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3 Step Beginner's Guide To Choosing an LED Grow Light for Indoor Plants

3 Step Beginner's Guide To Choosing an LED Grow Light for Indoor Plants

Narrowing Down Your LED Grow Light Options in 9 Minutes

Image: NextLight Mega

Updated: June 2018

If you are new to the wonderful world of LED grow lights, you might be in a haze trying to figure out how to choose the most practical light for your grow. LED grow lighting is very different from a metal halide or a high-pressure sodium setup in that LED fixtures vary drastically in shape, spectrum, heat load, and power. But fear not, this article will assist your LED grow light search --- saving you time, money, and assuring you the highest quality crop.

Beginners guide to choosing an LED grow light

This 3 step guide will cover:

  1. The nature of your grow
  2. The size of your growing space
  3. The types of LED grow lights available

1. What are you growing?

Before you decide on an LED grow light, you must consider your crop. All full-cycle, quality LED lights sold on the market will grow a plant from seedling to flower. But some lights are designed for specific types of grows. LED grow lights used to grow indoor medical plants from seed to flower include (but are not limited to) Apache Tech, Amare, Black Dog LEDCalifornia Lightworks, Cirrus LED, EnliteG8LED, Horticulture Lighting GroupKind LEDNextLightOptic LEDSpectrum KingThe Green Sunshine Company (or browse all grow lighting).

Hobbyists that would like to dip their toes into LED lighting and are on a budget might consider the DIY kits from Horticulture Lighting Group, or less expensive brands like Viparspectra or Mars Hydro.

Commercial growers require LED grow lights that have ETL or UL certification. See commercial grow lighting here.

Vertical farmers growing lettuce and/or greens require LED modules, such as those from GE Lighting or Thrive Agritech.


2. What is the size of your grow space?

The size of your grow space will dictate the size and number of an LED units you purchase. A good rule-of-thumb for LED grow lights is 32 watts of actual wattage per square foot of growing space for flowering medical or other large flowering plants. For example, if you measured your growing space to be 16 square feet, you would want to purchase at least500-550 watt grow light (assuming the plants are congregated in a single area and you are flowering a plant that requires a lot of light. Vegetative growth for high-light plants need about half this wattage.).

Image: Optic LED Optic 6 (w/ timing control); 4x4 coverage for flower

Low light plants, such as herbs and lettuces require about 11-18 watts per square foot of grow space. However, this will vary with crop and preferred light levels. Use this chart to determine the correct amount of PPFD and DLI for leafy greens.

Below is a quick reference chart designed to help you determine the desired wattage based on your grow space. If you have a larger grow space, you can scale up from these numbers. Remember: 1 sq ft of grow space requires about 32 watts of actual wattage. 


Grow Space Wattage

2 sq ft (2x1)


4 sq ft (2x2)


6 sq ft (2x3)


9 sq ft (3x3)


12 sq ft (3x4)


16 sq ft (4x4)


20 sq ft (4x5)


25 sq ft (5x5)


30 sq ft (5x6)


36 sq ft (6x6)


40 sq ft (6x7)



Related: Why wattage doesn't matter and PPFD does

3. Types of LED grow lights

By now, you might have an idea of what brand of LED grow lights would be best for your crop and how many watts are required for your grow space. Now, you will discover the different LED unit options available to you.

If you are growing plants from seedling to flower you will want to purchase a full cycle LED light. However, you may only need lights for vegging or blooming.

Lights designed for high-light plants and vegetable growth/flowering have many different options including single-channel lights (on or off); 2 channel lights that have a veg and bloom mode; and programmable lights, such as California LightworksCirrus LEDKind LEDMars Hydro, and Viparspectra that allow you to set light schedules, customize spectrums, and alter intensities.

The programmable lights are by far the most advanced LED grow lights that will make for an almost effortless grow. It is safe to say that the LED grow light industry is moving in the direction of fully automated panels.

In addition, there are different shaped LED grow lights available, including panels, bars, and bulbs. There are even LED tubes that will replace T5 or T8 fluorescent lights.

DIY kits have even recently become available for those who would like to assemble their own light.

Img: DIY LED Kit by Horticulture Lighting Group


Read the article below for a deeper look into what to look for in an LED grow light:


Putting it all together

Now that you have a brand, wattage requirements, and type of LED grow light in mind, you can start your LED grow light search. For questions about choosing your light, feel free to contact LED Grow Lights Depot.

Check out our LED grow light reviews under the resources section in the navigation bar.

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