The Ultimate Feature to the Best LED Grow Lights for Indoor Plants

There’s no doubt in my mind that LED grow lights are the best lights for indoor growing. But with so many different styles and wattages of indoor garden lights how do you choose the best LED grow lights for plants in your home? Just because a grow light system is popular on Amazon, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. That’s why I’ve compiled my research to help you choose the best indoor grow lights for your unique growing situation.

The Ultimate Guide to the Best LED Grow Lights for Indoor Plants

There’s no doubt in my mind that LED grow lights are the best lights for indoor growing. But with so many different styles and wattages of indoor garden lights how do you choose the best LED grow lights for plants in your home? Just because a grow light system is popular on Amazon, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. That’s why I’ve compiled my research to help you choose the best indoor grow lights for your unique growing situation.

Introduction to Plant Grow Lights & Indoor Growing Systems

Before we go any further, you should understand exactly what plant grow lights are and what an indoor growing system can do for you.

In the simplest of terms, indoor plant lights are artificial sources of light that stimulate plant growth. The best indoor growing lights simulate the sun and give the plant everything it needs for photosynthesis (how plants turn light into energy.)

Indoor plant grow lights provide a similar light spectrum to the sun by varying the colour, intensity (called lumens) and temperature of the light output. Countless studies show different types of plants respond better to different colours and intensities of light, so using indoor grow equipment allows the grower total control over the type of light the plants receive.

What you are trying to grow indoors will determine the best LED grow lights for you. The best vegetable grow lights are not necessarily the best lights to grow plants of other kinds.  Of course, with more states legalising the growing of marijuana, the best lights to grow cannabis are a hot topic of conversation. (As such I’ve devoted an entire section below to the best weed growing lights.)

Why Choose LED Plant Lights?

There are many different kinds of grow light fixtures including High-Intensity Discharge or HID grow lights, Metal Halide, ceramic metal halide (CMH), High-Pressure Sodium (HPS), and good old everyday fluorescent lights. All of these types of lights to grow plants have their supporters and applications. However, as the best all-around indoor plant grow lights, my preference is for LED (Light Emitting Diodes) plant lights.

There are a number of reasons I prefer growing with LED lights:

  • LEDs are energy efficient grow lights and last for up to 50,000 hours. If you’re using them on a 12-hour timer this is equal to 11 years. Some people argue LEDs are expensive and, to be fair, they have a higher upfront cost than their HPS counterparts. Over time, however, they are cheap grow lights to run long-term thanks to their reduced power consumption.
  • They can be plugged into a regular socket and usually don’t require a separate ballast so they are easier to use in small spaces.
  • LED plant grow lights produce less heat than HPS grow lights and can be placed closer to your plants without risking damage. Producing less heat also means you expend less energy maintaining the correct temperature in your grow room.
  • LEDs can be customized to emit specific wavelengths of light (for example you can have red LED grow lights but studies show adding green and blue LED grow lights will help plants perform better. With LEDs you can adjust the colour balance to suit the specific plant type.)
  • LED full spectrum grow lights are the best grow lights for cannabis. (I’ll discuss why LEDs are the best lights for growing cannabis in full detail in their own section below.)
  • LEDs don’t contain harmful mercury so they don’t need to be disposed of in a particular way. This, in addition to their energy efficiency, makes LED grow lights the best choice for the environment.

Considerations for Choosing LED Growing Lights

Before you go out and buy grow lights there are some things you need to consider. The best grow lights for your neighbour may not work well for you.

Budget – The first thing to ask yourself is ‘What is my budget?’  While you can buy reasonably cheap led lights these days, it’s always recommended to buy the best you can afford. Don’t be tempted to buy the cheapest lights you can find. As with most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to cheap LED grow lights. That said, if you are on a tight budget, there are affordable grow lights that perform well. You can find our top 5 picks in their own section below.

Space – Plant LED lights come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Obviously, it’s important to measure the surface area you want to cover with your lighting system. Don’t forget to measure the height you have available as well.

Plant Varieties – What are you going to grow? The LEDs you chose for general vegetable grow lights will not necessarily be the same as the best pot growing lights.

Growing Style – How are you going to grow your crops? Are you looking for the best hydroponic grow lights? Do you want the best grow lights for seedlings or flowering plants? Are you looking for the best LED for cannabis grown in the sea of green (SOG) style? The answers to your questions will result in different grow light options.

What to look for when choosing LED lights for plants

What to look for when choosing LED grow light kits

Durability – Obviously you want your LED grow light panel to be well-built and of heavy duty construction. You want to be sure they are made of the best materials possible and the wiring is going to stand up over time. Faulty wiring can create excess heat which is not only bad for your plants but could become a fire hazard. This is another important reason to buy the best quality grow lights you can afford.

Cooling System – LED lights are cooler than their HID and HPS counterparts. However, they should still contain a high-quality cooling system. The heat sink within your system should dissipate the heat created by the lights and move it away from the lighting system and your plants.

Color Spectrum – Plants primarily use red and blue spectrum light to progress through their growing stages. While HID and HPS systems use a full spectrum of light to target plant growth, a good LED system will include both red and blue lights for a perfect blend to help your plant grow. There are some growers who say white LED grow light is the closest to natural sunlight and is therefore better. However, white LEDs include yellow and green light that isn’t usable by plants and is therefore wasted making your grow lights less efficient.

PAR – PAR stands for photosynthetically active radiation. In simple terms, this is the light emitted that is actually usable by plants. Although many manufacturers provide details on lumen output (light visible to humans), for grow lights, it’s more important to understand the PAR output. If your plant isn’t using it, it is wasted energy. Manufacturers PAR data can be misleading as the value often changes from the centre to the edge of the light. The plants under the middle of the light will receive the full PAR value while those at the edges may be getting less light. A high PAR is not necessarily better.  In fact, good led grow lights will have lower PAR values because the power isn’t concentrated in the centre but rather distributed evenly.

Wattage – When you see a wattage associated with a LED grow light, it is typically the equivalent wattage you would need in a HID or HPS light to get the same result. So a LED grow light listed as 400W can replace a 400 watt HID or HPS light but the actual wattage of the LED will be far less. This is way LED grow lights are much more energy-efficient. First-time buyers often assume the more wattage a grow light provides, the better. But bigger is not always better. The rule of thumb is you need 32 watts per square foot of growing space for flowering and light-loving plants like cannabis. Low-light plants like lettuces and herbs need only around 11-18 watts per square foot.

Programmable – If you are serious about growing, you’ll want to automate as much of the process as possible, not simply to lessen your workload, but more importantly, to lessen the possibility of human error. The best grow lights on the market offer a full range of programmability including setting light schedules, altering intensity, and customizing spectrums to best suit the individual plant.

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