Lights are arguably the most important factor in generating big yields, however there are a lot of different types of lights and the amount of information out there can be overwhelming for newbies. This is a guide in layman’s terms on cannabis grow lights that will help you to decide what type to purchase.
The different types of cannabis grow lights
CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light)
CFL’s one of the most popular choices and they are probably the most readily available because you can even find these in local hardware stores or even grocery stores because they are energy efficient bulbs that lots of people use in their houses. CFL’s are great because they use about 80% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb so if you are concerned about energy use these lights are perfect. However, they don’t give out as much power as a HID (high intensity discharge) lights so the yields may not be as high.
CFL’s are ideal for smaller grows, the fact that they are the most affordable option, the easiest to purchase and cheap to run makes then a great choice for beginners that want to start out small. CFL’s also fit any standard household light fixture so these bulbs are going to be the most convenient for people that don’t want to splash out on expensive equipment
There are two types of CFL bulb growers need to known about:
Daylight CFL bulbs (6500k)
This type of bulb is a very bright white light that replicates summertime daylight for the plant making it most suited for use when the plant is in its vegetative stage of growth.
Warm white CFL (2700k)
These bulbs are a warm white with more of a red-light spectrum that are best used during the plants flowering phase.
CFL’s only cost a few bucks which is why they are a popular light for beginners or people just doing a small grow on a budget.
Approximately 1 year
You can expect to yield around 0.3 – 0.4 grams of cannabis per watt of power, with a standard CFL being 40 watts you are looking at around 12-16 grams per bulb.
HID (High Intensity Discharge) – Also known as MH and HPS
There are two types of HID lights commonly used in cannabis growing and they are MH (Metal Halide bulbs) that produce a bright cool white/blue colour that is best suited to growing cannabis plants in the vegetative stage. The other type is HPS (High Pressure Sodium bulbs) that give off a warmer reddish light that is more suitable for cannabis plants during their flowering stage.
As with CFL’s the best way to grow using the two HID lights is to use them both at different stages in the plant’s life, use MH lights during vegetative growth and HPS during the flowering stage. You can get sets of these lights that usually also include a ballast and a reflector.
A full set of HID lights with the ballast, bulbs and a reflector will set you back around $100 – $200 depending on where you buy and what brand. Although not too expensive the cost of operating one of these lights is much higher than using CFL or LED so you will likely see a big jump in your electricity bill, something to keep in mind if doing a stealth grow.
The average lifespan is around 1 year.
The average yield is 0.5 – 1 gram per watt of power, which equates to approximately 300 – 600 grams per light.
LED (Light Emitting Diode)
LED’s have only recently become popular for cannabis grows, up until a few years ago they were mostly used for providing light to seedlings or clones in their early stage of growth however the technology and power they have has come on a long way.
The advantage of using LED lights is that they are able to emit light that can be used for both the vegetative stage and the flowering stage of growth and unlike CFL’s and HID’s you have the option to switch to a different light spectrum at the flick of a button without changing the bulbs.
Up until recently many growers believed that LED’s would not be able to produce enough high intensity light to get huge yields from a grow, however modern technology in COB (Chip on Board) LED’s means that they can now provide consistent light intensity levels that are capable of being used in any grow big or small. The most advance LED’s are now even more efficient at giving off the right type of light than HID’s and so the use of LED’s has grown as have yields. However the downside to LED’s is the initial cost, high quality LED’s that can rival HID’s are by far the most expensive lights, that being said they are much more energy efficient and will save money on your energy bills, so while it is a big initial cost it is a wise investment longer term if you are a regular grower.
LED prices range massively as does the quality. For a low quality LED you are looking at around $120 whereas top of the range LED’s could set you back up to $2500. It really depends on how much you can afford as an initial outlay and how many grows you plan on doing, if it is just the one then you may be best off with CFL’s but if you are serious then LED’s are the way forward. If you can find a decent middle of the market LED system for $400-$600 it will do just fine.
With LED lights you get what you pay for and depending on build quality and usage you should be looking at 5 – 10 years.
0.5 – 2 grams per watt depending on the quality of light.
LEC (Ceramic Metal Halide)
LEC grow lights are the least popular on the list, however they do have their advantages. They are most similar to HID lights however, the main difference is that they are made of ceramic as oppose to the quarts material that is used in MH lights. This allows the light to regulate its temperature better meaning the grow room stays cooler, plus they emit a more natural light that provides more lumens per watt meaning they are more energy efficient and have a longer lifespan. LEC lights also have a ballast built into them which is one of the biggest selling points to new growers as that part of the setup is already done for you.
Good quality LEC light fixtures will set you back around $200 – $400 with the top of the range versions costing up to $1000 with the bulbs also costing considerably more than HID’s.
Good quality LEC lights will last from 2-3 years depending on usage.
High quality LEC lights can yield up to around 1.3 – 1.6 grams per watt of power.
What are the best cannabis grow lights to use?
This is massively is dependent on your grow and your budget, if you are planning a huge grow with big budget then you will almost certainly get the best results and biggest yields from high-end LED lights, the cost will be much greater, however the rewards will be too. On the flip side if you are on a budget and you are planning your first small grow, CFL’s are by far the cheapest, most convenient and the easiest to set up, however the yields may not be as impressive. That being said if you are doing a small grow in a cupboard, then CFL’s will be fine because your yield will be limited by the size of the cupboard anyway. There is no point having the best lights that money can buy if you don’t have enough space to grow with in the first place.
Comparing cannabis grow lights
With such a wide variety of lights available it can be daunting especially for first time growers. But don’t worry, our team of expert growers have put together in the table below, a selection of some of our recommended lights available from amazon, so that you don’t have to do the boring research yourself.