CFL vs LED Grow Lights: All You Need To Know

The CFL vs. LED grow lights is a common comparison and debate among indoor plant enthusiasts.

Most of the time, when presented with these two options, gardeners don’t know which grow light option is more efficient, versatile, and cost-effective.

Generally, CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) are widely available and affordable, providing a variety of light spectrums to support several growth phases. 

Conversely, LED grow lights offer a tailored light spectrum for each growth phase.

Also, they’re highly efficient and long-lasting, emitting less heat than other options.

Therefore, understanding the difference between LED and CFL grow lights lets you make informed gardening decisions. 

Today’s piece looks into the CFL vs. LED grow lights highlighting the differences and similarities. 

Understanding CFL Grow Lights

CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) grow light makes an excellent indoor plant lighting option and has small fluorescent tubes made into a compact design.

We like these lighting options for their high availability and affordability.

Finding any CFL grow light in your preferred color temperature and wattage is easier. 

Moreover, CFL grow lights provide a balanced light spectrum supporting all growth phases.

There is no need to worry about efficiency and heat emission as these grow lights perform better than incandescent lights.

As a result, you’ll experience limited damage to plants due to heat, if there is any. 

We recommend CFL lights where you want to supplement natural light or in a more miniature indoor garden.

But since these lights have a low lifespan, you might have to use many bulbs to manage a larger area. 

Understanding LED Grow Lights

A greenhouse with LED grow light

(A greenhouse with LED grow light)

LED grow lights have become popular in the industry, with many indoor gardeners adopting them for optimum yields.

This technology allows current through light-emitting diodes, and light is produced when electrons recombine with electron holes.

LED lights offer customizable spectra that allow you to tailor everything to your plant’s needs through all the growth phases. 

LED lights have high energy efficiency and generate less heat, thus causing limited damage to plants. Moreover, these lights have a high durability of about 20,000-50,000 hours, eliminating the need for regular replacements.

Without any second thoughts, we recommend LED lights as the best option for indoor gardening. 

CFL vs. LED Grow Lights: Differences

An organic hydroponic vegetable garden

(An organic hydroponic vegetable garden)

Although CFL and LED grow lights perform the same function, they have unique properties that make them different. Below are common differences worth noting:

Energy efficiency: LEgrowthws lights have a higher energy efficiency than CFL lights. Therefore, they convert most of their input energy into useful light, thus less waste and low heat. 

Light spectrum: Although CFL emits a broad spectrum with a mix of wavelengths, it’s not accurately tailored to support a specific growth stage. However, LED lights can be customized and optimized for a particular growth phase. 

Heat output: CFL lights produce more heat than LED grow lights, thus causing more damage to plants. Generally, excessive heat increases the evaporation rate forcing you to water your plants more regularly. 

Lifespan: Not many grow lights can compete with the durability of LED grow lights. While these lights could last up to 50,000 hours, the maximum a CFL light can last is 10,000 hours. 

Designs and size: CFL lights are designed in tubular or spiral tubes, and you’ll find them bulkier. Moreover, you’ll need extra ballasts and fixtures to fix them, thus saving more space and money. Conversely, LED lights are lightweight, and we find them easier to install. 

Heat management: Since CFL lights produce more heat, you’ll need complex heat management systems like fans to limit the effects of heat. On the other hand, LEDs produce less heat, thus requiring fewer heat management systems. 

Cost: Although LEDs are more expensive to buy than CFL, you’ll find them cost-effective in the long-term thanks to their energy efficiency, limited heat management requirements, and extended durability. 

CFL vs. LED Grow Lights: Similarities

Vegetable growing under LED light

(Vegetable growing under LED light)

CFL and LED grow lights share the following features and functionalities.

Plant growth: First, you can use CFL, and LED grow lights to provide your plants with the required wavelengths to support growth. Therefore, they can see your plant through all growth phases, like flowering, fruiting, and vegetative stages. 

Energy efficiency: Although LED lights have a higher efficiency than CFL lights, these two still present a better efficiency than traditional incandescent lights

Environmental friendliness: CFL and LED lights generally don’t emit harmful elements like mercury. Also, they emit less heat than incandescent lights. Therefore, we can confidently say they are environmentally friendly. 

Supplemental light: Lastly, you can use LED or CFL lights as supplemental light sources to natural light, especially during shorter daylight hours or low light intensity. 

CFL vs. LED Grow Lights: Which Is The Best Option

Green sprout stands under a lamp

(Green sprout stands under a lamp)

There is no best grow light for all situations, but rather, each option works best in unique applications depending on your priorities and needs. 

However, in most cases, we consider LED lights superior to CFL lights because of their high versatility, better efficiency, customizable spectrum, and excellent durability. 

On the other hand, we find CFL grow lights to be more cost-effective upfront. 

When CFL Is Better Than LED

So when should you prefer a CFL light over an LED option? 

If you have a limited budget upfront to invest in a lighting solution, CFL lighting should be your go-to solution.

 Moreover, these lights work well for starting seeds and leafy vegetables that don’t need a high light output.

 Lastly, you can use CFL lights as supplemental natural light for any indoor environment. 

When LED Is Better Than CFL

We assure you that LED light is better than CFL lights anytime you can afford them. 

Generally, these lights will offer high energy efficiency, benefit the plants, and translate into a lower energy bill. 

Moreover, since LEDs are highly durable, you can use them when you have no plans to invest in new lights shortly. 


What is better, CFL or LED, for growing?

When energy efficiency, durability, and versatility are the top priorities, LED lights offer better performance than CFL lights. 

However, when running on a tight upfront budget, CFL becomes the most appropriate choice. 

Is it worth switching from CFL to LED?

If you want to switch from compact fluorescent lamps to LED, go ahead, as everything is worth it. 

This new adjustment guarantees higher energy efficiency, a customizable design, and improved durability.

 And although you might find LEDs to have a high upfront cost, their long-term benefits will outweigh such. 

What is the life span of CFL vs. LED?

LED lights have the longest lifespan of all the available grow lights.

 Expect to use them for about 30,000-50,000 hours which is higher than CFL’s lifespan, about 8,000-10,000 hours. 

Therefore, you’ll have fewer replacements if you use LEDs than CFL lights.

 However, with constant maintenance, you can increase the lifespan of LED and CFL above 50,000 and 10,000 hours, respectively. 

Final Remarks

CFL and LED lights are among the most effective lighting options you can ever consider for your indoor gardening. 

However, LED lights present the best efficiency and durability, with a lifespan of 50,000 hours compared to CFL’s lifespan of 10,000 hours. 

Also, LED lights have a customizable design that enables you to adjust the light wavelength and intensity to fit the plant’s requirements. 

But if you can’t afford an LED light, you can opt for CFL light to offer almost similar performance.