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LED vs HID Grow Lights: Which Is Best for Indoor growing?

LED vs HID Grow Lights: Which Is Best for Indoor growing?

There are plenty of different factors you need to consider when cultivating your own cannabis plants. But one topic that is guaranteed to cause plenty of debate is choosing the best grow lights. There is no simple answer, as the different considerations of cost, bud yield power consumption, cooling needs and so on can often run counter to one another. Some kind of trade off is inevitable.

While other types of lighting are available, the main choice for cultivating your choice of marijuana seeds into a healthy plant with a good quality yield comes down to LED or HID. Let’s take a look at how each of them operates, along with their pros and cons, to work out which will be right for you.


What’s the difference?

First, we need to be clear about how they work and what those acronyms stand for. HID stands for High Intensity Discharge. HID lamps have been used for years and are the light-source of choice for many of the most highly respected professional growers. They are known for their high light output, and are essentially based on the same design as the light bulbs we have all been using for years. The lights are comprised of two electrodes in an inert gas, all contained in a glass bulb. When electricity arcs across the electrodes and interacts with the gas, bright light is produced.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) works according to completely different principles. A diode is basically a one-way switch in an electrical circuit that emits a photon when current passes through it, and this creates light. When you see an LED lamp, you are actually looking at a grid containing thousands of tiny diodes. Each diode produces a specific color, so an LED lamp can be crafted to produce a highly specific spectrum of light.


Benefits of HID lights

Let’s get this out of the way up front, the main reason most growers will choose HID over LED is a financial one. HID lamps are significantly cheaper to purchase, just as traditional bulbs for your home are priced far lower than LEDs. But cost is not the only reason you might consider HID. 

The fact that they have been used for decades means there is far more information available about working with HID grow lights. If you are new to growing and are still gathering information to learn the art, you will find an HID lighting system more straightforward. In short, there is less to think about and there are fewer potential stumbling blocks with HID than LED.


Benefits of LED lights

We get it drummed into us that LED lights are the future as they are more energy efficient and they last longer, meaning the higher initial outlay is well worthwhile. Does that hold true for grow lamps? Well, the fact that they use less energy and produce less heat means your running costs will be significantly lower. In addition, you will not need to worry about costly and cumbersome air conditioning. 

All in all, LED lamps make the whole set-up neater, cooler, more efficient and less obtrusive. The importance of this last factor should not be underestimated, particularly if you are growing in a restricted space, or you are keen to maintain as low a profile as possible with your growing activities.

Once you have a good quality LED set-up in place, you should find that maintenance needs are minimal, too. Certainly, the LEDs will last far longer than HIDs, but keep in mind that to get the best out of your LED lighting, you might spend additional time adjusting the light output and the distance from the plants than you would with HIDs.


Which is the best system for you?


Now that we are clear about these two different types of lighting and what they bring to the table, it is clear why there is no simple binary answer to the question of which is “best.” It’s a little like asking whether it is better to drive 200 miles to a neighboring city or to take the train.

In short, it depends on your personal circumstances and needs. LED lamps are ideal for experienced growers who are prepared to invest both time and money in their technology. They are also a wise choice if you are growing cannabis in a relatively confined space.

HIDs are the simpler and cheaper option. They will appeal to beginners who are less experienced in cultivation, and will deliver good quality light penetration with less up-front investment.