Best HID Grow Lights and Reflectors
This is the second in the series that started with Fluorescent Grow Lights for Indoor Plants and continued with Best LED Grow Lights for 2020. If you’re in the market for an HID grow lights, you’ve probably noticed how many options there are in terms of bulbs, ballasts, and reflectors. Choosing the best HID grow lights can be a bit overwhelming. With this guide, I’m going to help make that decision a little bit easier. Let’s face it, HID grow lights are cheaper and brighter than LED lights but LEDs are quickly improving and dropping in price.
Here, I’m going to look at a couple of key decisions you need to make. The first one is deciding between MH (Metal Halide) or HPS (High-Pressure Sodium). Then choosing the wattage, whether you want single or double-ended bulbs or reflectors, and then choosing a reflector style.
HID Grow Light Bulbs
Let’s start with the bulbs. There are basically two – MH or HPS – which one do you want? Actually, you want to use both. You get the best results. If you used both an MH bulb and an HPS bulb throughout the whole grow. You can use the HPS bulb as the main overhead light and then hang MH bulbs along the side of your plants or you can flip it and use MH overhead and HPS along the side.
Either way, you get the best results using both bulbs throughout the whole grow. Now obviously this is a little more expensive than the other options because you have to get two reflectors or at least a naked socket and two ballasts.
The next best results and they’re still very good, are using the MH bulb for vegging and then the HPS bulb for flowering. Now this saves you over the last one because you only need one reflector and one ballast and you just switch out the bulb. This is a popular combination because modern digital ballasts can run both bulbs.
Best HID Grow Bulbs for Vegetative or Flowering
So, you only need the one ballast and you would use the MH bulb for cloning and vegging and then the HPS for flowering, If you are really tight on cash, you also get decent results if you use only HPS throughout the grow. If you really don’t want to buy that extra MH bulb or you just want to go with one bulb, use HPS.
HPS bulbs are not great during vegetative growing, but they’re wonderful during flowering. So, if you are only growing leafy greens, use MH or cheaper CMH or LEDs. If you need good lights for flowering and use only HPS, your plants will end up being leggy and they’ll be weaker but you will still get good yields.
The worst results are using MH throughout the whole grow if you are growing budding/flowering plants like hemp and their cousins They work great for the vegetative cycle of course, but they don’t work well for flowering at all. So your yields will definitely suffer.
What Wattage do You Need?
Let’s look at the wattage next Basically we recommend anything between 250 Watts and 1,000 Watts. Anything, outside this range, is just too inefficient for most common uses. The 1,000-watt bulbs run very hot, so if you don’t know what you’re doing with heat reduction, then definitely stick to 400 or 600-watt bulbs. In fact, that’s what I recommend for most growers and 600 are the most efficient. So that’s the sweet spot.
Here’s a little table that shows this. This table shows different wattage’s and approximately how many plants you can grow under one bulb of that wattage. It also shows how high you should hang the light from the plants.
Single-Ended or Double Ended HID Grow Lights
The next decision you need to make is choosing between single-ended or double-ended bulbs. Double-ended bulbs are basically more efficient, 25 to 30% more efficient, so you get a higher PAR, which basically measures the light that is usable for plant photosynthesis. So the measurement that’s the most applicable to plant growth and they also last longer. They still have about 90% of their output after 10,000 hours of use. But there’s a drawback.
Of course, these bulbs cost more. They can cost about 50% more and you will need specialized double-ended reflectors. They cost about twice as much as their single-ended counterparts. These bulbs also produce more heat and for now there is a limited selection of reflectors available. They just don’t have as many styles for double-ended bulbs as they do for a single-ended. My recommendation is to use single-ended for most growers. I would only go with double-ended if you have a higher budget and of course, you have to factor in the additional cooling costs there too.
Best HID Bulbs that I Recommend
iPower GLBULBMDEHG1000K6 Double Ended Enhanced Performance Metal Halide MH Grow Light Bulb Lamp,1000W, Color Enhanced Full Balanced Spectrum
- PAR : 1400μmol/s, Initial lumen 100000, Color Temp 6000K. New improved horticulture lamps that use super high output technology to achieve maximum vegetative growth and maximum flower yield
- Features High Blue Spectral Ratios for Great Photosynthesis Efficiency and Vegetative Growth
- Specifically designed for high-frequency electronic ballasts and Horticulture 1000-watt Metal Halide MH Double Ended Grow Light Bulb
- The 6K Metal Halide is the best spectrum used for vegetative growth to encourage shorter node spacing and bushier plants
- The yellow residue inside is unvaporized gases. This is completely normal. When the bulb is lightening, the residue will no longer be visible
Click HERE to find out more.
VIVOSUN 4-Pack 600 Watt Metal Halide MH Conversion Grow Light Bulb Lamp – Enhanced Blue and Violet Spectrums CCT 4200K, 60,000 Lumens
- 600W VIVOSUN MH bulb compatible with electronic and magnetic ballasts, 36000 Lumens, E39 Base
- Optimized blue & violet spectrum and high PAR (Photosynthetic Active Radiation) to stimulate flower growth and enhance fruiting
- Extra-low lumen depreciation: maintaining over 90% of initial lumen output after running for 5,000 hours
- Startup Time: allow 2-3 mins for full bright. After power off, do please wait at least 5 mins before striking again
- Lifetime: 24,000 hours
Click HERE to find out more
Ushio US5002442 Bulb Pro Plus HPS 1000W Double Ended
- High red and blue spectral ratios for good photosynthesis efficiency
- Economical (long average life, high lumen output, low energy consumption)
- Made in Germany and engineered in an ISO9001 certified facility
Click HERE to find out more.
VIVOSUN Hydroponic High PAR Enhanced Red and Orange Spectrums 600 Watt Flowering High-Pressure Sodium HPS Grow Light Bulb Lamp Ultra Bright 90,000 Lumens
- 600W VIVOSUN HPS bulb compatible with electronic and magnetic ballasts, 90000 Lumens, E39 Base.
- Optimized red & orange spectrum and high PAR (Photosynthetic Active Radiation) to stimulate flower growth and enhance fruiting.
- Extra-low lumen depreciation: maintaining over 90% of initial lumen output after running for 5,000 hours.
- Startup Time: allow 2-3 mins for full bright. After power off, do please wait at least 5 mins before striking again.
- Lifetime: 24,000 hours.
Click HERE to find out more.
Which HID Reflectors do You Need?
Now let’s look at the different reflector styles. Basically most reflectors do the job and the differences aren’t really that big. So this is not as critical as some people would have you believe, but each style does specialize in a certain situation.
If you have a certain growing situation there might be one reflector that’s a little better than the rest. The key is to find the reflector that’s best suited for your grow base and that’s what I’m going to help you with. Now the first thing we want to look at is should you get an air-cooled reflector?
Air Cooled Reflectors
Air-cooled reflectors are ones that have the vents on either side and you run the air straight through the reflector and that takes all the heat straight out of the grow room. It doesn’t even enter the grow room, it goes through the reflector and gets pumped out.
The thing is these are really only good for small enclosed spaces because first of all the glass in the front of it reduces the output and also the UV light from the bulb. The other thing is you have to use ducting to connect the different reflectors to each other and then to pump the air out and that ducting becomes warm obviously with a hot air going through it and that radiates into your grow room.
So, these air-cooled reflectors are really only good for small spaces.
Single Ended Reflectors
Now let’s look at the single-ended reflectors. We’ll start with just a regular socket. This is obviously good as supplemental lighting as I mentioned before. If you’re using an HPS bulb above overhead and then you have MH bulbs hanging between the plants, you could use a mogul socket to just hang them in there. This thing’s cheap, it’s easy to install, but light goes to waste because it’s just going in every direction and if it’s going in a direction where there is no plant, that’s wasted light.
The next one is a wing reflector. This is good for budget growers who have a well-ventilated space, you know it’s cheap, it’s the cheapest reflector apart from that mogul socket. It gives you pretty good coverage, a strong light, and good penetration.
The main problem is that all the heat goes straight into your grow area obviously, and the reflector is only on the sides and not the end, so any of the light that goes out the front or the back end is wasted.
The next one is an umbrella reflector. This gives you a large coverage area and it gives you an even light distribution and that makes it good for lighting large areas with only a small number of lights, but because it gives you such a large coverage area, you sacrifice in intensity and in penetration. So the light is not as strong and obviously, the heat will escape into your room, but again, for a small grow space, that might be a problem. For big ones, that’s actually better than having the vented ones.
Best HID Hoods that I Recommend
- Dimension: 21 x 17 x 6 in; Up to 4′ x 4′ light coverage; Fits for 250W, 400W, 600W, 1000W HPS / MH grow light system
- Built-in 15 feet heavy duty lamp cord (UL Listed) with E39 Ceramic Mogul Socket and standard Hydroponic S-Plug
- Painted white panels with 0.4mm highly 95% reflective textured German aluminum, can intensify light and enlarge lighting area
- Heavy-duty galvanized steel mounting bracket; extremely lightweight and sturdy reflector that can be mounted anywhere
- Twice the power and efficiency of most other reflectors. Perfect for you to enlarge your grow area and harvest more!
Click HERE to learn more.
- Lamp compatibility: MH/HPS 250W/400W/600W/1000W
- Pre-installed ceramic E39 mogul socket
- Industry-standard s-plug
- 15-Ft. Heavy duty wire cord
- Dimension: 42″ diameter (assembled)
Click HERE to learn more
Types of Air-Cooled Reflectors
This is an air-cooled reflector obviously and this is good for budget growers in a small space because it’s the cheapest air-cooled reflector and it’s small. Unfortunately, you do lose a lot of light though because as you can see the reflector is actually pretty small on it so a lot of the light just goes out the sides and it only gives you a small coverage area too.
Next, we have the air-cooled hood and this is again good for small and enclosed spaces. It gives you a large coverage area and gives you very strong penetration and strong light. It is the most expensive reflector but it’s the one I would recommend for most home growers because it’s very efficient. You don’t lose a lot of light and if you have a small space then the venting is good and you know you can get that heat out of your space.
Next, the air-cooled tube hood, which is basically like the air-cooled hood from before but with the tube, so since the air vents through the tube you have a much bigger hood. You actually get a very large coverage area and this makes it good for lighting large areas with a small number of lights like the umbrella, but like the umbrella, it has low intensity and low penetration and it’s a bit expensive too. So the difference between this and the umbrella is the venting basically and that the umbrella has a more even light distribution and even larger coverage area.
Double Ended Reflectors
I now look at the double-ended reflectors and there’s only three of them. The first one is a wing reflector. It basically has the same advantages and disadvantages as the single-ended wing reflector. It’s the cheapest double-ended reflector. It gives you good coverage, good intensity, and penetration, but the heat escapes into the grow room and the light escapes out the front in the back. Now this is again good for budget growers with a well-ventilated space
Here we have an XXL hood. So this is a large hood and gives you a large coverage area. Like the other large hoods and the umbrella, it’s good for lighting large areas with a small number of lights, but it also sacrifices in intensity and in penetration. It’s also pretty expensive. And this one is not vented, so all the heat will escape into your grow room.
Finally, the double-ended air-cooled hood reflector. This is a large reflector that is covered with glass in the front. So it vents the hot air out of your grow room. It gives you a large coverage area and it gives you intense light and deep penetration, but it’s very expensive. This is the most expensive reflector.
- HIGH-QUALITY MATERIAL: Lined with premium imported German aluminum for a reflective rating of over 90% and the best light conservation possible
- STRONG, UNIFORM LIGHT DISTRIBUTION: Compact 17”x16.5” wing reflector concentrates light to help plants grow quickly in small spaces; carefully textured surface scatters light evenly
- EASY INSTALLATION: Ultra-light unit has rounded edges for safe and easy installation; rugged materials don’t rust or corrode for a long, maintenance-free service life
- DOUBLE ENDED FOR SUPERIOR RESULTS: Quality double-ended lighting systems deliver the highest quality light evenly and without obstruction and last almost twice as long as single-ended systems
- ECONOMICAL AND ENERGY EFFICIENT: Double-ended HPS models provide 35% more available energy than single-ended HPS lamps; enjoy heavier harvests and lower energy bills
Click HERE to learn more.
PrimeGarden Hydroponic 600w / 1000w Double Ended DE Reflector Enclosed Hood (No Bulb) for Double Ended 1000w HPS (DE Enclosed Hood)
- Hydroponic 600w / 1000w Double Ended DE Reflector Enclosed Hood (No Bulb) for Double Ended 1000w HPS (DE Enclosed Hood)
- Supports 600W/1000w DE (Double Ended) bulbs and higher (NOT Included) and is recommended for use with a TopoGrow 1000W MH/HPS No-fan Ballast
- Suitable for DE 600/1000 watt HPS horticulture lamps
- Premium aluminum European hammer-tone interior: 99.85% pure, 95% reflectivity
- Highly efficient for overlapping footprints of multi-light configurations
Click HERE to learn more.
Conclusion – Best HID Grow Lights and Reflectors
I hope that all of this information didn’t overwhelm you! Can you believe that I haven’t actually yet covered all of the HID lights and still have one to go? It boggles one’s mind how much selection there is out there. Again, these big lights are for tall veggies with large canopies like tomatoes, cucumbers, and hemp. They also suck up a TON more power than any other grow light out there so you should be wary of that before you come home with a truck load of them.
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