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Should You Used HID or LED Grow Lights in Grow Tents?

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Many grow tents aren’t sold with grow lights, but the ones that do have lighting preinstalled almost always feature HID grow lights. HID lights remain the favorite choice of home growers, for understandable but not necessarily valid reasons. Some of their popularity is attributable to their much longer history compared to LED grow lights, which have only evolved to be suitable in recent years. Perhaps the main reason that HID lights are favored is due to the character of the light they emit, which is much brighter to the human eye and typically covers a broader spectrum.

High-intensity discharge lights refer to several types of bulb technologies, including compact fluorescent (CF), metal halide (MH) and especially high-pressure sodium (HPS). None of these bulbs are unique for their availability in full-spectrum versions, (LED and ordinary tungsten light bulbs come in full-spectrum versions), but the market settled on full-spectrum HID lights long before LED bulbs were able to support multiple bands of light.

While LEDs are dimmer to the human eye, they’re actually provide a more intense, concentrated quality of light an HID counterparts. The best LED grow lights, using tri-band diodes, emphasize Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR), which is the range for the light spectrum to which plant chlorophyll is especially sensitive. Plants use more than 90% of the light from LEDs for photosynthesis, while they only use 10-15% of the light from HIDs.

Nevertheless, HID grow lights can still be made to work effectively, especially since modern grow tents are lined on the inside with some type of silvered material–usually Mylar. Mylar is 30% more reflective than the white PVC or polyurethane lining used in older grow tents, and far less prone to toxic offgassing that can lead to plant discoloration. For a grow tent already outfitted with an HID light, it might be worthwhile to supplement their weaker PAR support with a secondary LED grow light. Sometimes, more really is more.

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