot of heat. So, you’ll need to set up proper cooling and ventilation system.

Otherwise, your plants will end up dying instead of what you were looking for. It can cause your expenses to shoot up.

Insufficient Blue Light

What are you aiming for when gardening? Obviously, it’s to help your plants grow and bear fruit. To do that, your grow light needs to have a sufficient supply of blue light. That’s because blue lights help your plant’s stem and leaf development.

However, HPS lights seem to supply an insufficient amount of blue light than needed. As a result, your plants may end up stretching and not have the healthy development that you were hoping for.

Lack of Dimmability

Dimmability is a crucial feature to help you cut down your costs. As you may know, your plants will need a different degree of brightness and light during their growth period.

So, if your grow lights are dimmable, you can slowly increase or decrease their light intensity to help you stay cost-effective. But that’s a no-go on HPS lights.

LED Or. HPS: Head to Head

Now that you’ve got a clear idea about both the types of grow lights, let’s see how they will do when we put LED Vs. HPS side by side. Here’s a basic rundown of the versus debate between LED and HPS grow lights.

Energy Efficiency

Compared to every other product in the grow light market, LED grow lights are the most efficient lighting system you can employ.

An LED grow light’s efficiency rating can be anywhere between 37 to 120 lumens per watt, depending on its quality. However, if you consider some other factors, a typical LED lighting system should have an efficiency rating of fifty or above lumens per watt.

But the efficiency of the HPS lighting system isn’t anything to scoff at either. In fact, they’re the only lighting system currently available in the market that has an efficiency rating comparable to that of LED.

However, while they have a similar efficiency rating as LED lights, LED lights consume relatively less energy to produce the same amount of light as HPS.

So, in comparing LED vs. HPS lumens per watt, we’d have to say that LED grow lights win this round.

Lifespan

Longevity is one of the deciding factors when investing in a grow light system.

When it comes to longevity, LED lights have everyone else beat. With an average lifespan of 25000 to 200000 hours (generally around 50000 hours), LED lights can last you around five to ten years before needing a replacement.

While HPS lights don’t have such a long lifespan, they won’t easily lose out in a LED vs. metal halide grow lights battle. Of course, provided that you ensure proper maintenance.

A standard HPS light can provide you service for around 24000 hours before it needs to be replaced. After that, they’ll consume more power to produce the same amount of light. And slowly but surely, the quality of the light will degrade and disappear.

So, while HPS lights can’t beat LED bulbs when it comes to longevity, they’re not that bad either!

Cost Efficiency

Considering a budget is a crucial decision to make before investing. To do that, you’ll need to know about the upfront cost or the store price and the maintenance cost to know what type of expenses you should expect.

You’ll have to pay up a bit more when buying LED lights as they have higher upfront costs. The higher store price set by the light manufacturers is because of the expensive materials and the complex manufacturing process.

But they more than make up for it with their service and efficiency. LED lights will reduce your long-term expenses by cutting down maintenance costs, HVAC costs, and energy efficiency.

On the other hand, HPS lights have a more affordable store price. And they also don’t cost too much to maintain. With that being said, while HPS lights have a long lifespan, they don’t even come close to that of LED lights.

So, LED lights may seem like the more expensive choice upfront in comparing HPS vs. LED grow lights, but they’ll save you more money in the long run.

Heat Management

To ensure the best environment for your plants to grow in, you need to take care of any ‘heated’ conditions. All puns aside, heat management is a crucial factor that works towards your plants’ growth. It’s also one of the major sources of your expenses.

LED lights emit very little heat. Moreover, they come equipped with their own cooling fans and small-sized heat sink. So, you don’t need to worry about any heat management if you’re using LED lights.

This can also cut down your costs since you don’t have to worry about air conditioning your grow room. However, you do have to pay extra care to your grow room’s ventilation to ensure your garden’s growth.

In the case of HPS lights, you’ll have to ensure a proper cooling and ventilation system as these lights emit a tremendous amount of heat that can go as far as to harm your garden if they’re not taken care of properly.

Of course, it means that you’ll have a load of bills on your hand in the name of HVAC requirements, which only works in favor of LED bulbs when comparing LED vs. HPS electricity costs.

Directionality

To ensure your plants’ proper growth, you need to shower them with the electromagnetic waves of the grow lights. That’s only possible with directional lighting.

Directional lighting helps you feed your garden with useful lumens, and this can ensure proper growth. You can study up more on this topic by referring to the metal halide vs. LED lumens chart.

As LED lights have a tight beam-like footprint and emit light at 180 degrees, they’re pretty easy to target over a specified area. Thanks to the plug-n-play system, all you have to do is hang the light in the direction you need it to face and plug it into a power source.

On the other hand, HPS lights emit light omnidirectionally. As in, they emit light at 360 degrees. While that gives you an edge while working in broader areas, you’ll find it challenging to work in tighter spaces.

Moreover, with 360 degrees of light emission, you’d need reflectors or fixture housing to feed the emitted energy to your garden.

When to Use Which

As we can see from the detailed discussion, both LED and HPS lights have their own uses. So, it can get a bit confusing to see when to use which. Thankfully, we may be able to shed some light on this matter.

When to Use HPS Lights

If your requirements match the following criteria, HPS lights may be the better suit for you.

Better Canopy Penetration

HPS lights have relatively better canopy penetration than their LED counterparts. So, you won’t have to waste too much with the light adjustments to get better angles.

No Problems with Cycling

If you’re open to the idea that you may have to change the HID bulbs once in a while, you’ll have no problem with HPS bulbs. And taking care of them isn’t that difficult either. They have a pretty straightforward maintenance routine.

Upfront Costs Are A Barrier

If you’re on a budget, you can consider high-pressure Sodium lights. They’re more affordable upfront and have more than a few benefits to offer.

Yield Maximization

In a LED vs. HPS yield comparison, you’ll have a denser yield with HPS lights. In turn, it’ll allow you to maximize your yield per plant. If you’re working on a smaller space, yield maximization will enable you to gain more profits without expanding your capital.

When to Use LED Lights

You might lean towards LED light bulbs if you have the following preferences.

Energy Efficiency Is A Must

The higher the level of efficiency, the more your costs will come down. The winner in a LED vs. HPS power consumption race will be LED lights. If that’s the path you want to take, LED lights are the best-suited choice for you.

The Long Game

If you’re playing the long game, LEDs are the better choice for you. While, unlike HPS lights, LEDs may have higher upfront costs, they will save you more money down the road. And if you’re willing to invest more in your indoor garden, LEDs will go a long way.

Experiment with the Light Spectrums

Many growers tend to enjoy and explore the various possibility that their grow lights have to offer. They do this to find out just the right combination for each plant in their indoor garden.

So, if you’re looking forward to that specialized tweaking, that’s where LED bulbs shine.

Adjustment Isn’t An Issue

To make the most out of LED grow lights, you’ll need to keep them from six to eighteen inches above the canopy. That way, you can get the maximum light penetration while preventing any light burn.

But you’ll have to find out for yourself what the optimum distance is. So, you’ll have to go through a few adjustment periods to see how much light reaches the plants. If you don’t have any problem with that, you can go with the LEDs. And once you’ve gotten the correct distance, you’ll find that it’s so worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do LED grow lights work as well as HPS?

LED lights produce as much as the same amount of light as high-pressure Sodium lights. But when it comes to electrical efficiency, LEDs have the upper hand.

To put it simply, LED lights consume significantly less energy to produce the same amount of light as HPS lamps. That is, LEDs have a lower energy usage. Or, you can put it this way. If both the grow lights consume the same amount of energy, LED lights will produce more light than high-pressure Sodium ones.

Moreover, HPS lights need more tending to for their upkeep. You’ll also have to bear the added cost of the cooling system and ventilation.

Do LED lights yield more than HPS?

LEDs are more efficient than their HPS counterparts. As in, they consume less energy to produce the same amount of lights as HPS lamps.

When talking about yields, HPS lights can produce a yield of 0.5 grams per watt. Whereas LEDs can produce a yield of one to 1.5 grams per watt.

After taking into account the efficiency of the LED lamps, we’d say that, yes, LED lights do produce more yields than HID grow lights in this battle of LED vs. HPS yield.

What’s better, HPS or LED grow lights?

After going through the discussion above and considering the various factors we considered, we have to say that LED lights seem to have the upper hand in the debate between LED grow lights vs. HPS, at least for now.

What LED is equivalent to a 1000W HPS?

Looking at the LED vs. HPS comparison chart, we can see that a 600-watt LED bulb is equivalent to a 1000-watt HPS bulb.

However, you can always use your own references, such as the LED vs. metal halide wattage conversion chart or the LED vs. metal halide comparison chart and do the math yourself. In fact, we’d encourage that!

Final Words

HPS grow lights were all the rage before LED grow lights first came into the picture. While LED grow lights didn’t have a perfect start, they’ve managed to catch up to the performance of their HPS counterparts. And as we can see in our comparison between LED Vs. HPS Grow Lights, they may have very well exceeded it.

But that doesn’t mean that LED lights have perfected the growing business. They still have more ways to improve. And there are certain situations where you may choose to go for HPS lights. Whatever you decide, make sure to do your research well. And you can use our article as a stepping stone towards that goal. Happy gardening!

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