Best HID Grow Light Kits in 2017

best hid horticultural lighting systemsChoosing the best HID grow light kit can be confusing.

There are so many options and they all seem similar. They all ARE similar.

How do you choose the right one?

Here’s what we did.

We gathered all the lights on the market into a spreadsheet. We dumped the most expensive ones first. There isn’t enough, if any, difference between them and lower cost options to come anywhere near justifying the higher price.

Next, we dumped all the no-name lights flooding the market from China. They are rarely any good and, these days, there are top brands selling their lights for about the same price. There is no longer any reason to even consider a no-name light.

We weren’t left with much, but that’s what we wanted. Now we had a manageable list of lights that we could dig into much deeper. Once we looked more closely at the top hid lights for growing plants, we ended up with a clear winner and a solid runner up.

 

iPower: The Best HID Grow Light Brand

Of course we’ve heard of brands like Hydrofarm, etc. but we just don’t feel there’s a big enough quality difference to justify the higher price. We like iPower, because they sell at low prices, but still deliver in terms of quality. Their products aren’t the best, but they’re better than most. And at a lower price.

And that’s their biggest strength, along with a large selection of different kits. If you want to read our detailed review of iPower lights and also see our runner-up for best light, jump down below.

 

Before those reviews, we will go through all the different options when it comes to HID plant light kits, so you can confidently choose the best one for your needs. Everything we say here goes for any other brand, too. They all sell the same wattages and reflector styles.

 

HID Lights For Growing Plants: What To Consider

There are a few decisions you have to make. The first is what wattage system you want. Then you need to decide whether you want a kit with only a high pressure sodium (HPS) bulb or one with both an HPS and a metal halide (MH) bulb. Finally, you need to decide on the type of reflector you want. We will also briefly discuss double ended vs. single ended systems.

 

How Many Watts Do I Need To Grow Indoors?

Quick Summary For Those Who Don’t Like Reading
  • 400 watts covers a 3 by 3 foot area
  • 600 watts covers a 4 by 4 foot area
  • 1000 watts covers a 5 by 5 foot area
  • If your area is such that you have several options, always go with more lower wattage lights over fewer higher wattage lights.

First off, the only wattages you should consider are 400, 600 or 1000. Anything below 400 and above 1000 watts is simply too inefficient. If you want lower wattages, you’re better off going with fluorescent light and anything over 1000 watts just uses too much power and generates too much heat to make any sense.

In general, we recommend 600 watts. This is where HID lights are at their peak efficiency. That said, there are certainly times where a 1000 watt or 400 watt light makes more sense. It basically comes down to the size of your garden.

To simplify things, a 400 watt bulb lights up a 3 by 3 foot area; a 600 watt bulb covers a 4 by 4 foot area; and a 1000 watt bulb covers a 5 by 5 foot area. Obviously the reflector style will change the coverage area a bit, but these are the general coverage areas for each.

Thus, is you have a 3 by 3 grow tent, it would make most sense to get a 400 watt system. For a 10 by 10 tent, four 1000 watt lights would fit best. If several options work, more lights of a lower wattage are always preferable to fewer lights of a higher wattage, to cover the same area. For example, a 20 by 20 foot space would be better covered by twenty-five 600 watt lights than sixteen 1000 watt lights.

 

What Type Of Grow Light Bulb Do I Need? HPS or MH?

Quick Summary For Those Who Don’t Like Reading

Get a kit with both an MH bulb and an HPS bulb.

Get both bulbs. The metal halide bulb maximizes growth during the vegging stage and the high pressure sodium bulb maximizes bud and flower production during the blooming stage. You can use one bulb throughout, but will get better results switching bulbs when it comes time to switch from vegging to flowering.

Of course, the best results come from using both types of bulbs during all stages of growth, but that will increase costs considerably. And the increase in cost of running both types of bulbs is simply too high to justify the increase in growth rate and yield. Unless you are a medium to large-scale commercial grower, use only one type of bulb at a time: MH for vegging and HPS for flowering.

 

What Type of Grow Light Reflector Is Best?

This depends on your needs. We’ll cover the pros and cons of each reflector type below. That should help you choose the best one.

Quick Summary For Those Who Don’t Like Reading

 

Wing Reflector

ipower wing reflector

Pros
  • the cheapest reflector
  • largest coverage area
  • no glass to refract any of the light
  • no ducting needs to be run through light fixture
Cons
  • all the heat from the bulb goes into the grow room
  • front and back ends are open, so some light escapes and is not directed onto plants
Who is it for?
  • growers on a budget
  • large grow rooms (10+) lights where ducting makes no sense
  • growers who want to ventilate the whole room and not each individual light

 

Cool Hood Reflector

ipower cool hood reflector

Pros
  • can hang closer to plants
  • focused light penetrates deeper below canopy
  • heat from bulbs never enters grow space
Cons
  • focused light means smaller coverage area (about 4×4)
  • the glass cover refracts a small amount of light
  • need to run ducting to fixture
Who is it for?
  • small to medium sized grows in enclosed spaces (like a tent)
  • growers who want to vent out the heat before it enters the room

 

Cool Tube Reflector

ipower cool tube reflector

Pros
  • the cheapest air cooled reflector
  • great for hanging vertically
Cons
  • small reflector surface allows a lot of light to escape
  • the glass cover refracts a small amount of light
  • need to run ducting to fixture
Who is it for?
  • growers who want to hang lights vertically
  • growers on a strict budget who want an air cooled light

 

Cool Tube Hood Reflector

ipower cool tube hood reflector

Pros
  • large coverage area (especially the XXL version)
  • no glass to refract any of the light
  • no ducting needs to be run through light fixture
  • keeps heat from bulb out of grow room
Cons
  • most expensive reflector (especially the XXL version)
  • less focused light (due to larger spread)
  • the glass cover refracts a small amount of light
  • need to run ducting to fixture
Who is it for?
  • growers who need a larger coverage area per light
  • growers who want to vent out the heat before it enters the room

 

So, Which Reflector Style Do I Need?

In almost all cases, we recommend either a cool hood reflector or a wing reflector. Get the wing if you are on a strict budget or if you don’t want to deal with running ducting to each light (and you are able to deal with the heat another way). Otherwise, get a cool hood kit.

The only exception is for large grows. If you have more than 10 lights, there is no point in getting air cooled reflectors. With so much ducting, a lot of the heat will radiate out into the room anyway, so you might as well just get the cheaper wing reflectors and also save yourself the trouble of running all the ducting. You’re going to have to cool the room, no matter what.

The cool tube reflectors are pointless, unless you want to hang lights vertically. You might consider them if you want a cooled reflector, but are on a strict budget. I’d still recommend you spend a bit extra and get a cool hood. The light you lose with the tube is not worth the slight cost savings.

Cool tube hoods are great if you want a large coverage area and you can sacrifice light strength (the light will not penetrate as deeply into the canopy). These hoods have a large coverage area like a wing reflector, but they do not lose light out the front and back and they are air cooled. They are the most expensive reflectors, though.

 

How About Double Ended Reflectors?

Double ended bulbs are more efficient, giving you more output from the same wattage. They also last longer.

Naturally, there’s a drawback. They are more expensive (especially the reflectors) and they generate more heat. They are also generally made to run on 240V only and they almost always only come with an HPS bulb.

If you are set up to run 240 volts and you can deal with the additional heat, a DE reflector kit makes sense. We highly recommend iPower’s 1000 watt HPS DE kit.

Yield Lab make a line of DE kits (wing, cool hood and XXL hood at 600 and 1000 watts) that can run off 120 volts and that include both an MH bulb and an HPS bulb. These are good options, but Yield Lab products have a higher failure rate than iPower, so just be aware that there is a slightly higher chance you will end up with a defective unit, which will take time (and some frustration) to replace.

 

iPower HID Grow Light Kit Review

iPower kits offer the best combination of quality and low price, by far. They also have a larger selection of different kits than most other brands and have them in stock, so you don’t have to wait two a month or two for your order to arrive

Each kit comes with everything you need to start growing. You get the reflector, a ballast, an HPS bulb (and also an MH bulb, if you choose a kit with both bulbs), a set of hanging ratchets and a timer.

The kit pictured there is the 600 watt HPS & MH cool hood kit. That’s the one we’ll be talking about in this review, but everything written about this kit goes for all the others as well.

 

Features

  • Can run on 110 to 240 volts(AC) — works with any power supply 
  • Dimmable to 75% or 50% full power — don’t pay for full power unless you need it
  • 6 inch vents on hoods — fits standard ducting
  • Kit includes ballast, bulb(s), reflector, hangers, timer — everything you need to grow
  • HPS bulbs are 2100 K; MH bulbs are 6000 K — ideal color temperatures for maximum growth and yield
  • Higher output than most competing brands
    •  1000 watt HPS = 140,000 lumen
    • 600 watt HPS = 85,000 lumen
    • 400 watt HPS = 55,000 lumen
    • 1000 watt MH = 88,000 lumen
    • 600 watt MH = 55,000 lumen
    • 400 watt MH = 36,000 lumen
  • HPS bulb lifespan = 24,000 hours; MH = 15,000 — longer than almost all competitors
  • 15 foot power cord — longer than most competitors
  • Fast lamp ignition — lights up bulbs within 1-2 minutes max
  • Open and Short Circuit Protection — automatic power shut-off to prevent fire hazard
  • Stable voltage output from ballast — prevents lamps from flickering, which reduces their life span
  • End-of-Bulb-Life Protection — detects deterioration in bulb and shuts it down to prevent possibility of a lamp fire and/or explosion as the filament gets weak
  • CE certified and UL listed
  • One year warranty

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Better quality than all but the top (and most expensive) brands
  • Long bulb lifespan
  • Large selection of different kits
  • Dimmable ballast, so you can dial back electricity consumption when you don’t need full power
  • 1 year warranty protection
  • Ships discreetly in a plain brown box

Cons

  • Ballast is a bit loud (though on par with most competitors)
  • Only ships with 120V cord; if you want to run at 240V, you have to buy a separate cord
  • The included timer is not great; you’ll probably want to get a better one

 

Summary of iPower HID Lighting System Review

iPower does not make the highest-quality lights on the market. But they charge a lot less than those brands. And given the low price, their lights are very well made. And that is why we recommend iPower above all else: value.

In addition to providing great value, they provide a great selection. They have every wattage available with all popular reflector styles. And they ship quickly, unlike some brands that have you waiting weeks, even months, for your light to arrive from China.

We always suggest checking iPower’s selection first, to see if they have the kit you want. If they don’t, then move on to our runner up (see below).

 

Apollo Horticulture: Runner Up For Best HID Horticultural Light Kits

Apollo Horticulture’s kits are actually very similar to iPower’s in terms of quality and performance. The reason we prefer iPower is a lower price for basically the same thing. Additionally, Apollo kits are often out of stock and can take several months to arrive. Finally, their customer service is not quite as respnsive as iPower’s.

Since Apollo kits are so similar to iPower kits, but cost a bit more, we always recommend looking at iPower first. If the kit you want is not available, check Apollo next. If that is also not available, I’d either go for one of the expensive (and frankly overpriced) brands before going for one of the other budget brands. iPower and Apollo are really the only two that are trustworthy.

The kit pictured above is the 600 watt HPS & MH cool hood kit. Here are links to all the kits on offer from Apollo Horticulture (all come with either 400w, 600w or 1000w bulbs).

August 15, 2017