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Best LED grow lights for 2018

on February 15, 2018

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).

2) Performance

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.

  • Good Spectrum [is the spectrum ideal for veg, bloom, and/or both?]
  • Sufficient light output to cover a 4’x4’ area [measured in PPF (the amount of light exuded in umol/s) and/or favorable PAR map readings are provided)
  • High efficiency [the amount of light the fixture exudes compared to the wattage drawn at the wall; the most efficient lights are around or above 2.0 umol/j].

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).

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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.

 

 

California Lightworks SolarSystem 1100 UVB

 

 

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.

Specs

  • Wattage draw: About 850W with the UVB bars on
  • Coverage area: 4’x4’ to 5’x5’
  • PPF: 1730 (400-700nm); expect higher PPF with the UVB bars on
  • Spectrum: UVB (285-315nm); 400-700nm (high in red and blue, light in green)
  • Efficiency: 2.2 umol/j
  • Price: $1799.00
  • $/watt: $2.11
  • $photon(umol/s): $1.03
  • Warranty: 5-years

Save 12% on California Lightworks at checkout. Code: 12cali

Buy SolarSystem 1100 UVB

 

 

Horticulture Lighting Group HLG 550 V2

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.

Video Review

Specs

  • Wattage draw: Up to 510W (dimmable to 250W)
  • Coverage area: Up to 4.5’x4.5’ for flower
  • PPF: 1159 umol/s
  • Spectrum: 3000K (warm white) or 4000K (daylight white)
  • Efficiency: 2.28 umol/j
  • Price: $1049.00
  • $/watt: $2.05
  • $/photon(umol/s): $0.90
  • Warranty: 3-years

Save 5% on HLG at checkout. Code: HLG5

Buy HLG 550 

 


Black Dog LED PhytoMAX-2 800

 

Black Dog LED released the PhytoMAX-2 series in early 2017. The PhytoMAX-2 series includes the following upgrades from the original PhytoMAX series:

  • Higher-quality, more efficient diodes
  • More light at the same wattage
  • Glass plate removed to assist in 8% more light transmission
  • Quieter cooling fans

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.

Video Review

Specs

  • Wattage draw: 840W
  • Coverage area: 4’x4’ to 6’x6’
  • PPF: 1282 umol/s
  • Spectrum: PhytoGenesis Spectrum (UVA to far red)
  • Efficiency: Estimated at 1.52 umol/j
  • Price: $2469.00
  • $/watt: $2.93
  • $/photon(umol/s): $1.92
  • Warranty: Limited Lifetime

Save 10% on Black Dog at checkout. Code: black10

Buy PhytoMAX-2 800

 

 

Optic LED Optic 8+

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.

PAR (PPFD reading in umol/m2/s at 24")

Video Review

Specs

  • Wattage draw: 500W
  • Coverage area: 4’x4’ to 5’x5’
  • Average PPFD in a 4’x4’: 619.87 umol/m2/s
  • Spectrum: UVA to far red
  • Price: $1395.00
  • $/watt: $2.79
  • Warranty: 5-years

Buy Optic 8+



Amare SolarEclipse SE500

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.

Video Review

Specs

  • Wattage draw: 500W
  • Coverage area: Up to 4’x4’
  • PPF: 1005 umol/s
  • Spectrum: Enhanced white light spectrum peaking at 660nm; UVB to far red
  • Efficiency (umol/w/s): 1.96
  • Price: $1075.50
  • $/watt: $2.15
  • $/photon(umol/s): $1.16
  • Warranty: 5-years

Buy SE500



NextLight Mega

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.

Video Review

Specs

  • Wattage draw: 650W
  • Coverage area: Up to 5’x5’ for flower (7’x7’ veg)
  • PPF: 1400 umol/s
  • Spectrum: 3000K and 5000K (4000K average)
  • Efficiency (umol/w/s): 2.15
  • Price: $1525.50
  • $/watt: $2.34
  • $/photon(umol/s): $1.08
  • Warranty: 5-year full

Save 15% on NextLight at checkout. Code: next15

Buy Mega

 

 

The Green Sunshine Company Electric Sky ES300 (2-pack)

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.

Video Review

Specs (for two ES300s)

  • Wattage draw (2 units): 600W
  • Coverage area (2 units): 4’x4’ to 5’x5’ for flower; 6’x6’ for Veg
  • PPF: 1200 umol/s
  • Spectrum: GS1 Spectrum (proprietary); full spectrum, heavy in red and far red.
  • Efficiency (umol/w/s): 2.0
  • Price: $1370.00
  • $/watt: $2.28
  • $/photon(umol/s): $1.14
  • Warranty: 3-year

Save 5% on Electric Sky at checkout. Code: greensky

Buy ES300

 

 

Spectrum King SK602

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.

Specs

  • Wattage draw: 640W
  • Coverage area: up to 5’x5’ for flower and 8’x8’ for veg
  • PPF: ~1376 umol/s
  • Spectrum: ~4000K (full spectrum for full cycle growth)
  • Efficiency (umol/w/s): 2.15
  • Price: $1495.00
  • $/watt: $2.33
  • $/photon(umol/s): $1.07
  • Warranty: 3-years (light intensity); 5-years (parts and labor)

Save 10% on Spectrum King at checkout. Code: king

Buy SK602

 

 

Ursa Optilux 16

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”.

Video Review

Specs

  • Wattage draw: 640W
  • Coverage area: 4’x4’ for flower
  • Spectrum: 4000K (UVA to Far Red)
  • Price: $1200.00
  • $/watt: $1.87
  • Warranty: 5-year full

Buy Optilux 16

 

 

Timber Grow Lights Redwood VS

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.

Specs

  • Wattage draw: 600W
  • Coverage area: 4’x4’ for flower
  • PPF: 1350 umol/s
  • Spectrum: 3000K, 3500K, 4000K, or 1750K
  • Efficiency (umol/w/s): ~2.25
  • Price: $899.00
  • $/watt: $1.49
  • $/photon(umol/s): $0.66
  • Warranty: 3-year full

Buy Redwood VS

 

 

Fluence SPYDRx Plus

 

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.

Specs

  • Wattage draw: 650W
  • Coverage area: 4’x4’ for flower
  • PPF: 1535 umol/s
  • Spectrum: PhysioSpec Indoor (deep blue to far red; 660nm peak)
  • Efficiency (umol/w/s): 2.3
  • Price: $1,500.00
  • $/watt: $2.30
  • $/photon(umol/s): $0.97
  • Warranty: 3-year or 5-year

 

 

Pacific Light Concepts PLC 6.2


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”.

Specs

  • Wattage draw: ~560W
  • Coverage area: 4’x4’ for flower
  • PPF: 1127 umol/s
  • Spectrum: Broad band full spectrum
  • Efficiency (umol/w/s): 2.0
  • Price: $799.00
  • $/watt: $1.42
  • $/photon(umol/s): $0.70
  • Warranty: 3-year

What do you think about this list? What lights would you include? Leave your comments below.

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18 comments
by Budking on August 28, 2018

Hi. Yes I have to agree. This is definitely the best led list I’ve come across. I was just wondering if the kind k5 xl 1000 has a place on this list. If it compares to fixtures like the amare se500. Let me know what y’all think. Thanks

by Scaryjane on August 01, 2018

What led would you recommend for a beginner grower looking to grow in a 3×3 or a 4×4 tent ?

by Samuel S on June 29, 2018

To me I think what’s really important is know what light plants use and to what extent. Then you have to look at how efficient these all are so you are getting the most grams per watt. Looking at the spec and the prices, Timbergrowlights would be my first choice. Look how they compare to the spyderx! The is twice as much and isn’t as efficient! And the redwood puts out a ton of light, but is way more efficient and costs half the price. I’d buy two of the redwood . I already have one and it’s amazing.

by JC on June 26, 2018

Best LED growlight list on the internet hands down! This is the real deal folks. If you buy any one of these lights your grow is going to explode (in a good way lol). Some are better than others however ALL of them are good to excellent. Would definitely put the Redwood VS and Spyder at the top of the list. Thank you for posting such a wonderful list. This is valuable information based on REAL statistics.

by Rick on June 24, 2018

Wish I had one of each. Awesome!

by brian gilbert on June 13, 2018

Would love to win this ,

by SCOTTY on June 13, 2018

YOUR SERVICE FROM LED GROW LIGHT WAS AWESOME, GOT 2 HLG 550 THEY WORK GOOD AND GREAT RESULTS,
WOULD STILL LIKE TO TRY DIFFERENT LIGHTING TO COMPARE IN FUTURE – THANKS AGAIN …

by brian gilbert on June 12, 2018

would love to win something like this,

by John Montgomery on June 12, 2018

Great company and fantastic lights

by Chris Williams on June 12, 2018

Thanks for the one in a million chance G.L.D I’ve my toes crossed

by Rosa Maria Gomez Ferris on June 12, 2018

awesome draw like and share.

by Al on May 25, 2018

good list, good info …. most “best LED grow light” lists are BS advertising for garbage lights. …While obviously this list is still an attempt to sell lights, it’s more transparent, honest, and accurate than any other list I’ve seen so far.

by Brien on May 17, 2018

I personally think the Spyder x plus are the king, not only are they super powerful ( sometimes I don’t even run them at full power) but you can ajust the bars where u need the light the most. I used spectrum kings a while back and don’t get me wrong it’s a Damm good light but the heat spots u get from that light sucks. You really do have keep them light a couple feet away from the canopy jus to get the right coverage.

by Romell Hazard on May 15, 2018

Awesome lighting , there’s so so many lights for growers , But a lot of people don’t know for how there canopy should be the best lighting to use , so all ways ask these companies whom sell them for the best results! !!

by Brad Gilman on May 10, 2018

I have two HLG 550s and I think they are great, very efficient and a reasonable price. The fixture has to be reated with care as it does not have any type of protection for the quantum boards, bu anyone spending the $ required to buy any highly rated lights will obviously treat them with care.

by Aaron ferguson on May 10, 2018

Best a has came up with there led lights

by Ryder Zetts on February 20, 2018

Eric,

After 6 months of internet exploration regarding led grow lights this is the first respectable ratings I’ve seen. A lot of the review sites seem biased towards brands you don’t include on your list and that I’ve deducted shouldn’t be on a top rated list. Well done sir!

Ryder

by Eric Turner on February 16, 2018

I can vouch for the The Electric Sky Grow lights they are amazing!! They produce incredible amount of healthy vegetation from the ES180 I been in flower for a couple weeks now and things look great so far, I also own 2 Optic ones they too are fantastic and well worth the price.

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