CFL vs HID: Are CFL Grow Lights a Poor Choice Compared to HID?


cfl vs hid


What’s The Deal With CFL Grow Lights?

I’m sure you’ve probably heard the discouraging, offensive barrage of compact fluorescent “rumors,” have you not? Claims such as…

“CFLs are good for vegging and cloning only”
“CFLs will never make dense buds”   
“HPS lights are the only choice for flowering plants”


If you haven’t heard such nonsense, good for you! The Internet allows information to spread so much that, most unchecked, non-factual crap is passed around as truth. The CFL vs. HID fiasco is really no different!


Most who assume CFLs are a poor choice compared to HPS or MH lighting:

  • Have never grown using CFLs before and are just jumping the ole’ bandwagon.
  • Used CFLs placed incorrectly and/or inadequate lumens and/or inadequate wattage.
  • Are simply beginners; the CFLs weren’t the blame–their gardening skills were–or lack thereof.


Now, to be 100% honest and objective, CFLs are nowhere near the holy-grail of growing. The key word is EFFICIENCY.  If you are using 1,000 watts of CFL lighting, and it can only penetrate four plants successfully, that is NOT efficient. You could just as easily get a 600 watt HPS light and illuminate roughly double the amount of plants in the same space.

Compact fluorescent lights ARE a poor choice for growing if:


You are growing in an area with minimal reflective qualities

CFLs need excellent reflection; preferably Mylar which redirects up to 95% of the light back to your plants. Growing in areas with walls far from the plants contribute to lost light which equals lost lumens and lost energy. Your grand total is smaller yields, buds with poor structure and Cannabis that is nowhere close to as potent as it SHOULD be.


You are growing huge plants

CFL lighting is used to conserve; whether it is energy, money, light footprint, etc. That being said, growing large plants is not an efficient use of CFL lighting. If your CFL hood or reflector covers the square area of your plant successfully, you are getting your “money’s worth.”

However, if you have a large shaded area on your plant(s), you are in essence starving your plant of energy it needs to grow spectacular flowers. Grow your plants only as big as you can train them, to receive adequate lighting throughout all foliage:

Too tall = not efficient (lower leaves get little to no light)
Too wide = not efficient (outer bud sites and leaves get less light)

Keep your CFL grown plants a reasonable size, width and height-wise, and you will be pleased with your results.  And your haters just might too!


You are looking for commercial-scale yields

If you seek commercial yields, such as multiple pounds in dry weight per harvest, you’ve tuned in to the wrong article! Moreover, you shouldn’t be looking at CFLs at all. The key word being: EFFICIENCY. HID lighting stomps all over compact lighting by design; no one SHOULD expect to feed the super-intense light needed to huge areas using budget bulbs!

IF they do…Laugh Out Loud!


You are growing many plants or growing in a ‘large’ area

Read #3 above; this qualifies as commercial yields, basically.

Many plants in a small area = Okay, but not optimal
Many plants in a large area = This is a no, no.
Fewer plants in a small area = Perfect!!
Fewer plants in a large area = Not ideal, avoid.

Fewer plants in a small area is what you are looking for, to get expectation-surpassing results from your compact fluorescent lumen output.


CFL vs HID Final Thoughts?

As long as you’ve taken all of the aforementioned points in consideration, you WILL be making the best choice for your situation by investing in compact fluorescent lighting!


Happy Growing…

By Robert Narley