Recently a colleague posed a question to a hotly debated topic… Essentially, Which is better HPS or LED?

Marijuana grow tutorial for beginners.

LED or HPS grow lights

Best of both worlds, LEDs and high pressure sodium!

There are still a lot of misconceptions & myths circulating the grow communities regarding the abilities of LED grow lights. LED grow lights in general have come quite far in a few short years, the Pro-Grow series LEDs from Hydroponics Hut that I use are no exception. I’ve used other vendor’s LEDs but chose to stick with Hydroponics Hut for their overall value in price and performance and solid reliability.

In addition to my LED grow lights, I also run a digital 600 watt HID set-up, metal halide/high pressure sodium (HPS), with a 6″ fan driven cool-tube. I actively use both lighting technologies, as in their proper application LED and HID both kick -ass!

Trichome coated buds under LED grow lights

Buds maturing under the Pro-Grow X5

Do LED grow lights beat High Pressure Sodium?
Are LEDs better than HPS? The answer is Yes and No, in my opinion the answer depends of several factors such as garden size, grow style, strain, and the grower’s experience. (A bullsh*t answer, I know, LoL!)

Watt for watt, LED is hands down more efficient. A 300 watt (actual draw) LED grow light with proper spectra, would soundly out grow a 400 watt MH/HPS. The PG-550 I’m running is 470 watts actual draw and I’d put it up against my 600 watt HPS any day.

When bigger isn't necessarily better

My way around the coverage/penetration with LED grow lights for larger gardens, is running multiple (two or more) small to mid-sized panels so that the combined wattage is near the equivalent of the single panel (i.e., I’d take two 400 watt LED panels over a single 800 or even 1000 watt). The control you have over light coverage with two lamps makes up for any decrease in overall wattage. The catch to this, of course is that LED lamps aren’t cheap, so doing multiple small to medium wattage lamp set-ups can be costly.

HID (1000 watt) has the upper hand when compared to high watt, single panel LEDs (anything over 400 watts actual draw). I find the higher wattage and larger garden size you go, HID tends to be more efficient against a single mid-wattage LED lamp purely based on light intensity, coverage and penetration. While the quality of the LED light is better, the sheer quantity of light generated by the 1000 watt HID, more than makes up for missing PAR of the LED. Standard mid-watt LED panels just don’t have the same coverage & penetration as HID, though newer big wattage LED chip-sets with X-lens are closing this gap.

Like a Gunshot blast!

The bottom line

If you have the space with the capacity to properly ventilate and control heat issues, quality HPS set-ups are very affordable and are time proven to grow great indoor plants.

LED grow lights are also very capable of covering large spaces. Though it may require multiple LED lamps to cover the same area that a big wattage HPS covers, is does so using less electricity.

From my experiences I’ve found that in a same space scenario, HSP does tend out grow LEDs based on sheer quantity i.e., If I harvest 12 ounces with a HPS, I might harvest  9 ounces with LED. So yes, the HPS out grew the LED, but the key here to note is that the LEDs used about 40% less energy than the HPS. Add in not having to run the air conditioner and the savings improve more.