Best LED Grow Lights 2017-08-04T18:34:17+00:00

Best LED Grow Lights

In this article we’ll discuss what LED Grow Lights are, what are the benefits, and how to choose the best LED grow lights for you.  Click Here or Scroll down for our top grow light reviews.

LED Grow Light Overview

For decades, indoor growers have relied on artificial light sources such as HID, High Pressure Sodium, and Fluorescent to mimic the sun’s rays in an indoor environment.  Whether used for Hydroponics Systems or Aquaponics Systems, these light sources all have varying degrees of effectiveness.  Now there’s a new player in the game, LEDs (Light-emitting Diodes), and it’s a technology that’s been around for decades, mostly as instrument panel indicator lights, but only recently are LEDs being applied to higher intensity light uses such as indoor growing.

The primary benefits of LED, over the more established light sources, are significantly reduced heat and reduced power consumption.   Because they produce less heat than the more commonly used HIDs, they are more energy efficient and require significantly less expense to ventilate and cool.

The Myth of the LED Watt

If you’ve been researching the best LED grow lights for more than about 30 seconds then you’ve probably noticed that most manufacturers give each of their models a Wattage rating.  At first blush it may seem like the more Watts you get for the fewest dollars the better.  Unfortunately, for most of the LED grow lights on the market, even several of the ones we recommend, those numbers are simply not accurate.  Often times they represent the max output of the LEDs in the light, but these lights are very infrequently capable of outputting anywhere near those numbers.  (example; A 3W LED is typically run at 1-2W to extend the life of the LED, however many manufacturers put 100 3W LEDs in a light and call it a 300W light). Add to that the fact that the wattage numbers are, theoretically, simply a measure of the energy going into the light, and not a measure of what is emitted by the light and you have a bit of a conundrum.

It’s important to understand a few more things. First, a light’s outputs are both heat and light when energy is the input. Light is what we want, heat is not.  The more heat a light put’s out the less light it is putting out from the same amount of energy input.  This is why traditional forms of lighting (Incandescent, High Pressure Sodium, etc.) get so hot and are so inefficient.  LEDs save energy because they don’t get as hot.  Pretty simple, right?  However, some LEDs get hotter than others and some emit  less useful light colors than others (more on that later).  This makes it very difficult to make an apples to apples comparison between LED grow lights.

Ultimately, we will use estimated Actual Watts for our comparisons, since Claimed Watts are unreliable, and accurate output data is not available for many of the available lights.

Light color Spectrum

Understanding Light Spectrum

Light Spectrum refers to the range of colors present in the light being emitted.  Most LED grow lights are comprised of several different colored LED diodes providing a broad spectrum of colors.  As you may have guessed, some have broader spectrums than others.  So the question is, what spectrum is best?

Science has shown that plants, in general, require more blue light during the vegetative phase and more red light during the flowering phase.  That’s why you see many LEDs on the market emitting a purplish light, combining red and blue LEDs.  However, it’s believed that a broader range of colors, including, the invisible to the naked-eye, UV light (in small quantities) have beneficial effects on plant growth, although most LED lights don’t offer UV light, primarily because UV emitting LEDs are expensive relative to other colors.

As many of us learned in grade school, white light is comprised of a broad spectrum of colors.  So, it might seem logical to use white LEDs to provide the best color range for your plants.  Unfortunately, white LEDs are inefficient light producers as compared to individually colored LEDs, and they provide colors that your plants don’t make use of. Many so called “Full Spectrum” lights utilize many white LEDs.  White LEDs are not a bad thing, but too many of them can make for a less efficient grow light.

IR (Infrared) light is also a component of many of the light available today, and it is also considered to be beneficial to plant growth.

Ultimately, most LED grow lights on the market will grow your plants, if you have enough of them for the area you’re trying to light.  But, you’re not here to just grow your plants, you’re here to maximize their growth.  The best LED grow lights offer a wide spectrum of colors including UV light.

The lights with the broadest spectrum available:  Black Dog LED, Kind LED, Platinum LED

A Note about UV Light

UV light, in high intensity, or long exposure, can be harmful to people.  It’s recommended that you wear eye protection and long sleeves when working under lights with UV output.

Understanding Light Cycles

Plants have evolved to grow well under light cycles that the Earth provides them outdoors.  Long bright summer days and shorter less bright Fall and Spring Days.  This is why it is best to replicate these light cycles when growing indoors.  The following light cycles are recommended (by growth phase)

  • Seedling/Clone Phase: 16+ hours on, 8- hours off
  • Vegetative Phase: 18 hours on, 6 hours off
  • Flowering Phase: 12 hours on, 12 hours off

The change in light cycle will actually help trigger the plant to move on to the next growth phase, specifically from Vegetative to Flowering. It’s also important to keep in mind that some plants react poorly to interruptions in their light cycles.  Turning a light on in the middle of a dark phase, perhaps to check on your crops, can be detrimental to overall yield and should be avoided.

How much light do I need?

As a general rule of thumb, you want approximately 25 actual watts per low light plant (lettuce, herbs, etc.) and about 50 actual watts per high light plant (tomatoes, cannabis, peppers, etc.). Manufacturers will often give a coverage area, which is helpful, although often overestimated, but we find it more helpful to account for the number and type of plants being grown to determine which grow light is best.

Comparison to other Grow Light Technologies

Many manufacturers claim their best LED Grow Lights are several times more efficient than HID (High Intensity Discharge) and HPS (High Pressure Sodium), more traditional lighting options, with similar energy draw. Some claims are as high as 9X. Unfortunately, most of these are simply not realistic.  LEDs are generally more efficient than traditional lighting such as HID, but most reasonable estimates have them in the 25-50% greater efficiency range, nowhere near the 500%-900% claims some manufacturers are making. Since most manufacturers are working with LEDs that are roughly comparable when comparing light output to energy consumption, it’s safe to assume that the LED you’re considering is more efficient than a comparable actual wattage HID, but no more than twice as efficient.

In addition to being considerably more efficient, the life span of a good LED grow light will far outstrip that of an HID or HPS.  Most HID and HPS lights are rated to 10,000 – 20,000 hours of life expectancy, whereas most LEDs are in the 50,000 hours ballpark.  LEDs will generally cost you more up front (at least for the higher quality units) but between reduced energy, cooling, and replacement costs, are likely to save you quite a bit in the long-run.

Adjustable Spectrums

As we discussed earlier, plants require different light at different phases of their growth.  Some manufacturers have built the capability to switch spectrums into their lights.  Unfortunately, tests have shown that plants do not react well to an abrupt shift in spectrum and their growth can actually be hindered for a period of time while they adjust to the new spectrum.

Dimming at Dusk and Dawn

Although a nice feature in some aquarium lighting, there is no compelling evidence that dim light in the early morning and evening actually help plant growth.  When it comes to plant growth, less light is less light.  Most plants need a dark cycle for a period of time, usually at night, but a simple on-off cycle is sufficient. The KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle applies here.

LED Grow Light Bulbs

A note about LED Grow light bulbs:  Although they may seem tempting at $20-$30, we would recommend steering clear of these bulbs. At a claimed 12-40W output, with actual Wattage draws likely in the 4-15W range, these lights are simply insufficient for all but the smallest plants with the lowest light requirements.  Unless you’re looking to grow a single lettuce or herb plant, avoid these bulbs.

Caveat Emptor

Finally, it’s important to point out that, like most things in life, you generally get what you pay for. There are many VERY reasonably priced LED grow lights on the market with generally happy customers in the short term.  These lights are certainly a great place to start for the beginner, and one even received our Editor’s Choice award, just don’t expect that they’ll last more than a few years and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Our Analysis

Below you’ll find our analysis of many of the most widely available and best LED grow lights on the market today. We have compared them based on a number of factors including $ per Actual Watt, Spectrum range (LED colors), including UV or IR, warranty, returns, reviews, etc. Our ratings are designed to take all available factors into account.  Immediately below you’ll find a quick reference table showing each light’s features at a glance.  Scroll down below the table for a detailed look at each light.

Quick Reference Table

Brand/Series Important Features uPONICS Rating

Advanced LED Lights

Diamond Series

11 LED Colors (Including Infrared and Ultraviolet)

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $3.13

• 3 Year Warranty, 90 Day Return Policy

• Average Amazon Rating: 4.7

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Apollo Horticulture

GL Series

11 LED Colors (Including Infrared)

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $2.05

• 2 Year Warranty

• Average Amazon Rating: 4.1

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Black Dog LED

PhytoMAX Series

13 LED Colors (with Infrared and Ultraviolet)

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $3.21

• 3 Year Warranty, 90 Day Return Policy

• Average Amazon Rating: 5.0

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California Light Works

Solar Storm Series

6 LED Colors (Including Ultraviolet)

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $3.33

• 3 Year Warranty

• Average Amazon Rating: 4.9

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G8LED

Full Spectrum Series

8 LED Colors(with Infrared and Ultraviolet)

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $2.20

• 2 Year Warranty, 90 Day Return Policy

• Average Amazon Rating: 4.5

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Heliospectra

LX Series

3 LED Colors

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $4.17

• 2 Year Warranty, 30 Day Return Policy

• Average Amazon Rating: 5.0

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Hydro Grow

SOL Series

6 LED Colors (Including Infrared)

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $4.24

• 3 Year Warranty, 90 Day Return Policy

• Average Amazon Rating: 4.0

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Kind LED

K3 & K5 Series

12 LED Colors (Including Infrared and Ultraviolet)

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $3.07

• 3 Year Warranty, 90 Day Return Policy

• Average Amazon Rating: 3.9

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Lighthouse Hydro

Blackstar Series

6 LED Colors (Including Infrared and Ultraviolet)

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $3.13

• 1 Year Warranty

• Average Amazon Rating: 3.8

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LumiGrow

Pro Series

3 LED Colors

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $3.88

• 5 Year Warranty, 30 Day Return Policy

• Average Amazon Rating: 2.0

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Mars Hydro

Pro Series

6 LED Colors (Including Infrared)

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $1.36

• 1 Year Warranty, 7 Day Return Policy

• Average Amazon Rating: 4.6

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Platinum LED

P Series

12 LED Colors (Including Infrared and Ultraviolet)

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $2.05

• 5 Year Warranty, 90 Day Return Policy

• Average Amazon Rating: 4.3

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Viparspectra

PAR & Reflector Series

6 LED Colors (Including Infrared)

• Approximate Price Per actual Watt: $0.76

• 3 Year Warranty, 30 Day Return Policy

• Average Amazon Rating: 4.6

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Detailed Descriptions

Advanced LED Lights

Models Available: 100w, 200w, 300w, 400w, 600w, 800w.

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Diamond Series LED grow light
4.5 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

With their Diamond Series of Grow Lights, using USA made LED diodes, Advanced LED Lights offers one of the higher quality lighting options on the market today.  They offer an extremely broad spectrum including UV and IR, and solid Return (90 days) and Warranty (3 Years) options.  They have been in business for over 7 years, and have developed a reputation for quality and product performance.

Specifications
  • $3.13 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 11 LED Colors
  • Ultraviolet
  • Infrared
  • 3 Year Warranty
  • 90 day return policy
  • 20% restocking fee
4.5 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

Apollo Horticulture

Models Available: 300w, 400w, 600w, 700w, 900w, 1200w.

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Apollo LED grow light
4 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

One entry level option for the beginning grower is the GL Series from Apollo Horticulture.  Apollo is one of the bigger fibbers in the market when it comes to Wattage claims (300W Claimed on the GL100LED model, about 100W Actual) but even at that, at around $2 per Actual Watt these lights deliver a reasonable value for the dollar. Be careful though as the prices fluctuate for the different models. These lights offer 6 LED colors for a fairly broad spectrum plus IR, but lack UV.  A lack of reflector means all 120° output angles for these LEDs. A 2 year limited warranty puts them at about the middle of the pack in the industry.

Specifications
  • $2.05 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 5 LED Colors
  • No Ultraviolet
  • Infrared
  • 2 Year Warranty
3 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

Black Dog LED

Models Available: 200w, 400w, 600w, 800w, 1000w.

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Black Dog LED grow lights
5 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

A strange name for a truly top quality product, Black Dog is the Winner of our Editor’s Choice Award, with their PhytoMAX line of LED grow lights, which is our highest rated product overall, and one of the best LED grow lights on the market today.  With a range of 200w – 1000w there is truly a light in this line for any grower.  At around $3 per Actual Watt these lights are competitive with the other high-end lines like California Light Works and Kind LED. These lights offer one of the greatest spectrums we’ve seen with 13 LED color ranges including UV and IR.  The housings are designed for maximum light distribution and heat dissipation, to improve efficiency. They also offer a 90 day return policy and 3 year warranty, which most buyers at this price point have come to expect.

Specifications
  • $3.21 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 13 LED Colors
  • Ultraviolet
  • Infrared
  • 3 Year Warranty
  • 90 day return policy
  • 10% restocking fee
4.5 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

California Light Works

Models Available: 110w, 220w, 440w, 880w.

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California Lightworks LED grow light
5 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

At the high-end of the market, priced at about $3 per Actual Watt, you’ll find, among others, the California Light Works Solar Storm Line of grow lights.  They have a wide spectrum range, focused towards the blue and red with the addition of UV, but lack IR.  The UV in these lights is produced by the two attached uv-b t8 fluorescent light fixtures.  The downside of fluorescents is that the bulbs will need replacement and contain mercury so they should be disposed of as appropriate for home hazardous waste. The 440 and 880 models draw approximately 650 and 320 Watts respectively and have user selectable Veg and Bloom modes.  They include a 3 year warranty which is to be expected at this price point.

Specifications
  • $3.33 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 6 LED Colors
  • Ultraviolet
  • No Infrared
  • 3 Year Warranty
3 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

G8LED

Models Available: 240w, 450w, 900w.

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G8LED grow light
4.5 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

Available in several models ranging from (a claimed) 240W – 900W, but delivering an actual estimated 140W – 540W, G8LED is a multiple HIGH TIMES “Best LED Grow Light” Award Winner. At just above $2 per Actual Watt these LED lights sit in the middle of the price range across the industry. Offering 8 LED color Bands including UV and IR, the G8LEDs provide a better light spectrum to promote plant growth and health. A 90 day return policy and 2 year warranty make G8LED a safer option for those looking to invest on larger scale and reduce risk of losing money on defective lights.

Lastly, and for some very importantly, their LEDs are made and engineered in the USA, which for some means a more trustworthy product. If you’re willing to take the step up to the next price point above the entry-level, these G8LED grow lights are a safe bet.

Specifications
  • $2.20 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 8 LED Colors
  • Ultraviolet
  • Infrared
  • 2 Year Warranty
  • 90 day return policy
4 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

Heliospectra

Models Available: LX60. E60, RX30.

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Heliospectra LED grow light
5 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

The choice of many commercial growers around the world, Heliospectra offers some of the most state-of-the-art features in its grow lights including wifi for remote monitoring and control. They are at the very high-end of the market, but they offer quite a lot for the money.  The LX line comes in a 601 (indoor) and 602 (greenhouse) version.  They are available in quantity discount if you are outfitting a large operation. They are one of the most expensive LED grow light options on the market, so that does hurt them a bit in our rating.

Specifications
  • $4.17 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 3 LED Colors
  • No Ultraviolet
  • No Infrared
  • 2 Year Warranty
  • 30 day return policy
2.5 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

Hydro Grow

Models Available: SOL2, SOL4, SOL6

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Hydro Grow SOL LED grow light
4 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

The most expensive lights in our comparison ($ per actual watt) the Hydro Grow SOL Series lights offer top shelf performance in a different form factor to most of the competition. Using large 100W LED diodes, these lights don’t use either glass or acrylic lenses which can block as much as 10% of light transmission per layer. They also offer an impressive color spectrum range for increased plant growth and yield.  Many growers that have tried these lights swear by them and would never go back.  If you are looking to make a substantial investment in grow lights and are looking for the stat-of-the-art, you should consider the Hydro Grow SOL series of lights.

Specifications
  • $4.24 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 6 LED Colors
  • No Ultraviolet
  • Infrared
  • 3 Year Warranty
  • 90 day return policy
  • 20% – 40% restocking fee
3 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

Kind LED

Models Available: K3: L300, L450, L600 K5: XL1000, XL750

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Kind LED grow light
4 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

Kind LED offers some of the most popular lights on the market today. Their K3 and K5 lines offer Actual wattage ranges from 220W – 650W which matches their Claimed Wattages. At roughly $3 per Watt these lights sit squarely in the high-end with the likes of California Light Works and Black Dog. They also offer a 90 day return policy and a 3 year warranty which rivals all but a few of their competitors.

A 12 color LED spectrum including UV and IR give these lights among the broadest spectrums available. Also, these lights do include a remote control which can come in extremely handy when you have large plants to navigate around. One downside is that the built in digital timer on these units has a red LCD which is illuminated even when the light is off which could potentially expose your crops to unwanted continuous lights.  For crops such as cannabis which require a dark cycle, care should be taken to avoid this light spilling onto your plants at night.

Specifications
  • $3.07 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 12 LED Colors
  • Ultraviolet
  • Infrared
  • 3 Year Warranty
  • 90 day return policy
4.5 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

Lighthouse Hydro

Models Available: 100w, 180w, 240w, 500w

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Lighthouse Hydro LED grow light
4 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

Lighthouse Hydro offers moderately priced fairly generic style LED light panels with its Blackstar line of LED grow lights.  They are reported to have varying degrees of reliability, with most owners being satisfied.  They offer a fairly broad color spectrum with UV and IR which makes them a decent choice for non-first time grow operations. Their 1 year warranty leaves a bit to be desired. At more than twice the price of the lower priced units per actual Watt, they are a moderate mid-range competitor.

Specifications
  • $3.13 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 6 LED Colors
  • Ultraviolet
  • Infrared
  • 1 Year Warranty
3 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

LumiGrow

Models Available: Pro325, Pro650

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Lumigrow LED Grow Light
2 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

LumiGrow touts their lights as having a spectrum specifically tuned to plants needs and therefore “no wasted energy”.  They certainly have a fine tuned spectral chart and very high quality, well-built lights.  They are on the high-end with regard to price and are reputed to have less than stellar customer service.  Their marketing focuses on Spectrum and their lights lack the features the other high-end manufacturers include.

Specifications
  • $3.88 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 3 LED Colors
  • No Ultraviolet
  • No Infrared
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • 30 day return policy
  • 25% restocking fee
1.5 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

Mars Hydro

Models Available: Reflector:48, 96, 144, 192

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Marshydro LED light
4.5 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

With their Reflector series, including models in Wattages from 95W to 390W (estimated Actual Wattage), and MSRPs ranging from $120 to $386, Mars Hydro offers fantastic entry level LED Grown Light options with their Reflector series of LED grow lights. Although lacking in the UV range, with 6 different LED colors, they do offer a very broad range of led light colors including IR.  Built in reflectors offer a mix of 90° and 120° output angles.

Mars Hydro has a reputation for excellent customer service. A 7 day Return Policy and 1 Year Warranty are on the weaker side, but for the price there’s really not a lot to complain about here.

Specifications
  • $1.36 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 6 LED Colors
  • No Ultraviolet
  • Infrared
  • 1 Year Warranty
  • 7 day return policy
  • up to 70% restocking fee
3 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

Platinum LED

Models Available: Diamond Series:150, 300, 450, 600, 900, 1200

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PlatinumLED light
4.5 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

Recipient of our Editor’s Choice for the mid-range of the market Platinum LED offers an excellent option for the indoor grower. They offer models ranging in claimed Wattage of 100W – 758W and Actual Wattages within 10% of claimed.  Average prices of around $2 per Actual Watt set these lights right in the sweet spot of the overall market. Platinum LED lights offer a 12 color LED spectrum with both UV and IR as well as some of the quieter and more effective cooling fans on the market thanks to built-in aluminum heat sinks.

Gimmicky features like a spectrum change switch are a nice thought and do set these lights apart from the competition, but in practice they’re probably not worth using.  The full spectrum of this light will likely give you best results. A 90-day return policy and 5 year warranty mean Platinum LED has really put their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting this product.  If you’re in the mid-range of this competitive light market, you should definitely be giving these lights your consideration.

Specifications
  • $2.05 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 12 LED Colors
  • Ultraviolet
  • Infrared
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • 90 day return policy
  • 20% restocking fee
4.5 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

Viparspectra

Models Available: PAR: 450 & 600, V:300, 450, 600, 900, 1200

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Viparspectra LED grow light
4.5 Star Rating

Amazon Review Average

Description

Viparspectra PAR and Reflector series lights are the Editor’s Choice Award Winner at the Entry-Level price point because they are an unbelievable value for what they deliver.  They offer best in class pricing per actual Watt at about 0.76 cents per Watt, which is more than 25% less expensive than comparable lights from close competitors such as MarsHydro.  They offer a broad spectrum, including IR, and have a respectable return policy (30 days) and warranty (3 years).

We certainly wouldn’t expect these lights to stand the test of time, but to get a grow up and running staying within a tight budget, they will certainly be the right option for many first time growers.

Specifications
  • $0.76 per actual Watt of power (avg.)
  • 6 LED Colors
  • No Ultraviolet
  • Infrared
  • 3 Year Warranty
  • 90 day return policy
  • 10% restocking fee
3.5 drop rating

uPONICS Rating

Thank You for reading to the end of this article.  We hope you’ve found this information helpful.  Check out our other articles such as our DIY Aquaponics Plans Page or our Hydroponics Grow Media Page.