Skip to Content

LED Vs. Fluorescent Grow Lights (Pros & Cons+Best Picks)

Light is a vital part of plants’ life. Providing adequate light to indoor plants can be expensive when you use grow lights. Grow lights are used when sunlight is not enough. Today, we will share the difference between LED and fluorescent grow lights. 

Led lights are bright, consume less energy, and provide more spectrum to the plants, but they are costly compared to other fluorescent lights. Whereas fluorescent lights are readily available and cheaper to begin with but, they burn out quickly and lack the spectrum that some plants need.

This article will explain these two types of light in detail – their features, pros and cons, their differences, and the better one. You will also share some best LED and fluorescent lights.


Some links in the post are affiliate links and I get a commission from purchases made through links in the post.

What are LED lights?

LED stands for Light-emitting Diode. 

LED light is a solid-state light with a semiconductor chip called an LED die.

The chip turns electrical current into photons by electroluminescence. 

A LED light is configured as a single-die emitter mounted over a circuit board or multiple dies mounted over a circuit board called chip-on-board (COB) directly.

Currently, LED lights produce wavelengths that give a natural light effect. 

You can adjust them to produce ideal wavelengths for different plants with different needs. 

LED lights also give an extra cooling system to increase their ability. 

What are the advantages of LED lights?

Some advantages of using LED lights:

  • Long lifespan
  • Low heat output
  • Low energy
  • The light spectrum is better.
  • You can plug the light into any regular standard electrical outlet. 

Let’s go through them in detail.

Long lifespan

Almost all LED lights have a long lifespan.

They are guaranteed up to 50,000 hours, which means they will last for a very long time. 

Some LED lights can last about 70,000+ hours. 

You don’t have to buy them frequently for your plants.

Low heat output

The best thing about these lights is that they don’t get heated up or burn hot easily. 

These lights are very cool to use, and you don’t even have to switch on air conditioners to maintain the room’s coolness. 

As a result, the energy costs will be low. 

Since the lights are cool, you can keep them closer to your plants.

It won’t burn the plants and encourage them to grow faster than normal. 

Low energy usage

LED lights are highly energy-efficient. 

Whether you have numerous plants in one corner or a full room filled with plants, there will be no increase in your electricity bills. 

So, you can use adequate lights according to the number of plants you own. 

You may run the lights for 24 hours. 

Higher light spectrum

The plants will require a higher light spectrum to develop well at every stage. 

So, they will need sufficient red and a few blue lights for roots, leaves, and flowering. 

Green lights are not so important, but a little can help photosynthesis. 

Recent technologies have introduced COB modules that provide customized lights for various growth purposes. 

The white LED lights work as sunlight that highly encourages photosynthesis. 

LED lights can give you all the lights your plants require.

Standard electrical outlets

Almost all the LED lights will come with plugs which you can use in regular 110-120 volt outlets. 

So, you are free from searching for an ideal outlet for the lights. 

Besides, the lights have self-contained units.

So, you don’t require any ballasts to set them up. 


Looking for a readymade indoor plant soil mix that you can open and pour? Check out rePotme. They offer a wide range of readymade soil premixes for all your indoor plants.


What are the disadvantages of LED lights?

Along with benefits come drawbacks.

Despite having so many plus points, some drawbacks of LED lights might stop you from buying. 

  • The LED lights are very costly.
  • The LED chips are sensitive to heat. 
  • Not all LED lights are appropriate for your plants. 
  • LED lights produce an excessive bright pink or purple glow. 

Let’s understand the points. 

Costly

As a beginner, you cannot start with LED lights.

They are costly and don’t offer that many benefits compared to the price. 

At such prices, you can get much better results if you use other types of grow lights. 

However, in recent times, some LED lights have become affordable.

So, you may try those lights for your plants. 

But, they are still expensive for growers with only a few plants. 

LED chips are sensitive to heat

The chips used in the LED lights are very sensitive to heat. 

Excessive high temperatures can reduce their lifespan and make the chips fail.

As a result, you have to buy the light again. 

LED lights with in-built fans and heat sinks can be risky.

Since these features are quite heavy, hang the lights with good support. 

All LEDs are not for all plants.

Hundreds of LED lights are available, but all are not good for the plants. 

Some of them can be overwhelming. 

Before you select one for your plants, check the package carefully and confirm the quality you are buying. 

Some LED lights give high-power lights that are not necessary for your plants. 

The lights with low wattage and less-intensity lights are perfect for indoor plants.

So, before buying, confirm these things. 

Purple or pink glow

LED lights put out lots of bright purple or pink glow which can bother you. 

If you don’t enjoy the purple or pink glow, keep the plants in a separate room along with the lights. 

Lock the door to block out the lights from reaching you. 

Best LED lights

Here are some best-LED lights for plants:

What are fluorescent grow lights?

Fluorescent grow lights convert electrical energy into light. 

This conversion is done by running currents through mercury vapor to create UV radiation.

It further regulates the phosphor powder coating inside the lamp to fluoresce, giving bright light. 

The color of the light coming out of fluorescents is determined by the chemical composition of the phosphor powder. 

There are two types of fluorescent grow lights:

  • Fluorescent tubes
  • Compact fluorescent lights or CFL

Fluorescent tubes

Fluorescent tube lights have different shapes and sizes. 

The T5 diameter high-output tubes for the plants are the best grow lights in this category. 

They produce twice the amount of light compared to regular tube lights.

CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) fluorescents

These grow lights are different from regular CFLs.

The fluorescent CFLs are larger than regular ones and produce more wattages of light. 

Besides, CFLs also have a broad spectrum of light compared to regular CFLs. 

What are the advantages of fluorescent lights?

Let’s brief out the advantages before going into a detailed version. 

  • Affordable
  • Energy efficient
  • Great for starting seeds
  • Customizable lights
  • Easy to use

Let’s understand these in detail.

Affordable

Fluorescent lights are inexpensive compared to LED lights. 

These lights are popular for their low prices for initial investments and daily. 

Fluorescent lights are ideal for beginners and growers who don’t want to invest much money in indoor or hydroponics gardening. 

Energy efficient

According to the price, the fluorescent lights are enough energy efficient, but not like LED lights. 

But, fluorescent lights are more efficient than HID lights.

Fluorescent lights use 50% less energy compared to HID.

You are not only saving money, but you can also use less power and electricity bill.

Customization and versatility

Fluorescent lights have various shapes, sizes, wattages, and wavelengths. 

You can use CFLs hanging at various positions. 

Use it as supplemental lights to ensure that all parts of the plants get enough light. 

The T5 HO fluorescent grow lights are used for all growth phases, like germination, vegetation, blooming, and food production.

Easy to use

Fluorescent lights don’t need special fixations, sockets, or skills. 

Compared to some unknown grow lights, fluorescent lights are easy to use. 

Fluorescent lights are great for starting seeds.

You can use the t5 fluorescent lights to begin seed growth. 

What are the disadvantages of fluorescent grow lights?

Every product has some good sides and bad sides.

And so do the fluorescent lights:

  • Fluorescent lights are not as long-lasting as LED lights. 
  • If broken, the mercury inside the light will result in serious health issues. 
  • They are less energy-efficient than LEDs. 
  • The lights do not have any high intensity. 
  • Burn out the plants

Let’s talk about these in a bit more detail. 

Not long-lasting

Fluorescent lights can’t stay as long as LED lights do. 

Fluorescent lights last for 10,000 hours only.

Some will last only up to 30,000 hours. 

However, if you don’t have a problem buying the lights frequently and all you need is proper light for less money, try the fluorescent lights. 

Mercury risk

The fluorescent lights have mercury inside their bulbs.

The metal is very heavy and toxic to health. 

So, if the bulb breaks accidentally, the mercury will get released into the air, thus causing serious health hazards.

It also deteriorates the plants’ development.

So, use them carefully and keep them somewhere safe.

The lights are not enough energy-efficient

The fluorescent lights are indeed energy-efficient, but not as the LED lights are.

They suck up too much energy and also get hotter quickly. 

To cool down the room, you have to switch on fans or AC, which means you have to pay extra cooling costs. 



Low intensity and less-efficient

The fluorescent lights don’t have enough intensity compared to many other grow lights.

They cannot mimic the late-summer sunlight intensity.

As a result, low-intensity lights can affect the flowering of your indoor plants. 

Besides, you will require high-output T5 fluorescent lights if you have many plants. 

It gives high-intensity light but also consumes excessive power and gets heated up quickly. 

So, you have to use them carefully.

The lights are less-efficient compared to the LED lights.

Over time, the lights dim, and the plants fail to receive the light needed for optimal growth. 

Burn out

Though the lights are affordable, the light will warm up quickly. 

Since they heat and warm up faster than the other grow lights, your plants can get burned if the lights are put very close to them. 

So, keep them at least 1-2 feet away from the plant to prevent burning.

Best fluorescent lights

Some best fluorescent lights are:

What is the difference between LED lights and Fluorescent grow lights?

By now, you might have assumed the differences between these two lights. 

However, I will still discuss it for detailed and clear information.

Color temperature, light wavelength, and PAR

Let us first understand these three things.

Color temperature means a light spectrum containing all the cool colors like those in the blue range and warm colors, mostly red. 

Light wavelength output means the color spectrum in the light produced by the bulbs or lamps measured in nanometers. 

Natural sunlight has all the full light spectrum, but we only see a portion of it.

The plants respond to some wavelengths of light. 

PAR stands for photosynthetically active radiation.

This radiation allows the plants to photosynthesize properly for good growth and development. 

Fluorescent lights made with recent technologies have a variety of cool and warm colors along with full spectrum lights.

On the contrary, LED lights have always contained various lights, including the broad-spectrum white lights, which are equivalent to the quality of sunlight. 

These lights are much better than fluorescent lights.

For example, LED lights with such a spectrum of light can increase the basil’s overall growth and development and its flavor.

Heat output 

LEDs have less heat output compared to fluorescent lights. 

While using LED lights, you don’t have to pay extra bills for cooling the room. 

On the contrary, the fluorescent lights absorb current faster and heat the room, and you have to pay extra bills to cool the room.

Though most fluorescent lamps are cool, some lights, like the T5 tubes, become heated. 

Efficiency

LED lights badly beat fluorescent lights in terms of efficiency. 

While talking about efficiency, it is about the light levels and electrical watts. 

A 300-watt LED light is equal to 600-watt T5 fluorescent tubes.

So, the former saves 50% of light energy compared to the latter. 

Lifespan

Both the lights have sufficient lifespans.

The difference is LEDs have more lifespan than fluorescents.  

The LEDs have 50-70k hours of lifespan. On the other hand, fluorescents have 10-30k hours of lifespan. 

The T5 tubes have 10-20k hours of lifespan.

The CFLs have only 8k hours of lifespan. 

Safety

Fluorescent tubes are safe to use until you break them.

The tubes have a heavy and harmful metal called mercury. 

If broken, mercury gets released into the environment, thus harming the health of plants and humans. 

If you ever break a light, open the room’s windows for at least 10 mins to let the air go outside. 

Do not enter the room to clean up immediately.

Let it be for at least 10 minutes to several hours. 

On the contrary, LED lights don’t have such harmful products.

But, they are slightly harmful to the eye, especially the blue lights. 

If you constantly stay under the light for long hours every day, your retina can get damaged.

Cost 

Though LEDs are better than fluorescent lights, the latter beat the former in this case.

Go for fluorescent lights if you want affordable lights for your plants. 

LED lights are costly compared to fluorescent lights. But, since it has so many advantages, LEDs are worth it. 

If you use fluorescent lights, you will have to pay extra bills behind frequent bulb purchases, electricity bills, and room cooling. 

But in LED lights, there are no such things. You buy one light that goes on for many days or months, without any extra electricity or cooling bills. 

So, the LEDs are again a winner here. 

Here is a brief comparison table between LED lights and fluorescent lights:

LED lights Fluorescent lights
Solid state technology with semiconductors. The lights have inert gasses within a glass casing.
The lights. go on for 50,000-70,000 hours. Fluorescents have 10,000-30,000 hours of lifespan.
No delay in turning it on. Need a warm-up before turning it on.
Lights don’t flicker. The lights flicker sometimes. 
They do not have any harmful gasses. The lights have mercury inside the bulbs.
The lights are cold and don’t heat up. The light gets heated up.
Since the lights are cold, it uses less electricity. The lights consume too much electricity.
LEDs will have the same intensity throughout. Though it gives better light, it becomes dim over time.
LEDs are very expensive. Fluorescent lights are affordable.
The lights have various colors and light spectrums. The lights have fewer color and spectrum variations compared to LEDs.
The lights are very durable. Fluorescents are fragile and can break easily.
Since the lights remain cool, you can keep them close to the plants. Since lights get heated, keep them 1-2 feet away from the plants to prevent burning.
This table demonstrates the difference between LED and fluorescent light.

So, which one is better for plants?

I recommend LED lights because they are much better than fluorescent lights.

However, both of them are useful in some way or another.

LEDs are cool lights with various light spectrums.

They consume less energy and have high-intensity lights. 

LEDs don’t dim like fluorescent lights.  

Though the LEDs are quite costly, you don’t have to buy them frequently or pay extra for electricity and room cooling. 

LED lights bear lights that are very useful for flowering plants. 

They are also great if you have a room full of plants.

You can use many lights without paying extra bills.

Though fluorescents are inferior to LEDs, they are not a bad choice.

Since they are affordable, a lot of growers use them. 

You must be careful, like, keeping them away from plants, handling them with care due to their fragility, etc.

Fluorescent lights give low-intensity lights, which may not be enough for some plants. 

But, plants with low light requirements can grow well under fluorescent lights.

Besides, fluorescent lights are a good option if you have only a few plants. 

Also read: How To Use Grow Lights For Indoor Plants?

Final thoughts

LEDs and fluorescents are the two best types of grow lights used for plants. You can use both of them at your convenience. Though I prefer and use LED lights, fluorescents are not bad. LEDs may be a bit expensive, but they are worth it. 

Since both have advantages and disadvantages, tally them all and then decide the best. Choose anyone you think would be good for your plants.

Do not use any standard lights for your plants. They will not give any good results like the grow lights can give. There are hundreds of lights present. But you must choose the right one carefully and closely examine the package details. 


Sources: University of MinnesotaDavid H. Trinklein, Horticulture State SpecialistThe University of GeorgiaThe Royal Horticultural Society.