For many years, high intensity sodium-vapor (HPS) lamps and metal halide (MH) lamps have dominated the grow light market. Now, there is a new player in town – LED grow lights. When they came out, growers used LED grow lights to augment the functions of HPS and MH grow lights. Today, LED technology has come far enough to give traditional grow lights stiff competition.
Unlike traditional grow lamps, which require ballast and complicated set up, LED grow lights provide a plug and play solution. The equipment is easy to install and requires little to no maintenance. The quality of light in terms of intensity and spectrum distribution has also progressed a lot. Present day LED grow lights can deliver the full spectrum of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR).
|VIPARSPECTRA Reflector-Series 600W||12.6 x 7.9 x 3 inches||5.6 pounds||4.7/5|
Our Top Pick
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|Galaxyhydro LED Grow Plant Light 300w||12.1 x 8.2 x 2.4 inches||5.5 pounds||4.6/5|
Best For The Money
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|MarsHydro Mars300||13 x 2.8 x 7.9 inches||6.6 pounds||4.6/5||$$$
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|MEIZHI Reflector-Series 450W||15.8 x 8.3 x 2.8 inches||6.0 pounds||4.6/5||$$$$$
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|TaoTronics 24w Led Grow light Bulb||4.8 x 4.8 x 5.4 inches||0.6 pounds (per bulb)||4.6/5||$
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The intensity was a problem in the early days, but manufacturers have addressed the other issues as well. 5 Watt LEDs power most of the high quality LED grow lights. These high-power LEDs allows higher intensity, better penetration, and superior coverage. There isn’t a better time to switch from the old to the new. You’re probably wondering, what is the best LED grow lights in the market. So, let’s introduce you to the top performers in the market with our LED grow lights reviews.
Let’s get our review going with our top pick, the VIPARSPECTRA Reflector Series LED Grow Light. This LED grow light shines a full spectrum of light on your vegetable, fruit, or flower garden. Unlike banded grow lights, which focus on a part or parts of the light spectrum, a full spectrum grow light provides light at every wavelength. Although full spectrum grow lights may let some wavelengths, such as red and blue, dominate, they do not eliminate any part of the visible spectrum. As a result, you can use the this grow light for every stage of plant growth.
Angled at 90 degrees, 60 Bridglelux/Epileds LED ensure core coverage for an area of 2×2 ft. The light does not create any hot or cold spots and evenly covers all the regions within the coverage area. You can use the VIPARSPECTRA grow light to replace a 250 W High Pressure Sodium-Vapor (HPS) lamp or Metal Halide (MH) lamp. The best part is that this grow light draws only 136 W from the power source.
On purchasing this grow light, you get the reflector unit, a hanging kit, and a power cord. The reflector kit houses the 60 LED lights, heat sink, cooling fans, and electronic components. You don’t need a separate ballast for the VIPARSPECTRA. You can plug the unit to an outlet using the power cord. For larger areas, you can connect multiple units together to form a daisy chain sequence. Plus, the timer makes it easy to control the light and dark periods.
Oh, and did I mention it comes with a three-year warranty against manufacturing defects? All in all this is an incredible purchase. But, if I had to nitpick, I see a few minor negatives in the product as seen in the Cons list below. But, by no means should these flaws distract you from the merits of this product.
The Galaxyhydro LED grow plant light, the 300-Watt model, is another great product for you to consider. It produces light in nine bands that cover ultraviolet, blue, green, red, white, and infrared spectrum. You can use this grow light to promote vegetative growth and flowering. It has an array of 100 3-Watt Epileds LED lights.
The lights have a view angle of 60 and 120 degrees. Although the angles provide reasonable coverage, it isn’t as efficient as the VIPARSPECTRA, which have LEDs at a 90-degree angle. And if you recall, the latter uses 5-Watt Epileds. The Galaxyhydro also consumes more power than our top pick does.
The Galaxyhydro has a built-in heat sink and three cooling fans. So, the unit does not overheat, even after prolonged usage. The product comes with a hanger and a power cord. You don’t need a separate ballast to use this model. For larger areas, you can combine many units to form a daisy chain. This model has a dimmable and non-dimmable variant. If you want better control over the intensity, go for the dimmable version. The dimmable model also has better light angles, mixture of 90 and 120 degrees. Both variants come with a two-year warranty.
The MarsHydro Mars300 is a budget friendly LED grow light. It is not as costly as the VIPARSPECTRA or the Galaxyhydro. But, it isn’t as effective as those two models either. Since the Mars300 is a budget grow light, it’s obvious that you will have to agree to certain compromises.
Although the model has an array of 60 5-Watt Epileds, the lights aren’t driven to their full capacity. So, what you get in the end is actually the equivalent of a 150 Watt HPS. On the other hand, the VIPARSPECTRA, which also uses 60 5-Watt Epileds, can match the performance of a 250 Watt HPS.
However, the product does provide a good coverage area of 2×2 ft. and a full spectrum light. The installation kit comes with the LED unit, a steel hangar, and a power cord. This model is not daisy-chain compatible, and the warranty on the product is for one year. So, I’d recommend this model to hobbyists and recreational cultivators rather than professional growers.
If you have an area between 2×2 ft. and 4×4 ft., it doesn’t make sense to buy two separate 300-Watt units. Instead, you can go for the MEIZHI Reflector-Series 450 Watt grow light. The MEIZHI 450 is a powerhouse. It can match the performance of a 450 Watt HPS. It has an array of 90 5-Watt Epileds lights, but it consumes only 195 Watts of power. This means the LEDs aren’t driven to their breaking point.
The LEDs are angled at 120 degrees. This provides good coverage, while minimizing hot spots and cold spots. The model provides the plants with a full spectrum of light. So, you can use this product during any stage of the growth process. It has aluminum heat sinks and cooling fans. Therefore, overheating will never be an issue with this product. The new versions of this model support daisy chaining.
However, the product is relatively new to the market and does not enjoy the widespread reputation the other models in this list do. The warranty on this product is for 12 months. So, if you’re willing to take a little risk, you can buy one MEIZHI 450 instead of two VIPARSPECTRAs or Galaxyhydros. If it pays off, you got the best bargain in the LED grow light industry.
Don’t have a hundred dollars to spend on an LED grow light? No problem. Get the TaoTronics 24 W LED Grow Light Bulb. It is one of the best LED grow lights for the money. Don’t let the low price tag fool you into thinking it’s an inferior product. This product is a best seller on Amazon. Not just that, this product has hundreds of favorable customer reviews.
The TaoTronics light bulb contains 12 LED lights, each rated at 2 W. These bulbs produce light with four peaks – 430nm, 460nm, 630 nm, and 660nm. The first two wavelengths cover the blue spectrum and the last two covers the red spectrum. The red and blue spectrums provide the raw elements needed for plants to grow and flower. The bulb’s body has a built-in heat sink that prevents heat buildup even after prolonged use. You can plug the bulb into any standard E26 light socket. There is no need for any special support.
Now, the VIPARSPECTRA LED lights angle at 90 degrees. This distributes the light evenly over a wide area. The TaoTronics grow light, on the other hand, angles at 30 degrees. So, this bulb concentrates light over a smaller area. So, make sure you place the lamp 2 to 5 feet away from the plant. Otherwise, your plants may burn. And, you can’t use the light for large plants, such as tomato, without a reflective covering.
The product comes with a 12-month warranty, which you can extend by 6 months after registering the product on the website. Although 12 months is less compared to what other LED grow lights offer, it is good enough considering the price of the product. Given the product’s price point, the risk of going wrong with your purchase is minimal.
You may be a novice indoor horticulturist, looking for an LED grow light to nurture your basement garden. Or, you may be an expert cultivator who wants to switch or complement the HPS or MH grow lights with LED ones. You could also fall somewhere in between. In any case, though, you will benefit from the information in this buying guide.
You will come across terms like rated wattage, actual wattage, PAR, lumen, PAR per lumen, PAR per Watt, and what not. Some companies may throw around these values just to trick you into thinking their product is awesome. Others provide the information for you to compare the merit of the product for yourself. But, if you don’t know the meaning and significance of these terms, you can’t tell the difference between the good ones and the bad ones.
Perhaps the most misleading statistic when it comes to LED grow lights is the rated wattage. Unfortunately, this is also the most visible and the most advertised specification. But, the rated wattage doesn’t even come close to painting an accurate picture. The meat is in the actual wattage.
I noticed that grow lights have two power values. Which is the one I should consider?
This is a great question. Typically, LED grow light manufacturers include a number in the product’s name. For example, VIPARSPECTRA V300, MarsHydro Mars300, and Meizhi Reflector-Series 450W. These numbers indicate the maximum theoretical output the LEDs in the grow light can produce. For instance, the VIPARSPECTRA 300V has 60 LEDs, each rated at 5 W. So, the VIPARSPECTRA can theoretically produce 60 x 5 W = 300 W.
Now, driving 60 5 W LEDs to their maximum capacity requires 300W. However, the grow light pulls only 136 W from the power outlet. So, the LEDs are operating at less than half their designed capacity. The power drawn from the outlet is a better metric for comparison than the advertised wattage. But, this shouldn’t be your only metric. I will explain why.
What are the other metrics I should consider while comparing brands?
The power drawn should be one of the main considerations, but not the only one. The power drawn impacts the cost of operating the grow light. For example, a 136 W grow light running 15 hours a day uses two units of electricity per day. That amounts to approximately 24 cents per day or $7 per month. But, you should go beyond this rating. After all, if the power translates poorly into light output, you’re at a loss.
So, the next parameter you must compare is the light’s output and its efficiency. To get the output, read the product’s spec sheet. Look for the number of lumens the light produces. After that, divide the lumens by the power drawn. This gives you lumens/Watt. The higher the number, the better the efficiency. For example, the GalaxyHydro model listed in the product review section produces 7000 lumens, and it draws 145 W from the supply. So, this grow light produces around 48 lumens/Watt. But, not all manufacturers supply this information. Instead, they use the PAR/lumen.
What is PAR?
PAR stands for photosynthetically active radiation. To explain PAR, I’ll use a simple analogy. When you buy a whole chicken, you won’t eat every part of the chicken. There are parts you eat and parts you don’t. In the same way, plants use only a part of light’s radiation. More specifically, radiation with wavelength between 400 nm and 700 nm. The PAR value indicates the amount of light that plants can use to carry out photosynthesis. So, if the product indicates PAR/lumen, you can use it to measure the product’s efficiency.
In addition to PAR/lumen, you should also consider PAR/foot. This gives you an idea of useable radiation shining on a 1×1 ft. area. However, some companies show only the PAR/foot for the area directly under the light. This is a bit misleading because manufacturers can achieve high PAR/foot by focusing the light at the center. For a more accurate picture, you need the PAR/foot for each 1×1 ft. in a 4×4 ft. grid. This data is available in the form of a PAR map.
To summarize the information so far, there are many ways to judge the quality of a grow light. They are as follows:
Obviously, the more data you have, easier it becomes to evaluate a product. If you’re considering any product that’s not in our list, you should spend some time studying all these parameters.
Should I go for a full spectrum light or a banded spectrum light?
Plants use different parts of the spectrum as they grow and mature. During the growth phase or the vegetative phase, plants use more of the light in the blue spectrum. When they come close to flowering, they use more of the light in the red spectrum. So, if you have a full spectrum grow light, you can use it during the vegetative and the flowering phase.
Banded grow lights that shine light in the red or blue spectrum produce lower quality results than full spectrum grow lights do. That’s because plants also need light in the green spectrum to carry out photosynthesis. A lot of people say that plants do not need green light because they reflect green light without using it. This isn’t true. Plants reflect most of the green light, but they do absorb some of it. Green light is to plants what salt is to us. Plants need green light in small quantities just as we need salt in small quantities.
I think I have a clear picture now. What are my options?
The easiest option is to go for one of the products in the review section. However, if you want to scan the market for more products, you can checkout products from KingLED, Apollo, Roleadro, and OxyLED. And don’t forget to look at other products that VIPARSPECTRA, TaoTronics, and GalaxyHydro offer.
Some people peak under the hood of their cars and pretend they understand what’s going on. People, who shop for LED grow lights without understanding the terms and learning to interpret the specifications, are the same as novice car buyers. Fortunately, this article covers the basics of buying an LED grow light. From this point, you know enough to make a sound purchase.
The search for the best LED grow light can lead you down many roads. But, you must avoid wrong turns. Growing plants is a nurturing action. A lot of care goes into it. If you invest the same amount of care researching and selecting the correct grow light for your needs, you will always go down the correct path. This buyer’s guide has all the information you need to stay on the right track.
In summary, the VIPARSPECTRA is the best LED grow light for home and commercial use. It is priced reasonably for the features it brings to the table. It also has an industry best 3-year warranty. The GalaxyHydro comes close to the VIPARSPECTRA in many ways, but falls short when it comes to warranty.
However, if you’re looking for low budget solution, try the TaoTronics 24 Watt LED grow bulb. It’s a noteworthy product that enjoys a good reputation. But, the Taotronics bulb is not suitable for growing large plants. For that, you can try the MarsHydro. It’s also a reliable budget product. Lastly, you can try the MEIZHI grow light. It is a new entrant into the market, but it holds tremendous promise. And it is a 450-Watt grow light and provides greater coverage.
LED grow lights have developed a lot in the recent years. Today, the product has become affordable and reliable. So, there are good products available at every price range. Hopefully, the information in this guide will help you locate the right product.