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What are the ‘best LED grow lights of 2018’? That depends on how you define 'best'. There are hundreds of LED grow lights to choose from, with more coming out each year. What makes one better than the other? “Best” is a subjective word, so we had to use specific criteria to create this list:
1) Fixture Quality
The LED grow lights must be constructed with quality parts (high performing diodes, efficient drivers, etc), have a good warranty (3 to 5 years), and be reliable (low warranty claims).
The fixtures must meet the points below. If the manufacturer did not provide data on some of these points, we did our best to estimate these based on other performance specifications.
3) Coverage Area
All of these lights will cover around a 4’ x 4’ area for flower. This is a common flowering footprint and many lights are designed to cover this area. Therefore, we wanted to select fixtures that cover a 4’x4’ space or can be used in 4’x4’ sections (such as 4’x8’, 8’x8’, 8’x12’, etc).
Some growers might consider these fixtures expensive, but the “best LED grow lights” do come with a price tag for the points mentioned above. There are other lights on the market that are less expensive, but they do not meet our criteria.
Furthermore, there are other lights on the market that are very competitive with the lights in our list, so while we don’t mean to not include any of these top lights, it is difficult to narrow down the wide array of lights on the market to only 12 options. If there are other lights that you think should be on this list, let us know in the comments below.
This list was created Feb 2018 and may not reflect the latest LED grow lights on the market. Fixtures below are in no particular order.
At the start or 2018, California Lightworks increased the SolarSystem series efficiency by 25% - from 1.55 umol/j to 2.2 umol/j! In addition, they released an upgraded version of the SolarSystem 1100, featuring UVB light bars on each side of the grow light. This is a perfect setup for fans of the discontinued SolarStorm 880.
The SolarSystem 1100 features a fully customizable spectrum, timing, dimming, and scheduling control with the optional controller.
The SS1100 will replace a 1000 watt HPS while only drawing 800 watts at the wall (about 50 more watts with the UVB lights on). Top-Bin High-Output Osram LEDs are enclosed behind plexiglass and emit a whopping PPF of 1730 umol/s (up from 1284 umol/s). The SolarSystem 1100 will veg up to an 8’x8’ area or flower a 4’x4’ area with high intensity or a 5’x5’ area with less intensity. The UVB lights can be used in the last few weeks of flower to help increase resin production.
The SS1100 grow light measures 18"x18" and weighs 26 lbs. It is a little larger and only slightly heavier with the UVB bars attached. The heatsink makes up most of the fixture's weight. Accessible cooling fans top off the fixture and draw air over the large aluminum heatsink block, creating an excellent heat dissipation system.
A separate controller is needed to dim the unit, customize the spectrum, and program your grow schedules. The red and deep red, white, and blue and deep blue channels can be controlled separately. One controller can be used to control up to 1000 units in series.
Save 12% on California Lightworks at checkout. Code: 12cali
The HLG 550 V2 (released mid-2018) replaces a 1000 watt HPS and only draws 480 watts at the wall. The fixture utilizes 1152 Top-Bin Samsung LM301B LED's and emits a PPF of 1178 umol/s across four custom-designed QB288 quantum boards. The PAR efficiency of the entire unit is a staggering 2.5 umol/j, making this one of the most efficient LED grow lights on the market as of June 2018.
The HLG 550 is designed to flower up to a 4.5’x4.5’ area or veg a 6’x6’ area. The 3000K spectrum is ideal for full-cycle growth from veg to harvest for larger yields. It is also available in 4000K which is best for keeping plants stout during veg and increasing quality during flower.
The unit is passively-cooled and does not contain any cooling fans. The quantum boards sit on an anodized aluminum heatsink panel. The back of the panel contains a Mean Well HLG driver, dimmable down to 250 watts.
The unit measures 26"x20" and weighs only 18 lbs.
Looking for a less expensive alternative? Consider two HLG 260W kits.
Save 5% on HLG at checkout. Code: HLG5
Black Dog LED released the PhytoMAX-2 series in early 2017. The PhytoMAX-2 series includes the following upgrades from the original PhytoMAX series:
The PhytoMAX-2 800 will replace more than a 1000 watt HPS with higher yields and better quality results while using less electricity.
The PhytoMAX-2 800 utilizes 420 Top-Bin 5W LEDs from industry leaders such as Cree and Osram, rated at 50,000 hours. The unit is advertised to cover up to a 6’x6’ for flower and veg a 7.5’ x 7.5’ area. However, for the best results, it is recommended to be used in a 4’x4’ to 5’x5’ area.
Black Dog's PhytoGenesis Spectrum can be used for both veg and flower, which helps reduce stalling associated with spectrum changes. The spectrum ranges from UVA to NIR and includes a healthy amount of green to naturalize the light for easy viewing and to help increase photosynthesis under the canopy.
The unit weighs 50 lbs and measures 21" x 21". All PhytoMAX-2 grow lights come with metal-gear ratchet hangers.
Save 10% on Black Dog at checkout. Code: black10
The Optic 8+ was released late-2017. This powerful LED grow light will cover a 4x’4 area (or up to a 5’x5’) while only drawing 500 watts.
It features 8 x Cree CXB-3590 COBs (6 x 3500K, 2 x 5000K) covered by 90° or 120° lenses and 32 x 3-watt diodes as a separate “bloom enhancer” channel. The bloom channel features additional UVA didoes, full-spectrum white, 660nm, and 730nm diodes.
There are three separate channels on the Optic 8+: Veg, Bloom, and Bloom enhancer, all of which can be switched on/off and dimmed up/down independently.
While we do not have efficiency data for this fixture, we really like it because of the name-brand diodes, Mean Well drivers, and controllability of the fixture. Add these features to the great PAR readings in a 4’x4’ area, and you have a solid, affordable fixture that will grow and flower with great results.
The fixtures dimensions are 26”x26” and it weighs 34 lbs.
The Amare SolarEclpse 500 was upgraded from the SolarEclipse 450 in late 2017 and is now more powerful and efficient. The fixture features white-light technology via six powerful High-Intensity COB emitters. The CREE CXB3070 COB LEDs are housed in a patented reflector array and come with removable secondary optics. 60 supplemental 5-watt Cree diodes surround each COB. In the middle of the panel sits a fluorescent UVB bulb for the added boost to increase resin production. The COBs, 5-watt emitters, and the UVB bulb can all be switched on/off independently.
The SE500 covers up to a 4’x4’ area for flower or 4.5’x4.5’ for veg. Amare states that this light is about equivalent to an 800W HID.
The COBs and supplemental diodes create the perfect spectrum. A large amount of green light in the spectrum helps to drive photosynthesis more efficiently than red and blue light and to better penetrate the canopy. It also allows you to view your plants in a natural white light.
The quality of this LED grow light does not stop at the surface. The heat management system contains 4 premium high-CFM ball-bearing fans and proprietary copper-core heat-sinks.
The unit measures 21.6" x 21.6" and weighs 33 lbs.
The NextLight Mega (released May 2016) replaces a 1000W DE HPS while only drawing 650 watts. LED lifetime is rated at 100,000 hours, which is 20 years on a 12/12 cycle.
The full-spectrum white Samsung diodes are heavy in blue and green, while providing sufficient red for flowering.
The Mega measures 37" x 37" and is passively-cooled (no cooling fans). The wide form factor and thin profile allow the heat to dissipate without additional heatsinks or fans. It also helps create a more even footprint without any hotspots or low PAR readings.
The NextLight Mega is daisy-chainable to an additional fixture which allows you to cut down the number of cords you need to run to the power supply. The Mega is designed and manufactured in the USA.
This is the perfect fixture for tents, grow rooms, or commercial grows. The fixture is UL and DLC premium listed.
This is our top choice for commercial grows.
Save 15% on NextLight at checkout. Code: next15
The Electric Sky series is designed to be a module system. Hence, this listing is for two ES 300s, instead of one.
The Electric Sky 300 (released mid-2017) contains a unique full spectrum that is heavy in wideband red (red to far red) that aids rapid growth and grows large flowers.
The Dual-Way Linear Lens (60° x 120°) directs the light downward toward your plants. The lenses are removable so if The Green Sunshine company comes out with new lenses in the future, they can be easily replaced.
The modularity of the Electric Sky system allows you to spread the light over a larger area for even coverage. Place the two units closer together or further apart depending on the light intensity and coverage area that you would like to achieve.
The unit is passively-cooled and the driver is contained within the center of the grow light making this one slick LED grow light. The ES300 is 36”x12” and weighs 22 lbs.
Specs (for two ES300s)
Save 5% on Electric Sky at checkout. Code: greensky
The SK602 is a redesigned, more-efficient version of the best-selling SK600. It was released late-2017 along with its smaller brother, the SK402. The SK602 is also available in a greenhouse version (the only difference is a white housing).
The SK602 will replace a 1000 watt double-ended HPS bulb while using 40% less power. The ~4000K full spectrum diodes help alleviate stretching and increase flower quality.
Yet, this light is not for everyone looking for higher quality flower and large yields. Growers should be aware that this fixture exudes a lot of light from a small area, so Spectrum King recommends at least 4 ft between the top of the plants and the bottom of the fixture to ensure you do not have too much light hitting the center of the grow footprint. If your grow space has limited height, than you might consider the SK402 or another brand.
The SK602 and SK602GH can be fitted with a dimmer for an additional $49.00. The SK602(GH) is 21”x10” and weighs 20 lbs.
Save 10% on Spectrum King at checkout. Code: king
The Ursa Optilux 16 will replace a 1000 watt DE HID while only drawing 640 watts. The unit contains 16 x 200 watt proprietary COB arrays (driven at 40W each) rated at 50,000 hours.
The Optilux 16 is available in full spectrum white (for high-intensity veg to flower growth) and contains some UVA and IR, while being heavy in blue, green and red. A red/blue version is also available. Ursa LED designs and manufactures their own LED chips, making this a high-quality fixture.
The fixture produces an astounding PPFD of 1500 umol/m2/s at the center of its 4'x4' footprint and 400 umol/m2/s at the ends of the footprint.
We measured the PAR of the Optilux 16 at 36” in a 4’x4’ grow tent and were extremely impressed with the PPFD readings at this distance and footprint. This is one of the reasons we added the light to this year’s ‘Best LED Grow Light’ list. You can view the video review at the link below.
The unit is passively cooled via patented heatsinks while only emitting 1400 BTUs of heat. The Optilux 16 measures 23.6" x 23.6”.
Timber Grow Lights started as a lighting company supplying DIY parts for growers to build their own LED grow lights. They now offer complete, ready-to-hang fixtures. The Redwood VS is their second largest LED grow light (the Fatty VS will cover a 5’x5’ area).
The fixture's Bridgelux Vero29 V7 COBs are mounted with reflectors to concentrate the light. The COBs sit on pinned heatsinks and are powered with Mean Well drivers.
The Redwood VS is passively-cooled and dimmable down to 10% light intensity. Growers can choose from four white-light spectrums depending on their setup.
The price on the Redwood VS is excellent considering it’s high-quality build and light output. This series has one of the lowest cost per watt and cost per photon compared to the other LED lights on the market.
The Redwood VS is 42”x24” and weighs 31lbs.
The SpydrX Plus (released May 2016 and updated since then) has caught the attention of growers since their humble beginning as the brand, BML (Build My LED).
The SpydrX Plus is Fluence's most powerful light to cover a 4’x4’ space for full-cycle growing. It is dimmable and has a tuned full spectrum, peaking at 660nm. The price point is really good considering the high light output, efficiency, and quality Samsung diodes. The cost per photon (umol/s) is below one dollar.
Eight bars extend across the center substrate. This design eliminates hot spots and spreads the light out, allowing even coverage across your plant’s canopy. This design allows you to place the fixture as close as 6” from the canopy.
This light has a thin, 4.6” tall profile and measures 42”x44”.
For comparable fixture, consider the NextLight Mega.
The PLC 6.2 (released June 2017) is a passively cooled, full-spectrum white light fixture, featuring a Mean Well HLG driver and splayed heatsinks. It is dimmable from 100% to off. Built-in aluminum high-efficiency white reflectors surround each Bridgelux Vero29 C chip.
This fixture stands out because it uses high-quality components, good efficiency (above (2.0 umol/j), competitive light output, and has an excellent price point compared to many other LED grow lights on the market.
The PLC 6.2 is 25”x24”.
What do you think about this list? What lights would you include? Leave your comments below.