Wattage: Advertised vs. Real
I came from the world of traditional HID lighting for indoor gardens, with more 600s than I want to think about, with some 1000s thrown in for good measure, so wattage means something to me. No one would expect the same yield from a 600W HPS as a 1000W HPS in an otherwise identical grow, so wattage is important whenever grow lights are being compared.
Unfortunately it is often difficult to determine how much wattage LED grow lights are actually running, and many companies advertise their LEDs with very misleading wattage information. You must know the truth of how many watts a light will pull- for comparing lights as well as growing with them!
Individual LEDs are labeled based on the "theoretical wattage" they could be run at if they were perfectly cooled. What's sold as a 3-watt LED diode can't actually be run at 3 watts in the real world without burning out, so "3-watt LEDs" are typically run at 1 – 2 watts in actual use.
Some LED grow lights are marketed based on this theoretical wattage, even though it's not real. For example, some companies will put 100 3-watt LED diodes in a light and sell it as a 300-watt light, even though it are only runs 150-200 watts of power. This is extremely deceptive and makes it very hard to compare LED grow lights.
The companies that actually seem to provide an honest and straightforward reporting of the wattage their lights use are listed in "The Honest" column in the table above. Companies which seem to be trying to deceive you are listed in "The Deceivers" column, while companies that are outright lying are listed in "The Liars".
You can see all of the wattage data for each model light in the table at the bottom of this page.
A confusing name could be model name like "SPYDR-1200" or "K5-XL1000" that some people assume means the light pulls 1200 or 1000 watts, respectively (these two actually draw 665 and 650 watts). I personally don't find this deceptive; there are lots of products on the market that have numbers in their names and the numbers don't correspond to any actual measurement of the product. But I've gotten more than one email, for example, asking about "that new 1200 watt light" because a new LED model was called the "P1200" (actual power draw: 690 watts), so I guess it is confusing enough. Still, how many people expect their Ford F350 pickup truck to get 350 miles to the gallon, or have a 350cc engine?
I wouldn't rule out purchasing one of these lights just because the model name may be confusing.
Deceptive Names and Deceptive Statements
A deceptive name would be a model name with a number followed by a "W" or "watt", such as the "Solar Storm 880W", "GL100LED Full Spectrum 300W LED" or "900 Watt Full Spectrum G8LED Grow Light" (650, 104, and 540 actual watts, respectively), which I do find deceptive. You expect the "W" to mean watts, but it usually doesn't indicate how much power the lights actually draw.
Deceptive statements aren't outright lies only when the "actual power draw" is buried in the technical specifications. While this is extremely deceptive, at least if you do enough digging through the specs you can find the real wattage for lights from these companies- hopefully before ordering a light and being disappointed.
The deliberately deceptive companies are:
- Advanced LED
- California Light Works
- Mars Hydro
- Platinum LED
Before buying from any of these companies, be very sure you read all the fine print on all the product descriptions, spec sheets and any other material they offer to make sure you know what you're actually getting. These companies are being deliberately deceptive, but you can usually find the truth if you search hard enough. Still, if they're being deceptive about wattage, it makes you wonder what else they might be hiding.
These companies claim their light is a particular wattage, but when you get one and plug it into a Kill-a-Watt meter, you find that it is using a lot less than what was claimed. There's no excuse for this kind of deception and I wouldn't ever buy a light from a company that engages in it.
Because of the way LEDs are run and slight variations between individual LEDs, some variability in the power draw is to be expected. Two identical model lights will almost always read slightly different on a Kill-a-Watt meter. But in my opinion, it gets deceptive if the advertised power and actual power are off by 15% or more. You should get 85% or more of what is advertised; otherwise these companies are lying to you.
To find the actual wattage, I scoured internet forums to find people who had plugged their light in to a Kill-a-Watt meter and reported the actual power draw.
Companies that lie about their wattage are:
- Apache Tech– all models pull more wattage than claimed. Their "120 watt" grow lights that draw 156+ watts of actual power, if you read the fine print. (To make it more confusing, they don't give actual wattage for 2 of the "120 watt" models, or for their "720 watt" model- but in all user-documented cases I can find, the lights are running about 40 watts over their advertised wattage.) The "AT600-WR2" model claims to be 720 watts, but actually pulls about 760 watts, a 5% difference. But for the AT120 models, the actual draw of 156+ watts is a 30% increase over the advertised 120 watts, which doesn't make a huge difference for a single light, but if you were planning a large setup, an unexpected 30% increase in power usage would be problematic.
- Apollo Horticulture lights run 35-61% of the claimed wattage
- Kessil range from 81-100% of claimed wattage
- Lighthouse Hydro [BlackStar] is 40%-69% of claimed wattage
- Pro Max Grow is 83-100% of claimed wattage
- Truth Lighting is the worst performer of all at 33-59% of claimed wattage
Interestingly, Kessil and Lighthouse Hydo have been pulling this same deception since 2012 when I first created this site. Many other sellers have started cleaning up their act and at least give the actual wattage somewhere on their site, but these companies seem set on dishonest marketing, and I would never recommend purchasing a light from them.
The farther the score is from the 100% line, the more the company is trying to decieve you.