HSP vs. LED Grow Lights – What’s the Difference?

When choosing the grow lights for our indoor gardens, there are a lot of things we have to keep into consideration. We’ve covered most of the main types of grow lights in this article, but we’d also do well to address one of the biggest “vs” questions in the industry right now – are HSP or LED grow lights better?

There are a lot of mixed feelings and opinions on this topic.

HSP grow lights have been the king of the hill for literally decades but many believe LED grow lights are the ones to finally knock them off their throne.

So, what are the main differences between the two and which should you choose?

What are HSP grow lights?

HSP stands for High-Pressure Sodium and are a type of HID lights. They work by igniting a gas (in this case, sodium) inside the bulb which produces light.

As such, the main characteristics of HSP HID lights can be summed up like this:

  • They are very bright. HSP grow lights are exceptionally bright which means that they can be kept further above the plants and cover a wider area.
  • They produce quite a bit of heat. This is a downside for any grow light but thankfully, HSP lights are kept high above your plants anyway. Still, proper ventilation is a must.
  • They require additional ballast and a reflective cover above them. Just getting HSP lights won’t be enough, as there are specific requirements for using them correctly.
  • They produce mostly red spectrum light which is great for flowering but not so much for the vegetation stages of a plant’s growth. For the latter, you’d need something like MH (metal halide) HID bulbs which produce mostly blue spectrum light.
  • HSP grow lights burn out rather quickly which means that you’ll need to replace them regularly.

With this mixture of pros and cons, HSP grow lights have been used for the flowering stages of most plants by the majority of indoor gardeners out there. The bright red spectrum light they give off so well is simply too big of a benefit to ignore.

What are LED grow lights?

LED grow lights have been rising in popularity in the last decade but they still haven’t become as massively popular as regular LED bulbs have become for standard residential lighting.

They work on a similar principle – they consist of large panels of many light-emitting diodes that can be used as grow lights. Here’s a breakdown of their characteristics:

  • LED grow lights are much more energy-efficient. They consume much less energy which makes them great for any budget-sensitive situation.
  • They are easy to use. LED grow lights don’t require any further items, reflective screens, ballast, and so on. You just plug them in and use them.
  • LED lights produce both red and blue spectrum light. Unlike most other grow lights that produce either/or of the two main growth light spectrums, LED light panels can do both.
  • LED is cool. Unlike HSP which produces a ton of heat, LED grow lights create barely any heat. This doesn’t just make ventilation easier – it’s also safer for your plants.
  • LED grow lights are more expensive to purchase. Depending on their model, they can be anywhere between 3 to 10 times more expensive than HSP lights.
  • Even though they don’t produce too much heat, LED lights can still cause light burns. That’s because they are so powerful that even without heat they can slowly turn your plants yellow if you’re keeping them too close.
  • Diode consistency is a major issue. One major problem of LED lights is that while they can last long overall, a few faulty diodes can force you to throw away the whole thing. That’s rarely a problem with residential LED lights but with grow lights you want the light to be consistent across the board. And given how expensive LEDs are, you would hate to have to remove a whole LED panel for a few faulty diodes.
  • Confusing marketing claims. Out of all types of grow lights, LEDs are the ones that are constantly over-advertised. Maybe it’s because they are the new and innovative technology on the market, but most manufacturers constantly overhype them with exaggerated claims. This can make it difficult for novice users to get an adequate idea of what they’re going to get from their LEDs.
  • Huge differences between different models and brands. Another problem is that there are major differences between the characteristics of LED grow lights between different brands and models. This makes it even harder to find the right LED grow lights for your needs.

So, while it is clear that LED grow lights have a lot to offer, they also leave a bit to be desired.

HSP vs. LED – which should you choose?

Whether you choose HSP or LED grow lights depends on the needs of your plants and your specific situation.

For flowering we’d have to still go with HSP lights – their brightness and effectiveness, as well as their consistency, are simply too big advantages to ignore. There are a lot of great LED models for flowering as well but finding them amidst all the misinformation and exaggerated marketing can be tricky.

On the other hand, for an easy balance between vegetation and flowering, we’d recommend going with LED grow lights. The fact that they produce both blue and red spectrum lights, the ease of use, and the low power consumption are amazing benefits for general grow lights. Just make sure to find the right quality LED bulbs for your needs as replacing entire panels of faulty LEDs can be a pain.

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