Apartment Gardening: Fluorescent and LED Grow Lights Compared

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With more and more people turning to indoor gardening, they’re wondering which to buy: Light -Emitting Diode, or LED grow lights or Fluorescent grow lights. In the fluorescent grow lights category, you have two options: High Pressure Sodium lights and Metal Halide lights. Gardening enthusiasts have drawn the lines and chosen sides, but now you have to make a decision. Here’s a comparison of both technologies to help you make a decision on what to buy:

Which Lights Costs More?

Fluorescent grow lights are cheaper than LED grow lights, by far. The investment for your LED grow lights initially may equal a significant portion of your rent, as they can cost several hundred dollars, which turns many people off. However, proponents of LEDs argue that in the long run, it’s more efficient than fluorescent lights and that you’ll make your money back. It will also cost less to run, making your electricity bill lower if you go with LED grow lights instead of fluorescent grow lights. Consider your finances carefully to determine if and when you should purchase LED grow lights. Take into account what plants you want to grow and see if it’s worth the initial investment.

Which Lights Grows Plants Faster?

Various studies show that LED grow lights are a superior technology when it comes to growing plants, better and faster. For example, the University of Minnesota, Department of Horticultural Science conducted a study which compared High Pressure Sodium lights, one type of fluorescent grow lights, and LED grow lights. They measured the mean height of two plants over seven weeks that were grown under both lights. The plants that grew using LED lights, ended up growing much higher than fluorescent grow lights. The difference in height were not tremendous, but when you’re growing an indoor garden, every inch makes a difference.

Which Pose a Mercury Risk?

Fluorescent grow lights do pose a mercury risk if the bulb breaks. It uses mercury as a part of its technology, but LED grow lights do not.  One fluorescent light bulb breaking in your apartment can cost you in the thousands to have it cleaned up and disposed of properly. If you factor a huge clean up bill into the costs of buying fluorescent grow lights, LED grow lights are cheaper and safer. The mercury factor is a huge consideration, especially if you have children and pets living with you in your apartment. Even if you don’t, you’re at risk.

Which Should You Buy?

If you can afford LED grow lights, then that’s the better option. Your plants will grow faster, higher, longer and more efficiently than either High Pressure Sodium lights or Metal Halide lights. When you’re not able to afford a lot of upfront costs for gardening, then fluorescent lights are the way to go. However, when you factor in the mercury, which is a major health risk, LED grow lights might be the best and only option for most apartment renters.

4 Responses to “Apartment Gardening: Fluorescent and LED Grow Lights Compared”

  1. March 05, 2010 at 10:35 pm, Jay Dubya said:

    I need some direction. I have a ufo led grow light and half of the lights do not light up. It is strange, it is like drawing a line through the center; one half lit, the other half not.

    I got it directly from China, and it worked at first. I can’t return and I can’t contact these pirates for help.

    Has anyone else out there had this experience, and if so, what was the fix?



  2. March 16, 2010 at 2:22 am, led lights said:

    Various studies show that LED grow lights are a superior technology when it comes to growing plants.good quality ,good light.


  3. May 07, 2010 at 6:24 pm, jJim Adams said:

    Your article is in error. High-pressure sodium and metal halide lamps are incandescent, like old style household lightbulbs. Fluorescent bulbs are the long tubes of old, and the newer high-efficiency tubes. The coatings on the insides of the tubes glow or fluoresce. Incandescent bulb have a hot glowing filament which produces light. LED, or light emitting diodes, are different altogether from both incandescent and fluorescent.


  4. March 27, 2012 at 1:58 pm, Anonymous said:

    I am a little skepticle of the study stating that LED lights are better because ‘the plants grew taller’. Many plants respond to lower light input by growing taller(trying to reach higher to get more light). Plants generally respond to more, or more powerful light by growing shorter, stockier, and fuller(usually what one wants when harvesting herbs and conserving space). I would say the verdict is out on LEDs, but that in the near future they will undoubtedly be the way to go. One thing is for sure, if you’re going to buy LED, don’t go cheap! You will only regret it when you have to buy a HPS to supplement.


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