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DENVER, CO. – Cannabis grows in the small indoor farm at the Natural Remedies marijuana grow facility in the Concentrates Remedies manufacturing facility in Denver, CO on April 10, 2016. (Photo by Vince Chandler / The Denver Post/Getty Images)

learn | 01.01.2022

Our Complete Guide To The Best HID Grow Lights For Healthy Plants

You don’t need to invest in expensive LEDs to get your grow going. The best HID grow lights are a great, cost-effective alternative.

While LEDs are the preferred type of grow lights amongst cannabis growers, plenty of budding farmers are sticking with HID lights because of their proven track record. HID grow lights have been around for a long time, and they wouldn’t have stuck around if they didn’t get the job done. Far more than serviceable, the right  HID light can yield amazing results.

HID Lights For Growing Weed: Pros and Cons

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Photo by contrastaddict / E+ / Getty Images

Aside from their tried-and-true reputation, what really makes HID grow lights such an attractive option is their cost. For growers with a strict startup budget, HIDs are a cost-effective option versus LEDs, though the price gap between the two is getting smaller by the year. HID grow lights have equal power and brightness to LEDs, and, for a bit less money, can produce exceptional yields. That’s why many growers have yet to make the switch.

As for those that have ditched HIDs for LEDs, they aren’t without their reasons. For one, HIDs put off a lot of heat, and as a consequence, drain a ton of electricity. Because they tend to overheat, cannabis cultivators end up purchasing additional ventilation to keep harsh temperatures from interfering with their grow. HID grow lights also require frequent bulb changes as they only last 10,000 hours, compared to a whopping 50,000 hours that some LED bulbs can offer. That’s about 5.7 years when running 24 hours a day.

HPS Vs. MH: Which Is Best?

If you want the best results, then you’re going to want both of the types of HID bulbs- HPS and MH. HPS, or High-Pressure Sodium, bulbs are what boost your plants’ yields during the flowering stage. MH, or Metal Halide, bulbs keep plants growing strong during the vegetative stage. You can run both lights at the same time but the cost will be higher because of the additional energy drain. Conversely, you can switch them out accordingly and grow healthy plants just as fast. Just don’t run one or the other throughout the entire grow. HPS alone will only give you mediocre results, while MH will produce the worst yields if used solo.

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Photo by Daniel Brothers / Moments / Getty Images

What Wattage HID Should I Get?

When it comes to wattage, the size of your grow determines how many watts your HID grow light should have. The general rule of thumb is 30 to 50 watts per square foot. For the most efficient range, that is anywhere from 250 and 1000 watts, but the best choice for most growers is typically 400 or 600-watt bulbs. This is because they make it easier to control the heat. A 1000-watt bulb, for example, gets way too hot, and would only be necessary for 16 or more plants. As for a 250-watt bulb, it’s weaker, so you might only need one to keep your plants happy. Again, it all depends on how many plants you’re raising. Below is a straightforward guide to help you find the right wattage for your HID grow light based on how many plants you’re working with, or the size of your grow space:

  • 3 to 5 plants, or up to 4 square feet: 250 watts
  • 6 to 9 plants, or up to 9 square feet: 400 watts
  • 9 to 12 plants, or up to 16 square feet: 600 watts
  • 12 to 16 or more plants, or 25+ square feet: 1000 watts

Double Ended Vs. Single Ended Bulbs

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Photo by bernie_photo / E+ / Getty Images

Something else you’ll run into while shopping for HID grow lights are double-ended and single-ended bulbs. The better bulb for you firstly depends on how much you have to spend. Single-ended bulbs are about half the cost of double-ended bulbs. But double-ended bulbs last longer. An additional 10,000 hours, to be exact. Double ended bulbs are also more efficient because they produce more PAR (usable light) for your plants using the same wattage.

Whether you should choose a double-ended or single-ended bulb also depends on your reflector. Some reflectors are compatible with double-ended bulbs, but some aren’t. If you have a wing, umbrella, air-cooled tub, air-cooled hood, or air-cooled tube hood reflector, then you need single-ended bulbs. But if you have a double-ended wing, double-ended air-cooled hood, double-ended large open hood, or a double-ended hood with an attached ballast reflector, double-ended bulbs are the ones for you.

The Best HID Grow Light Kits

Once you determine how many watts your HID light needs and you’ve picked out your reflector, putting together the rest of your HID grow light shopping kit will be a breeze. If you want to make it even simpler, you can get the whole package at once: the reflector, the ballast, and the bulbs. HID grow light kits come with everything you need to grow weed the HID way. Rather than shopping for all the equipment separately and risking buying the wrong things. Done and done.

The Best HID Grow Light Kits:

iPower 400 Watt HPS MH Digital Dimmable Grow Light System Kits Wing Reflector Set

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Photo courtesy of iPower via Amazon.com

If you have a large grow space, then this 400w HPS MH wing reflector set by iPower is more than suitable. It’s not air-cooled, but that’s not a major concern when you have plenty of room to grow. The kit includes a top-notch HPS and MH bulb, plus the ballast, a 19-inch wing reflector, and an 8 ft adjustable ratchet clip hanger rope to keep the unit sturdy. Customers like that the ballast keeps quiet and cool and that the entire set up is built to last, only requiring around four bulb changes a year- two for MH bulbs and two HPS bulbs. But most of all, they love the price. You get everything for less than 100 bucks. Cheap, excellent quality, you can’t beat it.  

VIVOSUN Hydroponic 600 Watt HPS MH Grow Light Air Cooled Reflector Kit

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Photo courtesy of VIVOSUN via Amazon.com

For smaller growing spaces, such as a grow tent, it’s best to get air-cooled equipment, like the VIVOSUN Hydroponic 600W HPS MH Air Cooled Reflector kit. That way, heat is expelled from the reflector and doesn’t have a chance to escape and interrupt your grow. With this kit, you get all the essentials, including an MH and HPS bulb, a ballast, the 6″ air-cooled reflector, a 1/8″ rope hanger, and to top it off, a 7-day digital timer with up to 8 on/off separate program settings and a bright LCD display.  This kit is a bit more expensive because it comes with more things, including lights with higher wattages. Customers particularly enjoy how sturdy the unit is and the excellent customer service. If you ever need any replacement part or have questions or concerns, VIVOSUN is quick to solve the problem.

The Best HID Grow Lights: MH And HPS Bulbs

If you already have the reflector, ballast, and all, then there’s just one thing missing: the bulbs. Chances are you know a little something about what you’re looking for being that you have everything else, but might not know the best bulb brands, or want to try out something new. Here are the best single-ended and double-ended HPS and MH bulbs (remember to grab both!):

Single-Ended HPS Bulbs:

Eye Hortilux Super HPS

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Photo by Eye Hortilux via Amazon.com

Available in 250, 400, 430, 600, and 1000 watts, the Eye Hortilux Super HPS bulb is a phenomenal light to use during the flowering stage. Truthfully, this HPS could be used throughout an entire grow, but again, it’s better to use both HPS and MH. The Eye Hortilux Super features an enhanced spectrum, releasing 25% more energy in the violet, blue, and green spectrum than regular HPS bulbs. That gives your plants a more extensive variety of light plus better yields.

Double-Ended HPS Bulbs:

Ushio Hi LUX GRO

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Photo by Ushio via Amazon.com

For the flowering stage, no bulb tops the Ushio 1000W Hi-LUX GRO double-ended HPS bulb. It features high red and blue spectral ratios for good photosynthesis efficiency, an outstanding lumen output for high PAR values (1950 and 2100 micromole/s), and it’s low-energy and long-lasting (10,000 hours). Its only downfall is its 80 dollar price tag.

Single-Ended MH Bulbs:


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Photo by VIVOSUN via Amazon.com

During the vegetative stage, plants grow best with a combination of red and blue light. The VIVOSUN MH bulb, available in 400W, 600W, and 1000W, is one of the better MH lights because it has a 4200K color temperature and an enhanced blue/violet spectrum. That gives plants not only blue but also some red. Not to mention, for such a cheap light, it lasts a long time (24,000 hours). It maintains 90% of initial lumen output after running 5,000 hours.

Double-Ended MH Bulbs:

iPower DE MH

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Photo by iPower via Amazon.com

Another fantastic bulb to use during the vegetative stage is the 1000W iPower DE MH. Don’t let the cost full you, it might be cheap, but it’s powerful. The iPower DE MH has an initial lumen output of 100,000 and a 1400umol/s PAR. There are also other versions available, including a 6000K, 4200K, and 3100K, but the 6000K is the best for vegging.

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