Quick Look: 6 best LED grow lights under $500
1. Best Light for 1-2 Plants: HLG 100W Quantum Board
2. Best Budget Light: Obsidian 9 Stealth 158W LED
3. Best Light for a Grow Tent: CLW Solar Xtreme 250
4. Best Light with Programmable Spectrum: CLW SolarSystem 275
5. “Most Bang for Your Buck” Light: Obsidian 9 Stealth 530W LED
6. Best Small Grow Light: Kessil H380
Growing cannabis is fun and not too difficult if you learn from the best (cough-GNU-cough), but you may be wondering about the countless variables you need to consider before you get started. Beyond grow tents and nutrients and media type, there’s also the questions surrounding lights: Are LEDs better than CMH of HPS? What size light do I need? Should I use a light with a tuneable spectrum? It’s a lot to sift through, but we’re here to help with some info on LEDs and recommendations for a few of the best cannabis grow lights out there.
A few questions about LEDs
What are LEDs? How are LEDs different than CMH or HPS lamps?
LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are definitely different from other types of cannabis lighting. Unlike gas discharge lamps, LEDs use no gas and have few parts to them. As a result, LEDs are much more durable than other grow light types. It’s also worth mentioning that they’re considered eco-friendly, not only because of their energy efficiency, but they don’t contain the lead and Mercury you will find in other types of grow lights.
Are LEDs better than other kinds of lighting?
Ask this question of 10 growers and you’ll get ten answers. Most growers use what has worked for them in the past – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – and there was a time when a serious grower wouldn’t even consider LEDs. Fortunately, as LED technology has continued to improve, more growers are using them in their operations at both commercial and homegrow levels. But are they superior an HPS or CFL? It really boils down to a matter of preference, however, there are some clear advantages to LEDs. LEDs are much more energy efficient than other types of grow lights so you’ll save money on powering your grow by using LEDs. Additionally, LEDs are relatively cool to the touch, so not only do they use less energy, you’ll have an easier time managing your grow environment without the added heat you’d experience with say an HPS.
What size LED grow light do I need?
The size of lamp you need is going to depend on the size of you grow space and how many plants you have. Generally speaking, LEDs need to draw ~32 watts from the wall for each square foot of grow space. So if you were growing in a 1×1 foot space, you’d need that 32 watts of power to efficiently grow in that space. 2 square feet? 64 watts. 4 square feet? 128 watts. You get the idea. There are additional variables that might necessitate tweaking this a bit – plant height for example, but as a general rule, a 32 watt draw per square foot of grow space is what you want to shoot for.
Are LED grow lights expensive?
No – and yes. Like anything else, prices for LEDs can vary. In some cases, certain LED lamps will run you more than its HPS counterpart. Other times the reverse is true and the LED is your more affordable option. The take-home here is that there are lights available for a variety of budgets. The real advantages to LEDs are durability and energy efficiency.
What LED grow light should I buy?
While there are countless LED vendors available, we do have some recommendations for some affordable, high-quality LED grow lights. Everything here is available for $500 or less. Read on to learn a bit more about them.
Best Light for 1-2 Plants: 100W Quantum Board by Horticulture Lighting Group
Named our favorite light for 1-2 plants, Horticulture Lighting Group’s 100 watt Quantum Board offers the full-spectrum benefits on a small scale. Its passively cooled design is just another reason this is a fantastic light growing in limited space. You can expect to cover 3 square feet of grow space with this board.
Best Budget Lamp: Obsidian 9 Stealth 158W LED
The Obsidian 9 Stealth 158W is a cost effective LED option for a small grow. Two different types of LEDs also make it a great light for both vegetative growth and flowering. Designed as an affordable small grow solution, this full-spectrum lamp comes with hanging brackets and a 2 year warranty. Drawing a total of 152W of power makes this light suitable for grow spaces of maxing out at 5 square feet.
Best Light for a Grow Tent: SolarXtreme 250 by California Light Works
Our first entry from California Light works, their SolarXtreme 250 watt LED, another “ultimate tent light.” This full spectrum light is manufactured with a new generation of “chip on board” technology and new direct AC drive technology which eliminates the need for LED drivers. The result is an energy efficient LED at a good price. This light draws 200W of power and is suitable for spaces around 6.25 square feet.
Best Programmable Light: SolarSystem 275 by California Light Works
Number four on our best light list is another LED from California Light Works. The SolarSystem 275 is an easy-to-use, full-spectrum LED is suited for all stages of growth. This lamp can replace a 400W HPS using only a fraction of the energy. Additionally, this light is fully programmable, making your grow spectrum transitions simple. With a 275W power draw this light is ideal for spaces 8.5 square feet or less.
“Most Bang for Your Buck”: Obsidian 9 Stealth 530W LED
Our next LED recommendation is another from Obsidian, the Obsidian 9 Stealth 530W LED is an easy-to-use, full-spectrum LED is suited for all stages of growth. With its 530W draw you’ll be able to replace your 1000W-1200W HID. These lights are designed for the indoor grower looking for a cost effective option. Check this one out, it really deserves to be named our “Most Bang for Your Buck” lamp. Its 530W power draw makes it a great light for slightly larger small grows of 16.5 square feet or fewer.
Best Small Light: Kessil H380
The Kessil H380 is a great little light that packs a punch. Offering more power than their 350 line, Kessil H380 makes spectrum changes as easy as flipping a switch because that’s exactly what you do! Ease and simplicity, that’s the Kessil H380. It has a power draw of 380 and is an ideal light for grows around 11 square feet.
So there you have it, a few of the best cannabis LEDs out there under $500. What do you think? Did your favorite make the list? Did we forget your favorite? Let us know in the survey below or better yet, join our forum by clicking one of the orange “Join Now” buttons at either the top or button or the page. Hope to see you there!
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About the Author
Chris DeWildt edits the Growers Network Blog, coordinates Growers Network University, and works as associate producer on Canna Cribs. His background is in film production, biology, publishing, and education.