LED vs HID Grow Lights: Which Is Best? My Honest Opinion

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By Emily Cooper

HID and LED light bulbs are popular for a variety of indoor growing projects. As LED lighting grew in popularity, HID lights have become an alternative consideration for professional cultivation due to their energy efficiency.

In my indoor growing experience, I often hear debates between HID vs LED grow lights. It’s really about preference, though there are other factors, both advantages and drawbacks, for each grow light option.

So let’s jump in and go through all the differences.

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Quick Tips on Choosing Your Grow Lights

For starters, I recommend getting acquainted with the nature of your growing project, before you consider which indoor grow lights to buy. Consider the following basics:

  • The energy efficiency: larger growing projects can benefit from reduced energy use, which lower costs.
  • The light intensity and spectrum options
  • Your budget: how much are you willing to spend, because the best grow lights on the market can get pricey.

When I consider the type of lighting to use, my focus centers on the yield as the main factor. LED lighting has been the go-to option for years, though some developments in HID lighting provide the opportunity to reassess the available options for growing plants.

Note: It’s important to review all specifications of HID and LED to find which option is more effective as an indoor grower. Otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time and burn through cash, which will set you back.

The HID vs. LED light bulbs debate is popular among growers, though both are worth considering for a variety of reasons. For this reason, I recommend reviewing all the benefits and disadvantages of both before finalizing the best investment for your grow room.

What are LED Grow Lights?

LED or light-emitting diode bulbs are an energy-efficient light source that works when an electrical current moves through a microchip inside the bulb. This process ignites the bulb, which creates a far more efficient light output than older sources, including incandescent bulbs.

what are led grow lights

They are also fantastic to touch, as the heat produced by LED lights is absorbed.

Did you know that LED lights are up to 90% more efficient, which is ideal in large cultivation projects?

One feature I specifically like about LED technology is its ability to last longer than incandescent or fluorescent lights, which tend to burn out much faster. LED bulbs can last for years and slowly dim over time.

Their lifetime is measured or determined by how long they decrease their brightness. When they dim below 30%, an LED fixture is considered to have reached its end, though they typically last a long time.

What are HID Grow Lights?

HID or High-Intensity Discharge lights are popular with commercial growers due to their intense brightness, which often rivals other types of lighting.

what are hid grow lights

I recommend HID lights for large-scale operations, where a more intense output is desired. Essentially, HID lights are the modern versions of vintage gas lamps, which were used in the past for many different applications.

HID grow lights contain two electrodes in each bulb, filled with gas. The electricity moves in a semi-circle between each electrode to ignite or interact with the gas to produce light.

As HID lights quickly advance in the market for growers, there are various types of bulbs to consider for your project. HID has been around longer and offers a stable return on a grower’s investment, which is a safe reason to choose them.

The Advantages of Using LED Lights

Are you considering an LED lamp for your growing project?

I’ll explain some critical advantages to using LED lights for both small and large growing operations. LED chips are diodes combined to create a custom spectrum of light that maximizes their strength.

They can be adjusted to appear in a wide range of colors and provide an intense light that can yield excellent results. They are high in efficiency, with significant cost savings as they use less energy than HID lights.

LED is Ideal for Experienced Growers

Why are LED grow lights a good option for experienced growers?

Custom Colors

Allows customization of the color spectrum to provide the ideal lighting environment for a specific strain of plant.

Enhanced Germination

Enhances the germination, vegetative and blooming stage with specific lighting: blue for vegetative, red for flowering.

Very Flexible

LED growing lamps give the experienced grower an opportunity to experiment and find the hues and techniques that work best.

LED Bulbs are Ideal for Small Grow Operations

I recommend LED grow bulbs for small grow operations, as they do not require as much heat or intensity to thrive.

LED lights tend to cost more initially, though they save more in energy, resulting in more savings for the long term. When I consider the budget for my grow room, I always factor start-up costs as more when I choose LED lights.

There are a few reasons why I like LED lights for small grow operations:

Low Heat

LED lights emit low heat with high efficiency, so you use less energy.

Light Distance

Small spaces keep LED lights closer to the plants, which is ideal for their size. They must also be kept close to plants, which is ideal in these spaces.


You can customize them easier, with various hues and colors to produce the results you want.

Great Yield

A professional panel of lights can yield excellent crops, even in a limited space, due to the customization features.

Options for Custom Color, Bulb Size, and Temperature

Advanced LED lighting offers a broad spectrum of dues and slight color changes, along with the option to control and change the temperature levels through a control panel or remote app. The bulbs come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, so you can choose the perfect set of bulbs for your grow room.

LED Lights are Easy to Use

Once you purchase a set of the LED bulbs you need, they are easy to set up and plug in for use. LED lighting doesn’t require complex setups or a ballast to install, which is a significant shift from traditional grow lamps that require a massive amount of equipment and parts to operate.

No reflectors, separate bulbs, or timers are needed. They will remain cool, and there is no risk of overheating.

Drawbacks of LED Lights

Overall, LED lighting is ideal, though there are some reasons HID bulbs are a good alternative.

One major drawback of LED bulbs is their need to be positioned close to the canopy of a grow operation to maximize their benefits. LED lights produce less heat than HID bulbs, which may not be ideal for specific growing operations.

In my experience, LED grow lights may not be the best option due to the following reasons:

Cost More

LED lights cost significantly more than HID lights, and they become more expensive when you operate a medium to large-scale growing room.

Upgrades Needed

LED diodes are continuously being upgraded, subject to further advancements in technology, which means not all LED bulbs and their diodes are the same. For this reason, there may be inconsistent results when you mix various LED lights.


If you have more experience with HIDs, you may find switching to an LED grow light system less predictable for grow room outcomes.

Less Heat

LEDs produce less heat, though there is a risk of burning plants through a process called photobleaching. When this occurs, you may not notice the impact until a few days later, which can be more severe if a plant is mature.

The Advantages of Using HID Lights

HID lights are available in many different forms, including the HPS bulb. The two main types of the HID bulb are the high pressure sodium light (HPS light) and metal halide (MH).

Each style of HID lamp offers a distinct advantage during various growing stages of a project. During the vegetative stage of a plant, the metal halide light is ideal. In the flowering stage, the HPS lamp is best, as they provide a yellowish color that resembles sunlight.

Generally, I find HID lighting is an excellent option if you want a predictable outcome for your grow room. The major advantages of this lighting system are as follows:

High Light Spectrums

HID bulbs offer a high spectrum of light for commercial growing, so you can expect a high yield with consistently good results.

Full Spectrum

They offer a full light spectrum, so there is no need to tweak or adjust the colors during the vegetative and flowering stages.

Very Bright

HID lights are brighter, and you don’t need to install them too close to the canopy.

Minimal Effort

The need to prune is minimal, and more of a factor with LED lighting to achieve desired plant growth and development.


HID grow bulbs are affordable to buy, so your start-up costs are typically less expensive. Many HID grow kits include all the equipment you need for success.

HID Lights Have a Longer History and More Consistent Results

HID is easier to work with than LED options. They have also been around longer and are subject to further improvements over time, which means they are more reliable.

Growers trust lighting that produces consistent results with a low risk of failure, and HID represents the best choice for many commercial growers.

There is a lot of information available for growing a successful crop with HIDs, making the process less challenging and easier to yield without complications.

LEDs can offer different results, depending on the various bulbs and diodes used. HID bulbs are consistent and do not produce varied results.

Drawbacks of Using HID Lights

There are no significant disadvantages of using HID lights significantly if you’re growing many plants and need the best light intensity possible. Initially, the cost is lower than LED lights, making them appealing for keeping the expenses within a budget. In time, the energy costs rise as HID lights use more than LED bulbs.

I suggest reviewing the following drawbacks that may impact your decision to proceed with HIDs for your next grow project:

They Get Very Hot

HID light bulbs produce gas when they emit light. Due to this quick warming process, there is a significant amount of heat. You’ll need to install cooling fixtures to prevent the risk of overheating.

Need Maintenance

HID systems require a higher degree of maintenance so they function at their optimal level. They provide an excellent heat source, though must be monitored carefully to avoid safety and health risks.

Much Shorter Life Span

They have a shorter life span, which means bulb replacement happens more often. They burn out faster, and replacement can increase the expense of managing your growing project over time.

Need Constant Care

There is a higher risk of breakage when you use HID grow bulbs. For this reason, they must be handled with care, and considered fragile.

The intensity of HID light bulbs doesn’t last long, and they must be replaced more often than LEDs. HIDs also dim sooner, so they may lose their efficiency before they are expected to expire.

It’s important to keep extra bulbs on hand at all times to avoid losing the intensity of light if several bulbs burn out. While this expense isn’t significant for small grow rooms, it can prove expensive for large operations.

The Differences Between LED and HID Lighting

I’ll admit that there is a lot to consider when you finalize a decision. They both offer distinct characteristics that have improved significantly over the years, due to technological advances and various bulb products for each type of lighting.

led and hid lights compared

When you review both types, you’ll find several products and styles for both HID and LED. I tend to review my options every so often, especially if a specific grow room project can benefit from either option.

At times, the decision is clear, when you’re looking at higher expenses for a large-scale growing room, or a more indecisive one, when you have a flexible budget and a smaller space for your plants.

The technology and characteristics of each grow light on the market are worth researching so you can make an informed decision on which works best for your room.

I suggest reviewing all the attributes of both HIDs and LEDs, and you’ll find that HIDs have a solid background, with a long history and time-tested results. On the other hand, LEDs are a newer, progressive product that continues to work towards improvement.

Which Option is Best: HID or LED?

When you consider all the options available for indoor growing, there are significant reasons why both options are essential to evaluate for each type of operation.

For both HID and LED, you’ll find some sub-categories or bulb types to choose from, depending on the stage of cultivation and the type of plants you’re growing.

LED vs HID Grow Lights: The Final Verdict

I recommend reviewing all your product options for both HID and LED bulbs. You’ll find new bulbs on the market every year or so, due to the ongoing technological developments in the field of artificial grow lights. Yep, this space moves fast!

led vs hid grow lights verdict

I know that making a decision on which type of lighting to use is not an easy decision. For this reason, focus firstly on the type of growing operation as a starting point, as the size will determine how much you will need to spend on equipment, bulbs, and supplies to begin your operation.

When start-up costs are high, you may consider HID initially, though you may expect to invest in LEDs as your operation grows. Whether you grow for commercial or personal reasons, the type of grow lights you use will benefit specific rooms for indoor cultivation.

Overall, when it comes to the HID vs. LED grow lights debate, for me I’m happy sticking with LED as they suit my current needs. I also know how to set up grow lights in a way to save on costs, which is ideal for my budget.