Growing plants indoors takes away a lot of the hassles that traditional outdoor gardening entails. But if you’re like most indoor growers, you’ve experienced a bit of a dilemma: how to get your plants the sunlight they need, without scorching them by the window sill.
What you need, friend, is an LED grow light.
LED grow lights are much preferred over other types of grow lights, as they’re more energy-efficient and produce higher-quality lighting. They are specially designed to provide the best possible lighting for your plants, using a mix of red, blue, and (sometimes) white lights.
Curious to learn more about growing plants?
In this article, we’ll discuss what to look for in an LED grow light and how to pick the best one for your needs. We’ll also provide you with a list of our favorites.
Top 3 Picks
Best Overall: MARS HYDRO TS 1000W LED Grow Light
The MARS HYDRO TS 1000W LED Grow Light is our pick for “Best Overall” due to its full spectrum white lighting, effective heat dissipation, high level of energy-efficiency, and noiseless operation—this one has all the bells and whistles, and tons of rave reviews to prove it!
Best Price: SHOPLED LED Grow Light
The SHOPLED LED Grow Light has some of the best features at the best price point. For example, it provides full spectrum lighting with a warm white glow, is extremely energy-efficient, and has timing controls for maximum user control—all at a price that won’t break the bank!
Most Versatile: Freelicht FL-1000 LED Grow Light
The Freelicht FL-1000 LED Grow Light is our pick for “Most Versatile” due to its extreme level of user control. You can adjust the lighting intensity via a knob, which allows to you get the lighting just so for any plant or growth stage.
What to Look for in LED Grow Lights
LED grow lights can be quite an upfront investment, so taking the time to look for a quality unit from a trusted brand is key here. But what exactly constitutes a good LED grow light? Here are a few factors for you to consider and watch for while shopping.
While this may sound like a trivial factor, the form of your LED grow light can impact the light intensity of the bulbs, the overall coverage area, and even how much you can expect to pay each month on your electricity bill.
There are three main “forms” of LED grow lights:
The traditional form is the most common type for indoor plant growing. This is because it uses diodes that provide a medium wattage output level and tend to feature “full spectrum” lighting, which is considered ideal for growing plants. In addition, traditional LED grow lights tend to be more compact in size, which makes them perfect for smaller indoor growing spaces.
Spread-style LED grow lights are better-suited for growing larger quantities of plants or covering plants spread out across a larger area. They feature many smaller-sized diodes, spread across a large surface.
There are two sub-types in this category: quantum boards and spider LEDs.
Quantum boards are the preferred choice for low-cost growing with a high yield, as they use diodes with low energy output.
Spider LEDs are a bit more expensive, but they feature a superior “multi-leg” design that results in a more compact unit.
Chip on Board (COB)
Chip on Board (COB) LED grow lights produce a higher level of light intensity and use more energy than the other two types. They’re great for growing plants in smaller areas, but may cost more to run each month.
Size / Coverage
Another important factor to look at is the size and coverage area of the LED grow light. This refers to how much area the lights can effectively cover, and you can normally find this information on the product’s webpage or listing page.
The most common coverage ratings are:
- 2 x 2 feet
- 5 x 2.5 feet
- 3 x 3 feet
- 4 x 4 feet
You can also find units with a larger coverage area, but they’re less common. This is because, when the lights are spread across too great an area, they tend to lose their effectiveness. Experts recommend that you purchase several smaller LED grow lights and attach them, rather than purchasing a larger unit.
Oh, boy. This one is a can of worms. Can I just skip this one…?
There are several things you need to look at in order to determine the light intensity of an LED grow light, and no two people completely agree on which factors matter the most. *sigh*
Lumens are measured per watt. The more lumens a light produces, the “brighter” it is to the human eye.
PPF stands for “Photosynthetic Photon Flux.” This refers to how much of the light output the plant actually absorbs per second, measured in μmol (micromoles – you’re welcome).
PPFD stand for “Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density.” Like PPF, this is a way to measure how much light the plant is absorbing. This one, however, is measured in μmol/m2/s (micromoles per square meter per second – you’re welcome).
For both PPF and PPFD, higher is better.
PAR stands for “Photosynthetic Active Radiation.” The PAR is presented in map form to show how the PPFD is distributed across the LED lighting unit as a whole. This is important because no LED grow light will produce even lighting intensity across the board; the center will have the greatest intensity, and the edges/corners will have less intensity.
Color is especially important when talking about grow lights, as plants require different color temperature over the course of their growth cycle. There are two main components here:
Kelvins measure the color temperature of the light. (More on this later!)
- CRI (Color Rending Index).
CRI measures how accurate the color of the light is. Aim for an R9 rating, as this is the best.
When shopping for an LED grow light, you’ll come across an awful lot of numbers. Among them, the wattage numbers may be the most difficult to decipher!
There are three different wattage numbers often advertised regarding LED grow lights:
|What it is||Importance Level|
|Actual Power Draw||The amount of power the LED actually gets and uses from the power source.||Most important.|
|Combined LED Max Power Usage||The maximum amount of power the LED could potentially use.||Less important.|
|HID/HPS Equivalency||he amount of power the LED is designed to replace if used in place of HID or HPS lights.||Less important.|
Wattage is important when considering how much you can expect to spend each month on electricity, and for this, you only need to know the actual power draw.
Though LEDs do produce less heat than many other lighting solutions, it’s still imperative to keep safety at the forefront of your mind. Any LED grow light you consider purchasing should employ a solid cooling method that will keep the unit from overheating.
There are two main types of cooling methods:
A fan works to continuously cool down the unit as it operates, sort of like how an inbuilt laptop fan keeps the laptop from overheating during use. This method is effective, but it can also be a bit noisy—which is why many people prefer the following method.
Some models are designed to increase heat dissipation via the hood material or another passive method. Most people prefer these models because they’re quieter.
As mentioned earlier, experts recommend linking together several smaller units rather than purchasing a larger one. If you need LED lighting for several plants that cover a large area, you should make sure that the LED grow light you purchase is able to link up with additional units. You can normally find this information on the product’s webpage or listing page.
As with most things in life, you should only purchase an LED grow light that comes with a solid warranty (and preferably a moneyback guarantee). Most units come with a 2- or 3-year warranty, though some offer up to a 5-year warranty. In addition, some companies give a 30-day moneyback guarantee.
About LED Grow Lights
LED grow lights are used to grow plants indoors. While they can be used year-round, they are particularly useful during the winter months and in locations that receive less sunlight.
The spectrum of light used (the most popular being “white” and “full spectrum”) promotes and aids in the photosynthesis of the plants. Different light settings may be used at each stage of the plants’ growth cycle in order to optimize their growth, health, and longevity. I’ll talk more about this in a bit!
While there are other types of grow lights, LEDs are considered far superior for a number of reasons:
- They last longer and retain their brightness for longer than other types (HID, HPS, etc.).
- LEDs also produce less heat than other lighting methods.
- In the long run, LEDs cost less to operate (though they do cost more up front).
The Best LED Grow Lights
By now, you should be more familiar with the basic components of an LED grow light and how to choose the right one for your indoor gardening needs. That means it’s time to start window-shopping! Here are our top picks to give you a head-start.
The MARS HYDRO TS 1000W LED Grow Light is a champion in its field, employing 342 white LED lights that allow for 30% higher yields than the more traditional “blurple” LEDs. This higher yield rate is possible because the plants absorb up to 90% of the light produced—which also means you’re getting more for your dollar and less waste! Its actual power draw is about 150W, and it provides even coverage for areas up to 3 x 3 feet.
This is the kind of grower you can use with a variety of plant types, during each stage of that plant’s growth cycle; this is because its white LEDs possess a spectrum of color and are dimmable for greater user control throughout the process. You’ll also appreciate its noiseless operation, as it uses heat dissipation via its aluminum construction—the aluminum also intensifies the light produced for best growing results. You can connect this LED grow light with up 14 others via daisy chains, and it comes with a thermometer, hygrometer, and timer.
- High yields
- 90% light absorption
- Effective white LEDs
- Aluminum shade
- Noiseless cooling
- Connects with up to 14 others
- Accessories included
- No on/off switch
- Instructions written in poor English
The BLOOMSPECT Upgraded 1000W LED Grow Lights with 3 Modes is an affordable white LED option, boasting double-chip, 10-watt lights. The white light provides a full spectrum of colors and temperatures, ideal for the growth of numerous plant types. The actual power draw for this one is 180W and it covers an area of 3 x 3 feet for plants or 2.5 x 2.5 feet for flowers.
To further enhance its growing ability, this LED grow light has 3 different lighting modes for each stage of the growing cycle: VEG, RED, and BLOOM. Its aluminum shade ensures optimal lighting intensity at any mode. As for cooling, this unit makes use of a heatsink cooling method, multiple ventilation holes, and a fan—no chance of overheating, here! Best of all, you can have peace of mind upon purchasing this model, as it comes with a nice 2-year warranty and a 30-day moneyback guarantee. What are you waiting for?
- Effective white LEDs
- 3 lighting modes
- Aluminum shade
- Heatsink cooling
- 2-year warranty (30-day moneyback guarantee)
- Fan is not the highest quality
- Lights may go out after little use
- PPFD lower than some other models’
- No timer function
Are you looking for a more affordable, low-key way of keeping your plants healthy? Then check out the EZORKAS 9 Dimmable Levels Grow Lights with 3 Modes. This model features 4 heads and a total of 48 lamp chips (32 red and 16 blue), as well as 9 dimmable modes and 3 cycle timing modes. Its blue/red light combination provides a spectrum that’s ideal for growing high-quality plants, which means more color, more flavor, and even a longer flowering period!
This LED grow light is quite energy-efficient with an 80W actual draw, and it features an automatic on/off setting with a timer so you can choose when and for how long the lights are on. The heads are adjustable for maximum user control, and this model comes with a strong clip to hold the light in place and a control panel for ease of use.
- Effective blue/red light combo
- 4 adjustable heads
- 9 dimmable modes
- 3 cycle timing modes
- Comes with clip and control panel
- No guide included
- Lights not very bright
- Lacks white/full spectrum lighting
The Phlizon Newest 600W LED Plant Grow Light is all about quality. From its full spectrum lighting (which is easily controlled via its 2 switch buttons for Veg and Bloom) to its double cooling fans and lack of a reflector, each component of this model is geared toward producing the best plants, the highest level of safety, and the best possible user experience. You’ll appreciate the low heat output and energy consumption of this unit, as well as its whopping 2-year warranty and 30-day moneyback guarantee!
- Full spectrum lighting
- 2 lighting modes
- Double cooling fans
- No reflector used
- 2-year warranty (30-day moneyback guarantee)
- Only covers a 2 x 2 area
- Fans are a bit noisy
The Juhefa LED Grow Lights are an affordable and efficient option, featuring 75 LED chips (47 red, 19 blue, 3 UV, 3 IR, and 3 white) for true full spectrum lighting. You can use this grow light for any number of plant types, and it’s ideal for helping plants grow and produce at every stage. In addition, this model has decent heat dissipation and an easy setup, as well as a 12-month warranty and 30-day moneyback guarantee. While this model doesn’t boast the same “nice-to-haves” that many of our other models do, it’s more affordable and still provides great results!
- Full spectrum lighting
- Grows variety of plants
- Easy to set up
- 12-month warranty (30-day moneyback guarantee)
- Small panel
- May get too warm
Another affordable yet effective option is the SHOPLED LED Grow Light. This model produces a full spectrum of light for optimal growing for all types of plants, while emitting a warm white glow that’s easy on the eyes. It also features a useful controller with 3 different timing settings so you can even further optimize the growing process. The units are linkable so you can grow more plants, and you can order the unit in one of two models: the 2-foot or the 8-foot (specs vary). Finally, you’ll love that this grow light comes with a 2-year warranty, including free replacements when needed!
- Full spectrum lighting
- Warm white glow
- Comes with controller
- 3 timing settings
- Linkable units
- 2 size options
- 2-year warranty
- Not dimmable
- Clip not very big
- Some buyers received defective product
The Freelicht FL-1000 LED Grow Light really stands out from the competition, featuring high-quality LEDs and an UL-certified driver. This grow light offers full spectrum lighting that’s perfect for a range of plant types at each growing stage, with chips offering 4 colors: warm light, blue light, IR light, and red light. As far as adjustability goes, this unit has a user-friendly knob that allows you to turn the brightness up or down (from 5% to full intensity). The lights boast a high PPFD rating but are still energy-efficient, consuming around 100W.
If you have several plants that need growing, you can purchase a few of these lights and link them together via daisy chains. Keep in mind that a single light covers less area than most, so you probably will need more than one. This LED grow light operates quietly as it has no fan, instead dissipating heat through its aluminum back structure. Throw in its high-quality accessories and 5-year warranty, and you have the perfect grow light solution!
- Full-spectrum lighting
- High-quality LEDs and driver
- Extremely adjustable
- High PPFD
- Can link with other units
- Quiet operation
- High-quality accessories
- 5-year warranty
- Small coverage area
- No timer settings
- Not very bright
- Might be hot too touch
Tips for Using
Of course, even the best LED grow light will fall short of your expectations if you aren’t sure how to use or make the most of it. Here are just a few tips to help you along…
When installing your LED grow light(s), it’s vital that you hang the unit a good distance above the plants. This will keep the lights from burning the plants and ensure optimal plant growth. Here are a couple of quick rules-of-thumb:
- For LEDs < 300W, you should hang the unit anywhere from 18 to 24 inches above the plants.
- For LEDS > 300W, you should hang the unit anywhere from 24 to 36 inches above the plants.
In other words, LEDs with a higher wattage should be placed farther above the plants than those with less wattage.
Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the height of the LED grow lights as your plants grow, so investing in a cable or chain (or purchasing a unit that comes with this accessory already) is a great idea!
Wondering how much light your different plants need?
Per 2 square feet
- plants will require 2750 lumens (or 25W).
- veggies will require 4400 lumens (or 40W).
- cannabis will require 7150 lumens (or 65W).
Keep in mind that these numbers may vary based on what stage of the growth cycle your plants are in, with seedlings requiring less light than flowering plants.
You should also consider the PPFD. A quick rule of thumb is that you should use:
- anywhere from 300 to 600 PPFD for plants in their vegetation stage.
- anywhere from 600 to 1000 PPFD for plants in their flowering stage.
The time factor is often overlooked when people are figuring out how to best care for their plants via an LED grow light. But really, it’s one of the most important to consider!
How many hours per day should your plants be getting? Should they receive more light at certain times of day than others?
Some people recommend doing your best to give you plants the most natural lighting experience possible. This means gradually turning the intensity up as the morning draws on and gradually dimming it as evening approaches.
The exact needs of your plants may vary, so it’s best to consult with the manufacturer (most LED grow lights come with an instruction manual). Many LED grow lights actually come with a timer and an auto on/off feature, which will automatically turn the lights on or off after the specified amount of time has passed.
This is where the Kelvin measurement really comes into play. Your plants will require different color temperatures at each stage of their growth cycle, as the temperature affects key factors in the plants’ growth.
Essentially, you should provide seedlings and vegetative growth with mainly blue light; as seedlings develop and move into the “flowering” and “fruiting” stages, they’ll require more red light. In addition to the basic blue and red, you should provide your plants with other types of light (white, green, far red, and IR). These are considered secondary, however, and play much less of a role in the plants’ development than the blue and red lighting do.
Most LED grow lights provide what’s known as “full spectrum” lighting, which means the light source provides a mix of blue and red light (and sometimes the secondary types, as well). Full spectrum lighting makes caring for your plants so much easier!
What Can You Grow Under LED Grow Lights?
LED grow lights can be used for just about any type of plant that can be grown indoors. Popular examples include:
That said, each type of plant has different lighting needs and you should choose your LED glow light accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about LED grow lights. This will give you a snapshot of what you should expect before embarking on your journey to indoor plant growing!
Can LED lights be used as grow lights?
While there are other, more traditional light types used for growing plants (HID, HPS, etc.), more and more people are opting to use LEDs. There are a few reasons for this, including more intense brightness and lower cost of operation.
While shopping, make sure you opt for LED lights that are specifically marketed as a plant grower. LED plant growers are designed with optimal plant growth in mind and are able to provide plants with the exact intensity (and temperature) of lighting they need throughout their growth cycle.
What are the best LED grow lights?
The best LED grow lights are those that meet the basic needs of your plants and optimize their growth. That said, what “optimization” looks like depends on you! Some people care more about producing a lot of plants (quantity) and others prefer to grow the very best plants they can (quality). You can find LED grow lights specialized for both purposes, and many of them can be adjusted to suit either purpose.
You’ll also want to look for features such as:
- Size / Coverage Area
- Light Intensity
- Cooling System
Each of the LED grow lights we present in this article are of high quality and from trusted brand names, so make sure to give them a look and take your time choosing the right one for you and your plants.
How many plants can a 1000W LED light grow?
This depends on a few factors, such as what type of plants you’re growing and the quality/intensity of the LED light.
Usually, a 1000W LED light will cover an area of 4 x 5 feet or 5 x 5 feet. Within this area, you can only house so many plants. For cannabis plants, this would equate to roughly 20 plants per light (maximum).
Keep in mind, however, that wattage is less important in LED lights as it is in other lighting types (such as HPS or HID). There are really only two reasons you should consider wattage here:
- Because it can help you determine the monthly cost of operation.
- Because larger grow areas will require a higher wattage.
An LED grow light can be a major purchase, so it’s crucial that you take your time and choose the best one for you and your plant-growing needs. We hope that our buying guide and list of top picks have given you the foundation you need to make the best decision—and that you’ve already found a couple you’d like to look at further.