LED vs CFL for Growing Marijuana Indoors

When planning your indoor cannabis garden, you’ve got many grow light options. Maybe you already researched or asked fellow growers what type of grow lights they use, but if you’re still unsure about which grow lights to use for your cannabis garden, read on to make the right choice. 

Grown outdoors, cannabis follows the environment’s changing seasons. Cannabis germination, growth, flowering, and reproduction are reactions to environmental changes, and light cycles ignite these reactions. 

Download my free Grow Bible to learn more about light cycles and choosing the best grow lights for your plants.


Environmental changes to consider: 

All these factors affect how your cannabis grows and develops. 

When growing cannabis, it’s important that they get 18 hours of light to vegetate and 12 hours to flower. You control the lighting. Outdoors, your timing for when you plant, as well as the weather, affect how much light your cannabis gets.

Growing indoors allows you to change and maneuver cannabis’s natural light cycles. Indoors, you don’t have to rely on mother nature to produce high-quality marijuana.

Note: you need both a lot of light and high-quality light. The type of light you use impacts your harvest, costs, and budget to construct and maintain your setup. 

So do you choose Standard light-emitting diode (LED) lights or compact fluorescent lamps (CFL)? Which are better? Let’s get into standard LED lights vs CFL for indoor growing.

Grow Lights Compared: LED vs CFL

First up, growing cannabis with CFL vs. LED. Both have pros and cons in an indoor cannabis garden. LEDs allow you to get more buds with higher quality, but they’re expensive and don’t work well with tight spaces. Meanwhile, CFLs are cheap and readily available, great for new growers. However, they’re less efficient than LEDs in producing light – affecting the quality of your harvest. Still unsure? Here are more pros and cons. 

LED Lights

Marijuana plants growing indoors under LED lighting

Pros:

● One thing to keep in mind is the light production differences in standard LED lights vs. CFL for indoor growing. LED lights produce two to four times as many cannabis buds for the same amount of electricity. 

● LED lights do not require almost any adjustments, unlike CFLs which make plants prone to harmful light exposure. 

● LEDs produce higher quality yields. Cannabis produces more trichomes due to LED’s special feature of emitting UVB light. This type of light eliminates the risk of burning your plants as they produce more trichomes.

● These types of lights are perfect for growing tall cannabis plants indoors.

Cons:

● LEDs need to be  12-18+ inches away from the plants. This is not ideal if you’re short on space.

● LED lighting can be more expensive than other grow light options, such as high-intensity discharge lamps (HIDs) and fluorescent lights.

CFL Lights

Cannabis plants in a grow tent placed under CFL lights

Pros:

● CFLs are less likely to burn your plants than other non-LED options. This allows you to place the lights close without worrying about harmful light exposure, such as with HIDs. You should still regularly check them and make any adjustments.

● CFL lighting uses less electricity than traditional fluorescent lighting, making them a more budget-friendly option for the casual grower. 

● Growing with CFL vs. LED lighting is, overall, cheaper and easier to find. 

Cons:

● CFL Lights have less efficient light production that risks harvest quality. 

● CFLs require daily adjustment to prevent excessive light exposure 

● When considering CFL vs LED for growing weed, reserve CFLs for small indoor grow rooms 

What to Consider When Choosing Grow Lights for Your Indoor Cannabis Plants

Picking your ideal grow light comes down to what works for you. Most home growers choose LEDs. These grow lights last longer than fluorescent lights, making them more budget-friendly. You can find and buy LED grow lights at your local chain hardware store (Ace or Home Depot in the United States). With a fuller spectrum of light that emits UVB, LEDs help produce trichomes: more trichomes, better harvest. 

Trichomes are the tiny hairs that you see on the surface of cannabis flowers. They contain cannabinoids and terpenes, which is where weed gets its psychoactive effects and its aromatic scent. That faint smell of fresh orange peel you got from smoking? You have terpenes to thank for that. Learn more about marijuana trichomes.

Plant Type and Quantity

Choosing between CFLs vs. LEDs depends on the cannabis you want to grow. When growing any kind of sativa strain, your plants can reach at least 10ft tall – and that’s not counting the height of whatever you planted it in. On the other hand, indica strains only grow up to 6 feet tall. Others, 3 feet. 

Want to grow marijuana but don’t have a huge space? No problem! We got a variety of seeds for compact weed plants are guaranteed to germinate and produce pot you love!

Buy Small Weed Plants

There are growing techniques to get around tall Sativa strains, such as “Screen of Green” or  ScrOG. Scrogging is a type of indoor growing technique where you grow your cannabis out vertically using a green mesh or a ‘screen.’ It’s a great workaround for short spaces that don’t have a lot of height to work with, and it increases the number of buds on your plant. To learn more, check out our step-by-step tutorial.

This leads us to how many grow lights you’ll need. 

Each grow light covers a certain range. Knowing how far your grow lights cover helps you plan for the number of grow lights you need and gauge how much electricity you might use.

Budget

Speaking of cost, you need to consider repair costs and electrical costs as part of the budget for buying and maintaining grow lights. We’re talking long game when purchasing lights. For example, LEDs can last up to 5 years, while CFLs will only last ten months. Don’t forget efficiency, measured by how much a grow light produces light and consumes electricity (Lumen per watt).

HIDs: Cost least in repairs and electricity. HIDs consume less electricity and produce a lot of light but need more time. With their ballasts and reflectors, they’re able to cover a wide area. They are good for larger indoor grow setups. 

LEDs: Low in repair and electrical costs, but high in price. Like HIDs, they consume electricity efficiently, and the amount of light coverage is cost-effective. There’s also the bonus of increased trichome production. LEDs are the only type of grow light that emits UVB, which helps produce more trichomes. 

Fluorescent lights: Regardless if they’re CFL or T5 bulbs, fluorescent lights are cheap. They’re also easy to find and buy, but they have a higher electrical cost. Fluorescents are inefficient and need to be replaced often–usually after a year. They are good for smaller grow rooms and are generally easier to find than the other grow lights.

Space and Setup

An indoor cannabis grow set-up

Finally, consider your grow space. Whether you turn your coat closet into a grow room or build a grow tent, knowing the size of your grow space is essential when choosing your grow lights. 

Consider lighting and space when: 

LEDs are by far the best for smaller spaces. They produce less heat and need fewer adjustments as your plant grows taller. CFLs are not cost-effective, but they are cheaper upfront. They’re also more work, and they produce more heat. The money you save on CFLs might be lost in time regulating temperatures or a lost harvest due to too much light and heat. 

Learn to time your harvest perfectly with my free mini harvesting guide.


To Sum it Up: Choosing LED vs. CFL

Whether it’s LEDs or CFLs, there are benefits and drawbacks. LEDs offer a full light spectrum,  are versatile, and can be installed in almost any indoor grow garden. However, they do cause sticker shock. First-timers may shy from spending a lot of money on their indoor setups. CFLs, on the other hand, are cheap and readily available. They’re good for low-cost grow tents and for growers who are looking to grow their first harvest.

But at the end of the day, the best choice is LEDs.  They’re a great first investment to first-time growers.  LEDs last longer and produce better harvest yields at a higher quality. Money spent will be money saved on repairs and replacements.

FAQs About LED and CFL Grow Lights

Which lights are best for growing cannabis?

HID lighting is the best lighting for cannabis. However, this article focuses on the best lights for growing a few plants in smaller spaces. If you intend to grow small amounts of marijuana regularly, you should choose LED lighting. 

Do you need special grow bulbs to grow weed?

While different lights provide different lighting spectrums, marijuana can grow under any type of lighting. However, the best marijuana grows under the best lighting. LED and HID provide the best light spectrums for marijuana plants.

How much does a grow light costs?

The cost of a grow light can range from less than $10 for an everyday fluorescent light to over $2000 for high-end LED lighting. An average quality light is typically less than $100. 

You only need practice and learning to grow marijuana like a pro! Let our blog help you get started.

Have you tried growing marijuana using either LED or CFL lights? Please share your experience with us in the comments!

Happy growing!

Robert

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