One of the first decisions you need to make about growing cannabis indoors is which grow lights you will use. Traditionally cannabis has been grown indoors under High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights such as High-Pressure Sodium (HPS), Metal Halide (MH) and Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH). However, LED Lights have made tremendous gains in efficiency and are now clearly the best lights for growing cannabis indoors.
We understand that many growers are already invested in HID lights, therefore, we continue to offer our recommendations for replacement bulbs and other accessories. If you have already invested in a ballast and hood, then it still makes sense to replace the bulbs and use the lights. However, we no longer recommend investing in HID lights for new growers. The efficiency and cost of LED lights has reached the point that they can out compete HID lights on all counts. For new growers we only recommend LED lights. Check out the specific models that we recommend below.
Updated Sept 7, 2019
LED lights are an ever-developing technology. Until recently, High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lights were the most efficient for both electricity and cost. However, technological gains have allowed LEDs to surpass the efficiency of HID lighting. LED lights that are capable of out performing HID lights have been available for several years now, but they have been very expensive. It is only within the last several months that models have become available that can out compete HID lights on both efficiency and cost.
There are now quality products available at an affordable price. However, the LED market is rife with incomplete information and false claims. There are many discount LED lights that grossly exaggerate their efficiency and HID light equivalence. Without good information it can be easy to end up with a low-quality light. Steer clear of the no-name brands that make fantastical claims. If you want the best LED grow light for your space and budget, then choose from among the brands and options below.
Our recommendations are based on careful analysis. We use data from third party sources to measure and compare the different models. We evaluate the total light output, the efficiency of the energy conversion, and the cost. To compare different models, we use Photosynthetic Photon Flux (PPF) and we calculate two ratings: photon efficiency and cost efficiency. “Photon efficiency” is Actual Power Draw in Watts/PPF. This measures how efficiently the unit turns electricity into usable light. “Cost efficiency” is Purchase Price/PPF. This is an index of how expensive the unit is per the light it produces. In addition to these efficiency ratings, our recommendations consider issues of build quality, component quality, and user experiences. To give a sense of relative yield, Dr. Photon provides his best estimate for the yield he would expect in his style of grow for each light.
This is a rapidly developing market and we are monitoring it closely to bring you regular updates on the best LED grow lights on the market. Updated September 2019
Mars Hydro TS Series LED
The new Mars Hydro TS series really is a game changer. They deliver performance that until recently was only available on models that cost 4-5 times as much. The photon and cost efficiency of these lights forced us to reconsider everything about how we recommend grow lights. We no longer recommend HID lights to new growers because of these Mars TS series LEDs. They are an excellent value for money, and they are our top recommendation for most growers.
Mars Hydro TS1000
The TS1000 draws 150 watts and has a photon efficiency of 1.7umol per watt. That is an amazing photon efficiency for a light in this price range. It boasts a purchase cost of only $0.50/umol, which makes it the most cost-efficient light that we recommend and one of the most cost-efficient grow light options that exist. Dr Photon’s harvest expectations for one of these lights is about 155 grams or 5.5 ounces.
Mars Hydro TSW2000
The TSW2000 draws 310 watts and it has an excellent photon efficiency of 1.6umol per watt. The purchase cost efficiency is $0.60/umol, which is among the leaders in the market. Dr Photon’s harvest expectations for one of these lights is about 305 grams or 11 ounces.
HLG Quantum Boards
The Horticultural Lighting Group (HLG) was the first to adopt the simple “quantum board” concept. A quantum board is just a printed circuit board with a distribution of highly efficient LED diodes. The design is cost efficient and does not require complex or costly cooling solutions. There is some assembly required, but the simple design means that most home growers will have no trouble assembling it themselves. If you are interested in the quantum board concept, we recommend the original HLG quantum boards rather than generic clones. We suggest purchasing from the LED Grow Light Depot because their offer includes a dimmable driver, which makes it a complete system. If purchased elsewhere the driver is usually sold separately.
Each unit draws only 65 watts, but they have an incredible photon efficiency of 1.9 umol per watt. The QB 120 has a purchase cost efficiency of $0.80/umol. They cost more to purchase initially but run more efficiently than the Mars Hydro TS series above. Dr Photon’s harvest expectations for one of these lights is about 75 grams or 3 ounces.
The QB288 draws 135 watts with a photon efficiency of 1.7 umol per watt. It has a cost efficiency rating of $0.80/umol. Dr Photon’s harvest expectations for one of these lights is about 140 grams or 5 ounces.
Crecer Lighting is a new company in the horticultural lighting market, but they offer some excellent products. They use quality components and have great build designs. They are also extremely competitive on price. If you are looking for a single high-powered LED for your grow tent, then the Crecer PanthrX may be the perfect light for you.
The Stats on this light are impressive. It draws 620 watts from the wall with a photon efficiency of 1.7umol per watt. Dr Photon’s harvest expectations for one of these lights is about 640 grams or 23 ounces. There are other lights that can match those numbers, but none of them can touch the Crecer PanthrX on cost efficiency. This light is a steal at only $0.80/umol.
NextLight is a leader in the horticultural lighting market and they produce excellent models primarily for the commercial market. This is our top-end recommendation. If you are looking for cost efficiency, we recommend that you consider the Crecer PanthrX above. However, if you want the absolute best quality light for your home grow than the NextLight Mega may be the light for you.
The Mega draws 650 watts with a photon efficiency of 1.6 umol per watt. It has a cost efficiency of $1.50 per umol, which is considerably higher than the models we recommend above. However, the Mega is the highest quality light in terms of light distribution, components, and user satisfaction. Dr Photon’s harvest expectations for one of these lights is about 700 grams or 25 ounces. This is a commercial grade fixture and it includes a 5-year warranty.
High Intensity Discharge (HID) Lights: Metal Halide (MH), High-Pressure Sodium (HPS), & Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH)
HID lighting technology, has been around for years. However, in most markets, it is no longer the most energy or cost efficient choice. If you already have a HID set-up then it is worth replacing the bulbs and continuing to run your lights. However, if you are a new grower or if it is time to upgrade, we recommend choosing an LED grow light instead of HID. See our LED grow light recommendations above.
Metal Halide (MH) Bulbs
Metal Halide bulbs produce a light spectrum that is ideal for vegetative growth. However, it is not perfect for flowering. Most growers use an MH bulb for the first part of their grow and switch to an HPS bulb when the plants enter flowering.
Bulb manufacturers are not all the same. There are vast differences between bulb products which can cause noticeable differences. If you can only invest in one aspect of your HID lighting, then it should be the bulbs. I (Dr. Photon) would rather have an inexpensive reflector than an inexpensive bulb.
Eye Hortilux Metal Halide Blue
Sunmaster Metal Halide 600
High Pressure Sodium (HPS) Bulbs
High pressure sodium is the industry standard for flowering cannabis plants. These bulbs simply replace the MH bulb when the plants reach the flowering stage. The Quality of the HPS bulb that you select will go a long way towards determining the quality and yield of your harvest. This is one item where you want to invest in quality.
Eye Hortilux Super HPS
It most grow tents, you need to hang a number of things from the top bars: lights, exhaust fan, carbon filter, bracing frame, etc.
6-Pack 1/8 Inch Ratchet Pulleys
You need a timer to control the lights and also potentially to control the exhaust and drip irrigation systems.
Digital Programmable Timer
Digital Timer with one second intervals
These are very handy to control the lights without messing with the timer or for turning other equipment on and off.
Grounded Power Switches
Light meters are used to evaluate the light distribution in the grow space and to determine the best height to hang your light above the canopy. This is not a required tool. Many growers can do fine following general guidelines, but if you want to dial in your grow you need to be able to measure the light.
Magnetic Bubble Levels
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About Our Product Recommendations
At Coco for Cannabis, our mission is to help growers maximize the success of their cannabis crops by providing scientifically accurate information and sharing proven growing practices.
The products that we recommend are the actual products that we chose to purchase and use ourselves. In a few cases, we recommend products that we would buy if we needed them. We do not accept advertising and will not recommend any product that we would not buy for ourselves. We offer this guide as a resource to growers.
We may receive a referral when you purchase products through this page. This is the main revenue stream that keeps Coco for Cannabis up and running! When you click through our links and make purchases you are supporting our work! As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Whether we receive a referral does not influence our recommendations. For example, when products are cheaper to buy locally, we’ll tell you that rather than just recommend a more expensive online option.
The information on cocoforcannabis.com should not be considered as financial, legal, or medical advice. You are responsible for knowing and following the local laws that pertain to cannabis cultivation, possession, and use. Decisions to grow cannabis should be made in consultation with a lawyer or qualified legal advisor. Decisions to use cannabis should be made in consultation with your doctor or medical professional.