High Intensity Discharge (HID) marijuana grow lights are still the primary grow light category used by serious home marijuana growers and professional growers worldwide.
Cannabis cultivators use LEDs, fluorescent, CFL, light-emitting ceramic, or plasma lighting because they cut down on heat and on watts burned.
But HID metal halide and high pressure sodium marijuana grow lights are still the best choice if you’re growing full-size photoperiod marijuana plants in a full-size or commercial indoor grow room.
The main components of marijuana grow lights are reflectors or hoods, ballasts, and bulbs.
In each of those three categories of equipment, there are varying degrees of quality and value.
Today, we’re giving you a list of the highest quality HID bulbs.
You can trust our recommendations because the BigBudsMag.com grow team includes growers who cultivate marijuana in massive commercial grows, some who run 5-15 lights at home, and others who grow 1-2 light gardens in small spaces or grow chambers.
Another reason to trust BigBudsMag.com: we don’t take money from marijuana grow lights advertisers.
Other marijuana magazines, and many cultivation forum websites, slant their reporting on marijuana grow lights and other grow gear because they get advertising dollars from manufacturers and sellers.
This is especially true in the case of LED grow lights.
LED grow lights are promoted by some marijuana magazines all the time, even though LEDs are often overpriced and lack the intensity and PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) to properly light full size cannabis plants.
The one brand of LED grow lights we trust is Lush Lighting, and we’ve done several articles about them that you should read.
In our tests, Lush LED were able to power plants as tall as five feet, creating bud size and resin production equal to HID, with about 2/3 the power usage and heat of HID.
We’ve tested all of the major HID bulbs you can get at reputable online and brick and mortar hydroponics stores using lumens meters and PAR meters.
A lumens meter is an old school way of measuring the visible intensity of marijuana grow lights.
A PAR meter is the best way of measuring marijuana grow lights, because it measures the intensity of light wavelengths known to stimulate photosynthesis.
Lumens meters only show you the intensity of the entire light spectrum as seen by the human eye.
But many marijuana grow lights have high intensity, but low PAR intensity.
That’s why our PAR measurements something we rely on a lot when judging grow bulbs.
Our criteria for judging what’s a good HID grow bulb are exactly what you’d want them to be:
- We want HID bulbs that deliver high intensity light in the PAR spectrum best suited for marijuana grow phase and marijuana bloom phase. This means two types of bulbs—one for grow phase, one for bloom phase.
- We want HID grow bulbs that deliver the same PAR light intensity and wavelengths consistently for at least 3-4 growing seasons if not more.
- We want HID grow bulbs that are safe to use (not exploding or breaking).
- We want HID grow bulbs that are made with quality gases and components.
- We want the bulbs to be as affordable as possible, but not at a sacrifice of performance, longevity, and quality.
Here are our findings:
- There are two tiers of grow bulbs. One is the cheaper tier, made with poor quality control, along with inferior materials and design. This tier is usually 10-65% lower in cost than the upper tier.
- The upper tier of grow bulbs are made by only a handful of companies: Hortilux, Ushio, Philips, and Gavita.
- The low tier bulbs have big problems. They don’t deliver enough light intensity (in PAR or lumens) in a consistent distribution pattern over an acceptable period of bulb life.
- Low tier hydroponics grow bulbs fail to deliver the ratio and range of light wavelengths best for marijuana, especially in bloom phase.
- Low tier hydroponics grow bulbs wear out after one or two seasons.
- Low tier hydroponics grow bulbs can break or explode, and can damage your hydroponics ballasts.
Here are our recommendations for the best hydroponics marijuana grow lamps.
Note that we’re only specifying 1000-watt bulbs. In most cases, the manufacturer makes a 600 and 400 watt version of those same bulb types.
We don’t recommend 1500-watt bulbs, or conversion bulbs.
Here are the Marijuana Grow Light Winners
- By far the most reliable and professional manufacturers of hydroponics high intensity discharge grow bulbs are Ushio, Hortilux, Philips, and Gavita.
- For 1000-watt marijuana grow lights in veg phase, we most recommend the Hortilux Blue.
- For 1000-watt marijuana grow lights in bloom phase, we most recommend Hortilux Super HPS or Hortilux Blue.
- Note that many marijuana growers combine metal halide or Hortilux Blue with an HPS bulb in bloom phase. In that application, they for example use a 1000-watt HPS with a 600-watt Hortilux Blue. That’s a good bloom phase ratio for high pressure sodium to metal halide.
- For double-ended bulbs, you have to use a hydroponics ballast specifically engineered for double-ended bulbs. We equally recommend the Gavita and Ushio double-ended bulbs, with the Philips bulb coming in behind Gavita and Ushio (the Philips bulbs have had quality control and safety problems).
Note that we recommend Hortilux above all other marijuana grow lights manufacturers.
Our reasons for this include that they manufacture their own noble gases and other components, in America.
You do get what you pay for when it comes to hydroponics grow bulbs and ballasts.
For example, the Hortilux Blue 1000-watt retails at around $130.
A metal halide 1000-watt made by one of the low tier companies can cost as low as $40.
Is it worth the extra $90 to get the Hortilux Blue or the other top-tier bulbs we recommend?
When you’ve measured new and used bulbs using a PAR meter and a lumens meter, and compared their light intensity, PAR intensity, and how long it takes the bulb’s maximum output to drop off, you discover the low-priced bulbs even when new never put out optimal light intensity or PAR wavelengths, or even close.
This translates slower growth in veg and bloom phase, smaller, lighter buds in bloom phase, less production of THC and other cannabinoids.
It also means your bulbs wear out faster and have a higher risk of dangerous failure.
Of course marijuana plants can grow even if you’re using crappy lights.
So if you want to cheap out on marijuana grow lights, that’s your choice.
Just know that using the best hydroponics grow bulbs, your plants will finish 5-20% faster, have 5-20% more harvest weight, and have 5-20% more THC and other cannabinoids.
In our calculations both economically and because we want to be the best marijuana growers we can be by giving our plants the light they most love to eat, we vote for using the top tier marijuana grow lights. It’s worth it.