LED vs incandescent grow lights- Everything you need to know

(Last Updated On: November 14, 2021)

LED lights are known for longevity and are way more energy efficient compared to incandescent grow lights. Don’t mix standard LED lights with LED grow lights. LED grow lights have a wider spectrum that is needed for gardening. LED grow lights are excellent for both household and commercial gardening.

But LED lights are expensive. You may wonder- what are the differences between LEDs and traditional lights that make them expensive? Are they worth it?

We did a lot of research and this article covers everything you need to know about LED vs incandescent grow lights.

What are LED grow lights? Are they worth the price?

LED grow lights are the newest form of indoor garden lighting. Meant to replace traditional HID (high-intensity discharge) and fluorescent lighting, they can offer significant energy savings and a much longer lifespan than both in the long run. They’re great for controlling heat and avoiding electrical fire hazards in your grow room.

LED grow lights are specifically tailored to the needs of plants. They emit specific spectrum wavelengths in order to simulate outdoor sunlight and trick your plants into producing differently than they would under a normal light bulb or fluorescent lamp.

If you’re an experienced grower, a good LED grow light will save you time while increasing productivity and potency. If you’re new to growing, the results you could achieve with LED grow lights are simply amazing.

LED Grow lights vs incandescent grow lights

LED lights differ greatly from the incandescent grow lights. Let’s now take a look at the differences between LED grow lights and some traditional ones, i.e., HID lights, fluorescent lights, HPS lights etc.

LED grow lights vs HID lights

**What are the differences between LED grow lights and HID grow lights?**

LED grow lights and HID grow lights are two different types of indoor light sources for plants. Indoor gardeners use light sources to supplement natural sunlight or to replace it entirely when growing indoors. Both LED grow lights and HID grow lights have advantages, but knowing the difference between them can be useful in making an informed decision about which type could be more beneficial.

LEDs emit specific frequencies of light that mimic the wavelengths plants most effectively absorb for photosynthesis. LED lights can also be manipulated with special circuitry to emit certain colors and only certain colors, which allows for more accurate spectrum control. For example, red LEDs are used to enhance flowering in plants while blue LEDs are used to promote vegetative growth.

The brightness of an LED light is measured in Lumens instead of wattage, but there are ways to use the two measurements interchangeably by factoring lumens per watt into the equation. LED grow lights are more expensive than HID grow lights, but the price difference is shrinking. LED lights emit less heat and are safer to use around people and pets because they don’t produce any ultraviolet radiation that could cause damage to eyes or skin cells.

LEDs also have incredibly long life spans, which makes them a good choice for small home-scale gardens where a light will be in use for many years. However, they are not as effective at growing large plants because there is a limit to how much fruit or flower per plant the LED spectrum can support. LEDs always have a warm color temperature of around 3000K and don’t emit any blue light, which means there is a lack of pigmentation in their light to promote flowering in plants.

HID grow lights are a type of high intensity discharge bulb that uses electricity to create light from gases. Metal halide and high pressure sodium bulbs are the most common types for indoor growing because they produce white light using a combination of colors from the rainbow, which is called “full spectrum” lighting.

Sunlight also has a full spectrum of colors, which is why HID lights work well to supplement natural light indoors. They are often used in conjunction with LED grow lights during the vegetative cycle when natural sunlight isn’t enough for plants that need a lot of light to develop fruit or flowers.

HIDs do produce a lot of heat, but there are cooling systems that can dissipate the heat before it causes problems. HID lights are less expensive than LEDs and more powerful, which makes them great for large-scale commercial growing operations.

However, some people find their light to be too harsh on the eyes so they don’t work well in close quarters indoor garden spaces. They also don’t emit any light in the blue spectrum which means there is no flower-boosting capability either.

LEDs vs HIDs- which should you pick?

LED grow lights are more expensive than HID grow lights but can produce identical results indoors. If cost is a concern, LED grow lights can save money in the long run because unlike HID lights they last for decades without requiring replacement. When considering LED vs HID, it’s important to note that LEDs are more efficient than HIDs and do not emit any harmful ultraviolet radiation which makes them safer to use too.

HID grow lights emit a lot of heat but there are always ways to dissipate the heat if it becomes a problem. HIDs also give better results when they are supplemented with additional lighting in the blue spectrum, like LED grow lights. They produce a full spectrum of light and can be used during all stages in plant growth, not just for vegetative cycle.

LEDs last longer than HIDs but both lights have a long lifespan. LEDs are more expensive to purchase initially but they do not require replacement. HIDs need to be replaced after several years of use, which means there is an added expense.

If cost is the only consideration, LED lights win because they don’t need replacing and can produce identical results as HIDs indoors. However if cost is not an issue then it’s probably best to use both types of lighting during all stages of growth for the best results.

LED grow lights vs fluorescent grow lights

LED grow lights and fluorescent grow lights both have their own unique qualities and applications. Fluorescent grow lights give off more heat and use a lot of energy. These two factors make fluorescent grow lighting unsuitable for growing plants that require specific light requirements such as hydroponic plants or other plant species that cannot tolerate high temperatures. LED grow lights are low energy, high intensity lights which give off very little heat.

This makes LED grow light ideal for hydroponic applications where the plant may be sensitive to high temperatures or other conditions that require specific light requirements. Fluorescent lights are more suitable for growing plants that have lower light requirements such as African violets or other houseplants.

Fluorescent lights can be used as primary or supplemental lighting depending on the plants’ needs. LED grow lights are generally more efficient at providing relatively high light intensity than fluorescent lights which makes them ideal for growing plants with medium to high light requirements including tomatoes, strawberries and other small crop plants.

Which light should you pick?(LED grow light vs fluorescent grow light)

LED grow lights emit very little heat which makes them ideal for applications where the plant may be sensitive to high levels of heat. LED grow lights also do not flicker, whereas fluorescent lighting can cause flickering that can lead to stress in plants. LED grow lights are much more energy efficient than fluorescent grow lights and use about 50% less energy than similar capacity fluorescent tubes.

If you are growing plants requiring specific light requirements such as hydroponic applications or other plant species that cannot tolerate high temperatures it is recommended to use LED grow lights.

If the application only requires general lighting, whether it’s for primary or supplemental lighting, fluorescent lamps are sufficient. Fluorescent grow lights also provide an excellent spectrum for most houseplants and plants that do not require specific light requirements.

LED grow lights vs HPS lights

LED lights are considered the new replacement to HPS grow lights. They come in many different sizes and wattages, typically between 5 watts to 420 watts.

HPS lights are mostly used by more experienced growers with 80-250W power supplies due to their relatively high electricity consumption. However they work very quickly at growing plants when compared to LED grow lights.

There are many differences between LED and HPS grow lights, so let’s compare the two:

LED grow light features

  • LEDs need a six band wavelength spectrum to function properly and efficiently. However this is not always achieved with some cheaper models that only use four bands of light.
  • A full cycle of a LED light is typically between 10 and 20 hours.
  • Some models have a built-in cooling system which cools the lights by up to 30%.
  • LEDs are easy to install, lightweight, take little electricity to operate, and can be used as a primary or supplemental light source.
  • Many people claim that their yields from LED grow lights are larger than with the traditional HPS, but this has yet to be proven.
  • LED’s are more expensive in general at higher wattages compared to HPS lights.
  • The life expectancy of an average quality LED light is around 50,000 hours which is typically between 6-8 years.

HPS grow light features

  • The average HPS light has an output of around 1000 watts.
  • Most HPS lights have a yellow, red or orange spectrum which is what plants use mostly for photosynthesis. Some models have an additional blue spectrum to help speed up growth in the vegetative stage of the growing cycle.
  • The best HPS grow lights produce light in the main frequency for optimal photosynthesis (535 nm) which is more efficient than lower quality models.
  • HPS lights are compatible with CO2, however they do not require it to function properly.
  • The average life expectancy of an HPS light is around 20,000 hours or typically 2-3 years.
  • HPS lights have a much higher output than LEDs, however this depends on the brand/model you choose to go with.
  • HPS lights are extremely heavy, take a large amount of electricity to run and emit lots of heat that can damage your plants if not monitored properly.
  • HPS lights provide the most optimal condition for plants to grow in, but they can still be used as a supplemental light source.
  • The best HPS lights have a full spectrum that includes both yellow and blue wavelengths to ensure plant’s proper growth throughout their life cycle.

Which should you pick between LED grow lights and HPS lights?

  • LED grow lights are better than HPS in terms of power consumption and the amount of electricity needed to run.
  • LED lights are better than HPS grow lights in terms of life expectancy, but are not as cost effective.
  • Both types of lights work well for growing plants, the choice will largely depend on your budget and how much you are willing to spend on a new light source.
  • As LED grow lights continue to improve in technology and become more affordable, they will become the most popular light source for indoor growing in the near future.
  • Mixing LEDs with HPS is something both experienced and beginner growers are starting to do when they want to get the best of both worlds when it comes to lighting.

LED grow lights are great by themselves or as a supplemental light source, however they are not as efficient as HPS grow lights when it comes to flowering and fruiting phases. In order to achieve this you will need to mix the two together which is what most professional indoor growers do these days.

Final Words

Most incandescent grow lights are less expensive compared to LEDs. But they are also less power-efficient and have a shorter lifespan. The biggest selling point of LED grow lights are its power-efficient nature and longer lifespan.

It’s understandable why LEDs are becoming so popular. Though they cost much more than some of the incandescent grow lights, they last long and reduce hassle.

However, if you are a gardening expert and budget is not a concern for you, incandescent lights or a combination of incandescent grow lights and LED grow lights is the best choice for you.

Hope you enjoyed this article. Let us know if you have any questions.

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