Why Choose a CFL Grow Light Instead of HPS?

CFL grow light vs HPS! 

Choices. Choices.  So many light setups to choose from to grow plants!

Whether it’s to use energy-saving lights, or invest in more expensive ops, there will be advantages and disadvantages to each choice.

Since you are undoubtedly here to learn your “CFL options,” you’ll get information that’s biased to such grows in most articles here, but not this one. That being said, below are top reasons to consider CFL grow lights instead of an HPS (or other HID).




Lower Energy Consumption

Lower energy consumption should not be misunderstood, as some people think that a group of CFLs with the same total wattage as a high-intensity light will consume less energy. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. WATTAGE is not to be confused with amperage, which will vary based on power draw, etc; CFL bulbs definitely draw far less current than HPS and MH bulbs and ballasts. See the figures below for clarification:

  • 400 watts of CFL will take up the same amount of wattage as 400 watts of HPS
  • 600 watts of CFL will take up the same amount of wattage as 600 watts of HPS
  • 1000 watts of CFL will take up the same amount of wattage as 1000 watts of HPS


Lower Heat Generation

Using more CFLs will generate more heat. However, most people use CFLs for reasons of efficiency growing in personal spaces. Why buy a 250 watt HPS for a small 2 X 2 closet? Why buy a 600 watt HPS for a small 4 x 2 grow tent with just two plants?

Intense light bulbs, such as those used with HPS setups, provide enormous amounts of lumens at the expense of heat. The heat given off by setups will vary; a 400 watt CFL setup might produce far less heat than a 450 watt HPS. A 600 watt HPS light from one manufacturer may give off considerably more heat than a 600 watt HPS from a different manufacturer.

Therefore, expect lower heat generation, due to having more control over how many bulbs are in your setup, instead of using just one large bulb of any kind, as they are all known to produce more heat than small bulbs.

Don’t expect your CFL setup to necessarily be cooler than a HID setup, because given other factors, such as ventilation, you might be disappointed. But you can still harvest the perfect miracle smoke, for all of your hard work.


More Suited for Small Spaces

If you are planning to grow in a small space–which allows your plants maximum light reflection and absorption of lumens, CFLs will win the race. Closets, armoires, grow buckets, grow tents, grow cabinets, PC grows and other small, personal-sized grow setups are ideal for compact fluorescent illumination.

The smaller the cubic feet (width X length X height), the higher the possible concentration of light. And theoretically, light concentrated on a small surface area which has traveled only a short distance equals….INTENSITY!!

If your light has to travel short distances to your plants, they will receive as close to all of the lumens as the bulbs (output) can provide. Remember, light intensity diminishes at the square of the distance (in feet). If you have no problem positioning your lighting within a couple of inches from your plants, and checking on them daily to adjust the light if needed, CFLs are the way to go!


Cheaper to Get You Started

When buying an HID light, you will have several other items to purchase simultaneously with your bulb; these include:

  • Ventilation system–inline exhaust fan and mounting hardware; ducting and hardware
  • Lamp with the proper socket size for the bulb you are using
  • Reflector for the light socket if it wasn’t included with the lamp
  • A ballast to regulate/power the bulb
  • A/C unit to cool the room containing the grow/grow enclosure, or….
  • Pro. ducting set up to ventilate the heat from the bulb outside/in another room, etc.


With a CFL light, you’ll need to purchase:

  • Ventilation system–IF needed, can be as simple as a small 6″ fan, up to an inline exhaust fan and mounting
  • Hardware; ducting and hardware–all depending on the amount of heat generated
  • Any traditional household socket or lamp, if wired correctly, up to a D.I.Y. or purchased CFL hood for maximum light output and reflectivity.

See the difference in cost to get started? Of course this is only an example, and your individual mileage may vary, but CFL lighting is hands-down the less-costly way to get started, and to keep growing if you wish. And in just a few hours, you can actually build your own high-quality, money-saving, CFL grow light!


Cheaper to Replace

High amounts of THC and CBD usually come with a steep price tag. Not with CFLs.

No worrying over burned ballasts that render a HID system worthless until it’s replaced. No headaches when that 42 watt CFL bulb goes kaput–just go to Home Depot or your nearest local hardware store and spend no more than $10 USD for a new one…no matter where you live. Most likely much less. Pop another bulb in and keep growing!broken cfl

Fret not as you would when an HPS bulb that you ordered on eBay arrives broken and you have to wait another week or two to get a replacement….so your plants are stressed and starved of their normal light regimen! There is no doubt about the convenience of having your energy-saving bulbs around the corner instead of across the map.


Well-Suited for DIY Projects

Don’t try creating your own HID lighting system unless you are a professional engineer or manufacturer! If you do, make sure your life insurance policy includes a stupidity clause. Now compact floros, are a totally different ballgame.

It’s amazing the inventions that CFL enthusiasts come up with daily, ingenuity to keep going and to keep growing no matter how much money they have or don’t have.Just roll up your sleeves, grab a few tools and a plan, and get to making your own DIY project…using energy-saving bulbs instead of HPS or MH.


Less “Footprint” (i.e. FLIR detection)

flir thermal imaging


Regardless of what you are growing; plants or poison, the “big brother” state of the world as a whole is sadly increasing.

You could have a 7,000 watt light hook-up, with 100 tomato plants growing indoors for your nearby farmer’s market gathering, but the local police could easily come busting down your door due to a warrant obtained for your residence. All as a result of FLIR imaging.


FLIR is a thermal imaging system used by law enforcement to detect a “heat signature” given off by using large wattage growing setups. These cameras are notoriously used by helicopters flying over neighborhoods at night, searching for large heat footprints in the homes beneath.

High intensity lighting emits significantly detectable heat signatures, while CFLs do not. If you want to remain stealth when growing your PLANTS, compact floros. are well worth the look-up. If for no other reason than the security of knowing you aren’t being profiled because of a light or two.  For more info on Flir, checkout   http://www.flir.com/US/


Hopefully you can rest soundly, now that we’ve put the CFL grow light vs HPS debate to bed!

By Robert Narley