Conclusion: The Best LED Grow Lights of Winter 2015 / Early 2016
After spending hundreds of hours reading 22 different sellers' websites, collecting and condensing data, it pretty much boils down to this:
|Good Choice||Questionable||They Lie To You|
|Black Dog LED||Area 51||Advanced LED|
|Build My LED (BML)||Heliospectra||Apache Tech|
|California Light Works|
|Pro Max Grow|
|Pro Source Worldwide|
In order to reach this conclusion, I compared 158 lights from 22 companies in 14 different categories:
If a company was found to be lying in any of these categories, they were put in the "They Lie To You" column. Companies which weren't found to be lying but with short warranties or other highly questionable claims– other than not allowing returns– were put in the "Questionable" column. The remaining companies were put in the "Good Choice" column, though one of them has notable caveats (explained below).
With this update, only two companies– Black Dog LED and Build My LED (BML)– were put in the "Good Choice" column.
Black Dog LED has UV, IR, and isn't exaggerating footprint sizes or lying about anything that I could find. Their warranty fully covers their lights for 3 years with payment for parts up to 5 years, and their 90-day return policy offers you a full flowering period to test their light to see results for yourself.
Although I find BML's stated policy of not allowing returns and their lack of quality-enhancing UV and photosynthesis-enhancing IR in their spectrum concerning, at least they aren't lying about anything (that I have noticed) and their warranty covers 85% of the LEDs in each fixture for 5 years. Their Spydr 1000 and 1200 may more-evenly distribute light over a 4×4 lighting footprint than any other fixture I'm comparing due to their large physical size, but without active cooling (and especially with the Spydr 1200 not "under-driving" the LEDs like the Spydr 1000), it is unclear how long the LEDs will stay bright.
Of the 22 companies I'm comparing, 3 neither stand out as excellent or outright liars: Area 51, Heliospectra and Illumitex.
Area 51 seems to have switched entirely to all-white, large COB LEDs, which seem to have no end of problems from everyone that has tried them before. Combine the problem-prone COBs with no UV and only a 2-year warranty, and I cannot recommend them.
Heliospectra has an impressive UV and IR LED light in the RX30, but at more than 2X the cost and half the warranty of other lights with UV and IR, I wonder if the gimmick of adjustable spectrums is worth it- even Heliospectra seems to agree with their latest offering, the completely un-adjustable (though also no UV or IR) E60. Possibly a company to watch in the future, but I think you can do better for now.
Illumitex is still selling a 2'x4' light that they claim covers a 4'x4' area, with no UV, no IR, and no return policy. With that and the high cost of their lights compared to other options, I believe you can make a better choice.
17 of the 22 companies I'm comparing here (over 77%!) are outright lying about one or more things, which is why LED grow lights have a bad reputation. If their light actually worked as advertised, they wouldn't need to be lying about what their light does or doesn't do, how long it lasts, how long they'll honor their warranty, that they have a return policy, or even their own lights' specifications.
The LED grow light industry is still plagued with companies all too happy to lie about their lights- that's why I made this site, because LEDs can work well if you choose the right ones!
Getting all of the data compared on this site in one simple graph is impossible, but this summarizes most of the important things. The details are all in the data table below.
Compare for Yourself
Don't trust my opinion? That's healthy skepticism- one of the biggest points to this site is that you can't trust all the claims you hear. I've put a ton of information on this website; you can examine it all to come to your own conclusion.
All of the information I used in the comparison categories was current as of November 2015, and is based purely on information the sellers themselves provide on their websites, with the exception of some actual wattages provided by people on forums. (Note: these buyers were usually upset because they had been lied to by the sellers.)
Ultimately, the best way to determine which light is best for you is to try out several in a side-by-side test. If you can afford it and the seller has a decent return policy, you can run your own side-by-side test to see which light really lives up to the claims without permanently being out all of the money. Because LED grow lights are a relatively new industry, you never know when someone is going to come up with a truly innovative light that really kicks ass!
For now, my hope is to help put an end to all of the outright lies and highly misleading claims being made so that growers everywhere can discover for themselves just how much better LED grow lights really can be, when properly designed by a reputable company.
The summary of all 158 lights I compared is below. You can sort on any of the columns, or click on the links to see the full breakdown with more information about each of the lights. In each of the breakout comparison sections, you can see all the raw data to do your own analysis as you see fit.