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How To Choose Between LED or HPS for Growing

When it comes to lighting in today’s day and age, cannabis growers are spoiled for choices. And there’s a good reason why. Your plants cannot survive without engaging in photosynthesis, and the most effective way to provide them with the light they need to fuel this process is by installing indoor grow lights engineered for cannabis cultivation.

So how do you navigate all the options…

And make sure you make the best possible decision for your bud?

Choosing between LED or HPS for growing can often be the first and biggest decision you make for your plants, so no doubt you want to get it right.

But with growers on each side touting the benefits of their preferred method, how do you know what’s best for your grow?

A quick look down the Google Rabbit Hole can make matters even more confusing . . .

Which is why we’re here to clear away the cobwebs and help you feel confident about the route you choose.

Let’s start by looking into HPS.

Using HPS Lights For Cannabis Cultivation

HPS lights in cannabis cultivation.

Did you know that some growers in the early days even sourced their lights by climbing street lamp poles?

HPS, or high pressure sodium lamps, have been the industry standard since they were introduced to the market in the 1970s. They fall under the High Intensity Discharge “HID light” category and emit light on the red end of the kelvin spectrum for the flowering stage.

When you get HPS grow lights for indoor plants, you’ll rely on an electric current that stirs the xenon, mercury vapor, and high pressure sodium inside the tube. Many higher end manufacturers even have their own proprietary gas mixtures! This process emits a very strong light at the red and orange end of the kelvin spectrum, aligning perfectly with the needs of your flowering plants.

Advantages of HPS Lights

For many growers who’ve grown accustomed to HPS lights, they see no point in switching over to LED.

Here’s a breakdown of the reasons some growers stay loyal to HPS as a fundamental part of their cannabis growing equipment.

#1 They’re More Standardized

Simply due to the sheer length of time that HPS lights have been available, manufacturers have been able to offer standard specs across the board. That means doing less homework on your part and having an easier time comparing the different options.

#2 They’re Cheaper to Install

The upfront cost of an HPS lighting system is much more affordable than the LED alternative. Of course, the greater efficiency you get from LEDs means lower electricity bills and air conditioning bills, and increasing technology is helping to lower the associated cost even further. Still, if you don’t want to make a hefty initial investment, HPS may be the more practical option for your cannabis cultivation.

#3 They Emit High Light Intensity

No one can argue with the fact that HPS lights are powerful. And many growers claim that the intensity of light they produce is a key factor in hitting massive yields crop after crop.

On the flip side, you’ll also need to consider…

HPS lights in grow room.

The Disadvantages of HPS lights

So why rebuke the familiar in favor of a new path forward?

For starters, some new grows in states like California will no longer be allowed to use HPS.

But for states where the option still exists, growers will have to contend with the follow disadvantages:

#1 They’re Less Efficient

HPS lights require much more power than a LED lighting system, leading to less efficiency and higher electricity bills. Pair that with the fact that they’ve got a shorter lifespan, and the costs add up quickly — despite the more affordable upfront investment.

#2 They Produce a TON of Heat

And this can be problematic if you don’t have the proper airflow and ventilation installed. Again, every dollar adds up. And you’ll probably end up spending much more on HVAC units with HPS lights than you would if you went the LED route.

Plus, while the intensity of HPS is a large part of the reason some growers stick with them, they also make your plants more prone to the negative effects of heat damage… And it can be tricky to dial in the optimal grow room temperature.

#3 Some Rely on Bulky Ballasts

HPS lights require ballasts to conduct the flow of energy through the tube. And if you’re using an old HPS lighting system, it probably features a big, bulky magnetic ballast that’s difficult to integrate into an indoor grow room. Fortunately, most new HPS lighting systems have electric balances that eliminate this headache for growers.

Using LED Lights for Cannabis Cultivation

Cannabis facility using LED Lights.

LED stands for light-emitting diode. When you use an LED system, you’ll discover two semiconductors that work in tandem to emit a spectrum of light. The light passes through the first terminal and out the other. Different wavelengths target different phases of the crop cycle, enabling growers to adjust their LEDs to target both vigorous vegetation and productive flowering.

Now, ten years ago, most growers would’ve told you to stay away from the nascent technology of LEDs, and to stick with the familiarity of HPS. But for many growers in today’s ever-advancing world, those old rules of thumb no longer apply.

In fact, an increasing number of indoor growers are flocking to LED lights as their go-to for growing consistent yields of potent bud, and for good reason.

Advantages of Using LED Grow Lights

Once you understand the many benefits of LED grow lights, it becomes self-evident why so many growers have ditched the traditional route to head into this new frontier.

#1 LED lights are more efficient than HPS

When choosing between LED or HPS, you’ll want to know how the investment will pan out over time. And there’s no way around it — LED is a much more energy-efficient solution, resulting in less utility cost over time to growers.

#2 They Run Cooler than HPS

Dialing in your grow room temperature is critical for healthy, vigorous growth, which is why you must make every effort to fight heat in your cannabis grow room. This is a major reason why people switch from high intensity grow lights to the cooler LED alternative.

#3 Milk More Hours From Your LED Lights — WAY More

HPS bulbs generally have 10,000 to 18,000 hours of juice in them, with growers often replacing them far sooner. Compare that to the LED lifespan of 50,000+ hours, and it becomes painfully obvious there’s no competition in terms of their longevity and durability.

#4 LEDs Emit A Fuller Spectrum of Energy

Sometimes simpler is better. With an LED lighting system, you’ll use the same lights throughout both your grow and bloom phase, so you don’t have to worry about switching over halfway through the crop cycle. And you can even install LED lights tailored to your specific plant needs. Because the spectrum and lighting type can be modified by simply adding additional types of diodes, many manufacturers offer the ability to add red spectrum or UV light at certain times during the crop.

#5 They Save Space in Your Grow

LED lights are less bulky than HPS lights. When you couple their size with the cooler temperatures they emanate, they become a practical choice for compact grow rooms with little expendable space. And because they require less heat and space, cultivators can utilize vertical growing methods, using racking that multiplies the canopy space several times over. Not only is it easier to fit them in, but your plants can also grow relatively close to the lights without as much risk of heat burn. (You’ll still want to keep your crops at least 12 to 18 inches away from the lights to prevent light burn, though.)

Some growers even say LED lights help them to produce frostier flowers with higher terpene contents, increasing the overall value of every harvest.

Now, after understanding all these distinctive advantages, you’re probably asking yourself…

Is there a downside to LED?!

Cultivation room with LED lights.

Why Some Growers Still Avoid LED Grow Lights

Talk to enough growers, and you’ll find at least one who’s had a negative experience with LED.

Here are some of the more common drawbacks they’ll mention:

#1 They’re More Expensive — At First

Ask any grower why they stay loyal to their HPS for cannabis cultivation, and most of them will tell you it’s because they think LED lights are “overpriced.” And yes, the upfront cost of LED is an expensive investment that can scare growers away. However, if you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll make up the difference over time because they’re that much more efficient. Some states offer grants for using LED’s in licensed facilities. And as with any new technology, LED’s have been steadily dropping in price, quickly bridging the gap between HPS lights and their LED equivalents.

#2 Be Wary of Light Bleaching

Remember, light burn and heat burn aren’t the same thing. An advantage of LED lights is their ability to fit into compact spaces with cooler temperatures. But if you grow your plants too close, they can suffer from light burn, dulling the vibrant green leaves into unsightly yellow or white hues and killing the potency and aroma of each flower. Keep in mind that the most recent generations of commercial LED lighting seem to avoid this issue altogether.

#3 Perceived Plant Performance

Many growers feel that LED lighting causes their plants to have different nutrient needs or finicky performance. While this is true in some cases, often the grower and their plants are used to growing under certain conditions, and need to dial in procedures based on the new lighting conditions.

For example, a facility running HPS lighting may have had slightly less optimal environmental conditions. Once switched to LED, the HVAC system has an easier time optimizing VPD, causing the plant’s nutrient demands to increase.

#4 You May Need to Make Heat Adjustments

Even though the lower heat output is considered an advantage for most growers, facilities that rely on the heat of HPS Lighting may need to introduce supplemental heating to properly nourish their plants.

Cannabis grow lights in green house.

Deciding Between LED or HPS for Growing

The bottom line is this…

Successful cannabis cultivation is contingent upon photosynthesis, a process that your plants can only achieve through exposure to light.

And while there are multiple different types of lighting for growing cannabis to choose from… And people on both sides of the spectrum will swear by the results they get.

When deciding between LED or HPS for growing your cannabis plants, considering your initial budget, calculate the ongoing costs of each and the amount of space you’ve got in your room.

From cannabis grow lights to the best nutrients for your plants, we’re here to help you make the best decisions for your grow. Make sure to subscribe to the Advanced Nutrients newsletter for more tips and tricks on how to maximize the potential of your plants — and start growing bigger, more potent buds today.


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About the Author

The Advanced Nutrients Team

Since 1999, Advanced Nutrients has been committed to educating the community and bringing the most up-to-date knowledge to the forefront of grows across the globe. Every article you read here has been curated by Advanced Nutrients’ industry experts, so you can continue raising your bud weight… and your reputation.

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Over time, components within the nutrients settle on the bottom of the bottle. When you pour a bottle without shaking it, you can potentially be pouring out an unbalanced solution. Shaking up the nutrient bottle ensures you are pouring the right blend into your reservoir, giving your crops the nutrition they need.

Usually, it’s not a problem. But some products are incompatible with each other and can damage your plants when they’re used together. For example, bloom boosters with high PK numbers or low-grade silica products can destabilize your nutrient mix and cause nutrient lockout.

Nutrient manufacturers design their products to be used with each other. In doing so, they include specific portions of each nutrient in each product, so crops receive the right nutrition through each stage of the grow cycle. When you stick with one manufacturer, you don’t have to worry about inadvertently destabilizing your nutrient mixture. One example of why you need to stick with only one manufacturer’s products is Advanced Nutrients’ pH Perfect line. These products are designed to keep your crops’ root zone within a specific pH range. When you use them alongside products from another manufacturer, we can’t guarantee your root zone will maintain its optimal pH level.

Yes! If you’re growing with Advanced Nutrients products, you can use our easy nutrient calculator to generate the correct nutrient chart for your crops in seconds. Check out Advanced Nutrients’ nutrient calculator here. Another great resource is our library of free custom-growing recipes. Try our expert grower-tested nutrient schedules here.

You can also download our official BudLabs app to generate nutrient schedules and receive real-time notifications for specific tasks, including feeding your crops. Upgrade to BudLabs Pro to maintain profiles on an unlimited number of crops.

If you are a grower, visit this link to find the closest Advanced Nutrients Authorized Retailer. If you are a retailer, visit this link to identify our official distributors.

Our greatest passion is growing great cannabis—and helping other growers do the same. That’s why we offer complimentary cultivation support 24/7 from Monday to Friday and from 9 AM until 7 PM PST on Saturday… With the same level of advice licensed producers would pay consultants tens of thousands of dollars to unlock.
Just call 1-800-640-9605 or email support@advancednutrients.com. For Spanish-speaking growers, email spanishsupport@advancednutrients.com.

Yes! If for any reason you are not absolutely thrilled with the results you achieve when you use our products, just bring the unused portion, along with your original sales receipt, back to the place of purchase within six months, and ask for your money back. Find out more about our Grower Guarantee here.

Advanced Nutrients has spent many thousands of man-hours developing a technology that automatically balances your pH for you — putting it in the “sweet spot” and holding it there for one week.

And the technology is so “smart” that it can account for many of the aforementioned variables in your grow room. Our proprietary pH buffering agents and stabilizing mechanisms became the foundation of a new system aptly called pH Perfect® Technology. Learn all about it here.

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