Best Hydroponic Indoor Plant Grow Light (LED, HID & Sulphur Plasma)

While a sunny windowsill may provide enough light for a simple and small-scale hydroponic system, those who are looking for consistently large and reliable yields will need to use a grow light.

When it comes to finding the best hydroponic lights for your setup, there are plenty of options out there, making it important to first understand more about how grow lights work so that you can make the best decision.

Hydroponic Grow Light Buying Guide

Best Hydroponic Indoor Plant Grow Light (LED, HID & Sulphur Plasma)

What is a Grow Light?

A grow light is a special light designed to mimic the sun’s light spectrum in order to enable plants to grow indoors. They can either be used to supplement natural sunlight in a growing environment, or completely replace it.

Some grow lights are simple, while others make use of different colors, temperatures, and various spectral outputs to also mirror other environmental conditions.

In some cases, a grow light can actually be more beneficial to a plant than the sun itself, as the light provided can be tailored depending on the stage that the plant is at. For example, a plant in a vegetative stage would benefit from a different spectrum of light than one that is fruiting.

Benefits of Using a Grow Light

Although there are quite a few different types of grow lights out there, with each one having its own pros and cons, they all share some of the same benefits when it comes to how they can help your plants:

  • Faster seed germination and seedling growth
  • Seeds can be started off earlier in the season with grow lights
  • The ability to grow plants in rooms that don’t have a natural light source
  • Full control over how much light, as well as the type of light, your plants get
  • Stronger and healthier plants
  • Larger yields that are ready for harvesting faster

Types of Growing Lights

Best Hydroponic Indoor Plant Grow Light (LED, HID & Sulphur Plasma)

There are a few things that you’ll need to consider when deciding which type of grow lights are best for your setup:

  • How much light do the plants you are growing need? (More on this further down)
  • How big is your growing space? (Larger spaces will need multiple units connected together)
  • What’s the ambient temperature of your growing space, and how ventilated is it? (Some lights can run quite hot)
  • What’s your initial budget? (Some systems are much costlier than others)
  • How do you want to mount them? (Wall, hanging, stand, etc.)

Once you’ve answered those questions, it will really help to narrow down your choices when reading through the different types of grow lights out there.

Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent grow lights have been around for ages, and while they may have had problems in the past, newer systems are now ensuring that they are much more efficient. The T5 system in particular is one worth looking into.

Pros of Fluorescent Lights:

  • Inexpensive when compared to other grow light types.
  • The light produced by fluorescents cover a much larger surface area than other grow lights, meaning that more plants will be able to benefit from a single system.
  • Long-lasting and energy-efficient to run.
  • Great for promoting seedling growth.
  • They don’t produce much heat, meaning that they can be placed quite close to plants.

Cons of Fluorescent Lights:

  • Although fluorescent lights may be good for seedlings, they aren’t as effective as other grow lights for both vegetative and flowering plants.
  • Not a good choice for larger plants, as most aren’t intense enough to properly penetrate through to all parts of a large plant.

LED Lighting

LED lights aren’t anything new anymore, but they have still only very recently been incorporated into hydroponic growing systems. However, results have been great so far, leading to more and more growers opting for the many advantages that LED lighting brings.

Pros of LED Lighting:

  • They are usually one of the cheapest types of grow lights to run.
  • Highly efficient, producing more light than fluorescent and HID grow lights for the amount of energy that they use.
  • The bulbs are long-lasting, usually for over 50,000 hours – it’s likely that the actual system will end up failing before the bulbs die.
  • LEDs don’t emit UV or IR rays, making them safe for plants.
  • Setup is easy since they can be directly plugged into a wall socket and don’t require any other components to run.
  • Once setup, LED lights are extremely easy to use.
  • LEDs produce a wide spectrum of light, meaning that they can be adjusted to provide for plants at every stage of the growing process.
  • They don’t produce too much heat – they’ll often be quite cool to the touch, even after running for several hours, so you won’t need to worry about fans and cooling systems.
  • They are strong and robust, and are generally resistant to shock damage.
  • LED lights are 100% recyclable, making them environmentally-friendly.

Cons of LED Lighting:

  • Although running costs are low, your up-front cost for an LED lighting system is likely to be higher than other grow light types. However, with LED lighting becoming more popular, prices are steadily dropping, and are likely to continue doing so.
  • There are many poor quality LED grow lights out there that simply don’t produce enough light for plants – you need at least 2.0 micromoles for each watt of energy.

HID Lighting

HID stands for high-density discharge, with these lights now being considered to be some of the top rated hydroponic lights for growing available.

The bulbs used in HID lighting tend to be larger than those used in other types of grow lights, although there are 2 main types of HID bulbs you can choose from:

  • High-pressure sodium – these bulbs are great for producing a more orange/red light, making them good for flowering plants.
  • Metal halide – these bulbs produce bluer hues of light, which is exactly what vegetative plants need.

Pros of HID Lighting:

  • It’s easy to dim HID lighting, giving you more control over how much light your plants receive.
  • HID produces a very intense amount of light.
  • Yields tend to be exceptionally high when HID lighting is used.

Cons of HID Lighting:

  • Other components, such as reflectors and a ballast, are needed in order to effectively run these lights, making setup a little more complex.
  • The power of these bulbs drop over time – usually by about 70% after they have been used for 10,000 hours. This may seem like a lot, but it works out to around two years, after which you will need to change the bulbs. Other types of lights last for much longer.
  • If HID lighting is placed too close to plants, burning can occur. You will need to keep them several feet away from your pants.
  • Since they contain mercury, they aren’t considered to be environmentally-friendly.
  • The heat produced by HID lights mean that extra ventilation may be required.

Sulphur Plasma

Sulphur plasma is a relatively new type of lighting that has been designed to closely replicate the sun, not only in terms of light, but also when it comes to heat.

Although there aren’t many of these systems commercially available, since many sulphur plasma products are still in the testing stage, they look to be extremely promising for hydroponic growers.

Pros of Sulphur Plasma:

  • Because its light spectrum mimics the sun so closely, the light emitted from a sulphur plasma system is almost identical to natural light.
  • The lights do best when they are placed at a distance from plants, making them great for larger growing areas.
  • They have a long lifespan compared to other types of grow lights – bulbs usually last for around 30,000 hours.

Cons of Sulphur Plasma:

  • Due to the heat that they produce, sulphur plasma lights are not suitable for small growing areas.
  • A sulphur plasma system takes up quite a lot of space.
  • Since these lights are still quite new to the market, upfront costs are high.
  • Older plasma systems don’t allow users to replace the bulbs themselves, but the newer systems are designed to allow for this.

Let’s know more about types of indoor grow lights:

How to Use a Grow Light

Most grow lights are pretty easy to use.

To start with, you’ll need to set up your hydroponic system in a suitable area, ensuring that there is enough space above it for your lights to go.

You then need to decide whether you want your lights to be mounted onto a wall or to be set up on a stand. Hanging them is often an option too.

Wall mounts tend to be more convenient in terms of accessibility, but you’ll need to make sure that you use the right screws to prevent the risk of your lights falling and damaging your plants.

One thing to pay close attention to is the distance between your grow lights and your plants. This will all depend on the type of light you’re using, as well as the size of your plants and growing area.

Aim for about 4-5 feet of space to begin with for larger lights, adjusting this as you go along. Of course, if you are using weaker intensity lights and you only have small seedlings, you may be able to get away with just a few inches of space between your lights and the plants.

Finally, decide whether or not you want to use a timer.

Every grow light will have an on/off switch, but remembering to turn the lights on or off at certain times of the day is a different matter! Timer switches are easy to set up, or you could even download an app that allows you to monitor your timer from your phone.

Best Hydroponic Indoor Plant Grow Light (LED, HID & Sulphur Plasma)

Heat Control

Some grow lights emit large amounts of heat, and this can quickly raise the temperature of your growing area, especially if this is quite small.

Overly high temperatures aren’t good for a hydroponic setup, so you may also need to install a fan system.

Keep monitoring the temperature for the first few days after setting up your lights to determine whether or not you will need one.

How to Maintain Grow Lights

No matter how good your hydroponic lights are, some form of maintenance will still be needed.

Fortunately, this is easy. All you need to do is make sure that your grow lights stay clean – regularly wipe away any dust, dirt, and other organic material.

Some grow lights aren’t waterproof, so will need to be raised out of the way or protected if you are ever watering your hydroponic system from above.

You will also need to keep an eye on bulb degradation. Over time, the intensity of your bulbs will fade – some grow light bulbs will last for less than a month, while others could keep going for 20 years or so.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to keep monitoring this. As your bulbs start to degrade, you will need to make other adjustments to ensure that your plants are still receiving enough light.

How Much Light Do Your Plants Need?

You may think that the more light, the better, but this isn’t true for all plants…

Some plants need a set period of darkness each day, usually about 12 hours, in order to grow and flower – if they are exposed to light 24/7, they’ll end up suffering. These plants are referred to as short day plants, and include the likes of:

  • Strawberries
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Cauliflowers
  • Poinsettias

On the other end of the scale are long day plants, which do best when given about 18 hours of sunlight a day. The extra light helps to mimic the natural summer environment that allows them to thrive. Some examples of long day plants would be:

There’s also one more category known as day-neutral plants. These are the most versatile and adaptable – even if you give them 24 hours of light, they will still grow and fruit well. Examples of day-neutral plants are:

  • Roses
  • Sweetcorn
  • Eggplant
  • Rice

It makes life much easier if you are able to grow plants from each of those categories together, since they share the same light requirements.

However, if you do need to mix long and short day plants in the same growing system, and aren’t able to set up separate grow lights for each group, then set your lighting schedule up so that it meets those needs in the middle – meaning give them around 14 hours of light each day.

This guy is showing us 3 things must-know when buying growing lights:

Best Hydroponic Light Reviews:

Phlizon 1200W High Power Series Plant LED Grow Light

Sale
Phlizon Newest 1200W High Power Series Plant LED Grow...
724 Reviews
Phlizon Newest 1200W High Power Series Plant LED Grow...
  • NO REFLECTOR NO DANGER- Many others' grow lights are used...
  • MAXIMUM ENERGY SAVING- Compared to MH / HPS lamps, it...
  • EXTREMELY HIGH POWER- Adopt Dual-Chip(10W) LEDs which has...

Features:

  • Double chip 10W LED lights
  • Full light spectrum for plants of all stages
  • Double switch to alternate between vegetation lights and flowering lights
  • Energy efficient
  • 50,000+ hours lifespan
  • Comes with a thermometer, a humidity monitor, and adjustable ropes
  • 2 year warranty

What We Like:

These LED lights are a great all-rounder with a variety of spectrums and wavelengths to choose from. They are bright, quick to mount, easy to use straight out of the box, and good value for money.

What Can Be Improved:

While the size of these grow lights are great for small setups, you would need multiple lights to cover a larger area.

The in-built fans are fantastic for keeping heat generation down, but they can be a little noisy. The power cord is also shorter than many would have liked, which again can make things difficult in a larger setup.

VIVOSUN 6500K 2FT T5 HO Fluorescent Grow Light Fixture

VIVOSUN 6500K 2FT T5 HO Fluorescent Grow Light Fixture for...
123 Reviews
VIVOSUN 6500K 2FT T5 HO Fluorescent Grow Light Fixture for...
  • Plug and play ballasts saves time and hassle
  • 120v input, 8-feet power cable
  • This T5 fixture comes with 6500K high output fluorescent...

Features:

  • High output 24W bulbs produce 2000 lumens of light
  • Made from reflective aluminum to maximize light coverage
  • Full light spectrum for both vegetative and flowering plants
  • 2 on/off power switches for convenience
  • Can easily be connected to a second fixture to double your growing area
  • Comes with 2 bulbs, 2 wire hanging cables, and an 8 foot power cord

What We Like:

These are among the best when it comes to fluorescent grow lights, with the T5 being a newer system that evenly distributes a high level of light, but in an energy-efficient way.

Unlike many other fluorescent grow lights for plants, these can be simply plugged in and used straight out of the box, and are easy to set up both horizontally and vertically.

What Can Be Improved:

The main downside to this one is that you don’t have the option of mounting the lights – instead, you need to use the wire cables provided to hang them, which could be a little restrictive for some growers.

Hydroplanet Grow Light Fixture HPS 150W Complete System

Hydroplanet Grow Light Fixture HPS 150W Complete System with...
219 Reviews
Hydroplanet Grow Light Fixture HPS 150W Complete System with...
  • 1 x 150W HPS Bulb
  • 1 x 150 watt Grow Light Fixture
  • Complete set, easy to set-up and use

Features:

  • High intensity 150W HPS bulb that produces 16,000 lumens
  • Made from highly reflective 98% German aluminum
  • Vented housing to reduce heat
  • Back-lit on/off switch
  • 2 year warranty

What We Like:

Unlike many other HPS grow lights, these don’t emit too much heat, meaning a fan won’t be required if your growing area is well-ventilated.

These lights are easy to set up and use, are energy-efficient, and they run quietly, making them perfect for smaller growing areas.

What Can Be Improved:

The only thing that could be improved with these grow lights is their size. Although the light produced is intense, the unit itself is quite small, making it unsuitable for larger growing spaces, unless you were to invest in multiple units.

Lenofocus LF2000 Dimmable LED Grow Light

Lenofocus LF2000 LED Grow Light Dimmable Full Spectrum LED...
122 Reviews
Lenofocus LF2000 LED Grow Light Dimmable Full Spectrum LED...
  • Innovative Design: LF2000 LED grow light is the original...
  • High Efficiency: LF2000 used Samsung lm301b high efficiency...
  • Powerful and Wide Spread: This LED plant light is built with...

Features:

  • Adjustable design means that you can alter the shape to suit your growing area
  • Full spectrum of light for all growing stages
  • 3 dimmable modes
  • Waterproof lights and driver
  • Highly energy efficient
  • Comes with 4 light boards (200W each) and everything you need for setup and use
  • 3 year warranty

What We Like:

The biggest highlight of these lights is their versatility. The light boards can be moved around so that they perfectly fit your plants/growing area, and they are easy to hang or mount in various ways too.

The dimmer knob gives you even more control over how much light your plants are receiving, and the waterproof coating is a huge bonus!

What Can Be Improved:

These lights have been extremely well-designed, but the aluminum panel can sometimes run a little hot. This could require the addition of a fan in smaller growing spaces.

Barrina T5 Full Spectrum Grow Light Strip

Barrina T5 Grow Lights, Full Spectrum, 2ft 80W (8 x 10W,...
109 Reviews
Barrina T5 Grow Lights, Full Spectrum, 2ft 80W (8 x 10W,...
  • Full Spectrum - Barrina T5 grow lights 2ft provide light...
  • Super Bright and Hight PPFD- Consuming only 80W with 400...
  • Easy Install - With included Double-sided Tape, clips and...

Features:

  • Full spectrum 400 x 10W LED lights
  • Choose between a 4-pack or an 8-pack, with the option of connecting more units together for 16 strips in total
  • Emits a soft and natural white light, making them easy on the eyes
  • Can be mounted with clips, cable ties, or double-sided tape (all provided)

What We Like:

These lights give you the ultimate in flexibility – whether you want 4 strips or 16, the plug-and-play design makes these lights so easy to set up, and each strip can also be controlled individually.

The full light spectrum and versatile layout makes these lights a great option for both small and large-scale growers.

What Can Be Improved:

Just like with many of the grow lights on the market, these could do with a longer power cord, especially if you want to make the most of their flexible design. However, if you want to invest in a long extension cord, these lights can be safely used with it.

AGLEX 2000 Dimmable LED Plant Grow Light

AGLEX K Series LED Plant Grow Light 3x4ft Dimmable Sunlike...
55 Reviews
AGLEX K Series LED Plant Grow Light 3x4ft Dimmable Sunlike...
  • BOOM YIELD LED GROW LIGHT, NEWEST SMD 3030 LED TECHNOLOGY -...
  • OPTIMAL SUNLIKE SPECTRUM, NICE ON EYES - Consist of full...
  • FLEXIBLE 10-LEVEL DIMMING, VERY CONVENIENT - There is a...

Features:

  • Emits a full-spectrum white light, closely mimicking natural light
  • 10 dimming levels to adjust light intensity
  • Unique cooling system means no fan noises
  • Covered with a waterproof coating
  • Comes with the light, a power cord, and a stainless steel hanger
  • 3 year warranty

What We Like:

Not only are these lights designed to be sleek and compact, but they also have bumpers to prevent damage to various parts of the lights.

You can easily daisy-chain a few different units together to increase your growing area, especially since these lights are so energy-efficient.

What Can Be Improved:

The downside to having quiet lights without a fan means that you run the risk of the lights heating up. Unless your growing area is very well-ventilated, chances are that you will need to run a fan alongside these lights.

Conclusion

Grow lights can end up being quite a significant investment in your hydroponic system, so you will want to make the right decision from the start.

Although the many options out there may seem overwhelming at first, make a list of all of your needs to help narrow down your choices, and then pick the best LED hydroponic lights for indoor plants that meet your specific requirements, as well as your budget!

Last update on 2020-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Jill Sandy

Jill Sandy

Jill is a sustainable focus gardener. She loves decorating her home backyard with beautiful landscape design and creative garden care techniques she develops herself. You can reach her at [email protected]

Chanh Ho (MD, MPH)

Chanh Ho (MD, MPH)

Chanh is our Head of Medical Review. He is a research physician at Oxford University Clinical Research Unit. After accomplishing the program of level 1 sub-specialty in Pediatrics, he was awarded the Chevening Scholarship for his Master’s degree of Public Health in the University of Edinburgh in 2019

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