Plant Light Source : LED Grow Lights VS Fluorescent Grow Lights

Plant light - led plant light and fluorescent light

When it comes to choosing the appropriate plant lights for plant cultivation, many beginners often wonder whether they should opt for LED or fluorescent lights. While both options have their advantages, LED grow lighting is generally considered the better choice. This doesn’t imply that fluorescent lighting is incapable of supporting plant growth effectively; it simply means that the numerous benefits associated with LED lights are usually too advantageous to overlook.

What Are LED Grow Lights?

What Are LED Grow Lights?

LED, short for light-emitting diode, is a type of solid-state lighting technology. It utilizes a semiconductor chip, also known as an LED die, to convert electrical current into photons through electroluminescence. LED lights can be configured as a single-die emitter mounted on a circuit board or as an array of dies mounted directly on a circuit board called a chip-on-board (COB) module. An LED light consists of an LED attached to a heat sink, along with directional lenses and a power supply.

Modern LED grow lights are designed to emit light wavelengths that mimic the natural daylight spectrum or can be precisely adjusted to deliver the necessary wavelengths at various phases of plant growth. They are equipped with additional cooling systems to enhance their efficiency.

What Are the Advantages of LED Lights?

What Are the Advantages of LED Lights?

Long Lifespan

LED lights are known for their long lifespan, as they can last for a significantly long time. They typically come with a guarantee of up to 50,000 hours. In fact, certain LED lights can even surpass the 70,000-hour mark. This prolonged lifespan means that you won’t need to frequently replace LED lights for your plants, saving you the hassle and expense of frequent purchases.

Low Heat Output

One of the notable advantages of LED lights is the low heat output. Unlike other lighting options, LED lights remain cool during operation and do not easily overheat. This feature eliminates the need for additional cooling measures such as air conditioning, resulting in lower energy costs. The cool nature of LED lights allows you to place them closer to your plants without the risk of burning them. In this way, your crops will boast faster growth.

Low Energy Usage

LED lights are known for their high energy efficiency. Regardless of whether you have a small collection of plants or an entire room dedicated to plant growth, LED lights will not significantly impact your electricity bills. This means you can use the appropriate amount of lights based on the number of plants you have without worrying about excessive energy consumption. In fact, LED lights are efficient enough to be run for extended periods, even up to 24 hours, without causing a significant increase in electricity costs.

Higher Light Spectrum

Plants require an appropriate light spectrum at each stage of their development for optimal growth. This includes a suitable red and blue light ratio, which is essential for root development, leaf growth, and flowering. While green lights are not as crucial, they can still contribute to photosynthesis to some extent. Advanced technologies such as COB modules now offer customized lighting options for specific growth requirements. Besides, white LED lights have been developed to simulate sunlight and effectively enhance photosynthesis.

Easy to Use

LED grow lights do not require a ballast to regulate the current or directional lenses to direct light precisely. Additionally, most LED grow lights can be directly plugged into standard electrical outlets, doing away with the need for additional wiring or specialized setups.

What Are the Disadvantages of LED Grow Lights?


For beginners, starting with LED lights may not be the most economical option as they can be pricey. However, in recent times, there are more affordable LED light options available, making them a more viable choice for those on a budget.

LED Chips Are Sensitive to Heat

LED chips used in LED lights are highly sensitive to heat. Exposing them to excessively high temperatures can significantly shorten their lifespan and even cause the chips to fail.

What Are Fluorescent Grow Lights?

What Are Fluorescent Grow Lights?

Fluorescent grow lights operate by passing an electrical current through mercury vapor, resulting in the production of ultraviolet radiation. This radiation stimulates the phosphor powder coating inside the lamp, causing it to emit visible light. The specific chemical composition of the phosphor determines the color of the light produced.

There are two types of fluorescent grow lights: compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and fluorescent tubes. CFL grow lights are larger than regular CFLs and offer higher wattages, delivering a broader spectrum of light. The T5 diameter high-output (HO) grow lights are generally regarded as the most effective fluorescent tube grow lights. These T5 HO lights emit approximately double the amount of light compared with regular fluorescent tubes.

Fluorescent grow light fixtures commonly feature built-in reflectors and ballasts, which contribute to their slim profile and efficient light distribution.

What Are the Advantages of Fluorescent Grow Lights?


They are popular among beginners and growers who are looking for cost-effective options for indoor gardening. Fluorescent lights offer low initial investment costs and are also budget-friendly in terms of daily usage. However, due to their weight, it is important to hang these lights with strong support to ensure their stability and safety.

Customization and Versatility

Fluorescent grow lights come in a variety of shapes, sizes, wattages, and wavelengths. CFLs, in particular, can be positioned in various ways to provide adequate light coverage. T5 HO fluorescent grow lights are suitable for all stages of plant growth, including germination, vegetative phase, flowering phase, and fruit production phase.

What Are the Disadvantages of Fluorescent Grow Lights?

Not Long-lasting

Fluorescent lights have a shorter lifespan compared with LED lights. They typically last for around 10,000 hours, with some models lasting up to 30,000 hours. If the need for frequent light replacements is not an issue and the main priority is affordable lighting, fluorescent lights can be a suitable choice.

Mercury Risk

Fluorescent grow lights contain mercury, a heavy metal that poses health risks if released into the air when the bulb breaks accidentally. Exposure to mercury can have serious health hazards. Additionally, the presence of mercury can negatively affect the development of plants. It is important to handle fluorescent lights with care and install them in a safe place to prevent any accidental breakage and release of mercury.

Not Enough Energy-efficient

While fluorescent lights are considered energy-efficient, they are not as efficient as LED lights. They consume a relatively higher amount of energy and tend to generate heat quickly. Cooling down the room where fluorescent lights are used may require additional measures such as fans or air conditioning, resulting in extra cooling costs.

Too Much Heat

Fluorescent lights have a tendency to generate heat quickly. This fast heat buildup can potentially cause burns to plants if the lights are placed too close to them. To avoid this, it is recommended to keep a distance of at least 1-2 feet between the fluorescent lights and the plants to prevent burning.

When Fluorescents Are Better Than LEDs?

Fluorescent grow lights are an inexpensive option for growing leafy vegetables or herbs and are particularly effective for seed starting. They are a suitable choice when budget constraints are a concern or when you prefer a system that can be gradually expanded. Additionally, leafy vegetables such as spinach or lettuce do not require the high light output provided by LEDs, making Fluorescent lighting a practical choice for their growth.

When LEDs Are Better Than Fluorescents?

When LEDs Are Better Than Fluorescents?

Many experienced growers recommend LEDs over fluorescents if you have the financial means to afford them. LED lights are generally more efficient, which is a significant advantage. However, not all LED grow lights are premium. It is advisable to check the efficiency and read reviews before making an investment.

If you are willing to make the investment, LEDs can offer significant benefits for growing multiple plants. Their cooler operation allows for stacking or placing them side by side without the concern of overheating issues. This flexibility in the arrangement can optimize space utilization and provide improved lighting conditions for plant growth.

Final Thoughts

LED lighting has emerged as a superior technology compared with fluorescent lighting in various aspects. Its cost-effectiveness, long lifespan, low heat output, and optimal light spectra give it an advantage. However, fluorescent lights still have their merits, particularly for hobbyists starting with indoor gardening. Energy efficiency may be of lesser concern for beginners with a small number of plants, and the lower upfront cost of fluorescent lights can be appealing, especially if they are unsure about committing to indoor gardening.

Ultimately, the choice between LED and fluorescent lights will depend on factors such as the plant type, required light intensity, energy consumption, and budget considerations for both initial setup and ongoing operation.

For those interested in LED lighting solutions, MokoLight offers reliable expertise in advising, designing, and installing lighting systems. With over 16 years of experience, we are committed to offering world-class LEDs to satisfy your needs. Contact us today!

Written by ——
Scott Hughes
Scott Hughes
Double Bachelor's degrees in Architecture and Electrical Engineering, 5+ years of experience with LED lighting, intelligent moving lights, and conventional fixtures. Reach Me Now>>
Scott Hughes
Scott Hughes
Double Bachelor's degrees in Architecture and Electrical Engineering, 5+ years of experience with LED lighting, intelligent moving lights, and conventional fixtures. Reach Me Now>>
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