Assessing Grow Light Efficiency: An Experiment Comparing DIY LED and CFL Lights

In the fertile landscape of indoor gardening, we might readily associate the sun with the caliber of our cultivated produce. Yet, as we uncover in this fascinating exploration and comparison of DIY LED and CFL grow lights, the sun might have quite the mighty rival. We document an engaging experiment by SSFamilyDad, where he scrutinizes three types of grow lights under the demanding gaze of hard-to-please Roma tomato plants.

Our tale commences with Grow light 1, a 6500k 7020 LED strip light that offering moderate growth. Grow light 2, a ‘Cool white light’ using 5630 LED strips, disappoints with lackluster performance, due, it seems, to insufficient power intensity and an unsuitable light spectrum. Rising against its predecessors, Grow light 3, an FCL using 8 CFL bulbs at 6500k/23watts each, emerges as the champion, outpacing the sun itself in fostering superior growth.


Embarking on the quest for indoor gardening nourishment, we delve into the mysterious labyrinth of grow lights. We navigate unfamiliar terrain to reveal how different types of lights affect our beloved green companions. Inspired by the experimental journey embarked upon by ‘SSFamilyDad,’ who bravely put his homegrown Roma tomato plants under the scrutiny of three distinctive grow lights, we find ourselves eager to share what we learned through our own exploration.


Overview of the experiment

Our venture into the verdant unknown began by setting up three different grow lights to cast their luminous care over our Roma tomato plants. Each ray of light emitted by the fixtures was meticulously timed, as every ounce of nourishment absorbed by the plants was closely monitored. Like a group of maestros, we orchestrated their nourishment with precision and consistency, aiming to unravel the enigmatic relationship between light and life.

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Description of the three different types of grow lights used

Our symphony consisted of three instruments. The first echoed with the harmonious melody of 6500k 7020 LED strip lights. The second resonated with the chilling tune of cool white light emitted by 5630 LED strips. The third instrument played a familiar and vibrant melody produced by eight CFL bulbs. Our green audience sat entranced, opening themselves up to the radiant concert we had orchestrated solely for their benefit.

Assessing Grow Light Efficiency: An Experiment Comparing DIY LED and CFL Lights

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Grow Light 1: 6500k 7020 LED Strip Light

Description of the grow light setup

The first grow light joined our ensemble sporting a 7020 LED strip, buzzing with the full potential of 6500k. Designed to deliver a punch of power, we expected this light to lead the symphony with the confidence of a seasoned maestro.

Analysis of the growth results

Under the scrutinizing depth of the 6500k light, our Roma tomato plants demonstrated decent growth, though perhaps not quite as impressive as we initially anticipated. Yet, they thrived and managed to stay alive.

Comparison to the other grow lights

Despite adding a rhythmic nuance to the culinary flavor of our experiment, the LED strip light could not outshine the effervescence of the CFL light, nor the naturally given light of the sunlight.

Grow Light 2: Cool White Light using 5630 LED strips

Description of the grow light setup

Challenging the warmth of the previous LED light fixture, our second experiment lay in the cool grasp of 5630 LED strips. With an icy glimmer of hope, these lights were aimed at showcasing the resilience of our robust tomatoes.

Analysis of the growth results

The results, alas, mirrored the cool nature of the lights themselves. Our tomato plants under these LEDs suffered the most, their growth hindered overall. The life they managed to foster was overshadowed by their fellow plants under other lights.

Comparison to the other grow lights

Moreover, when juxtaposed against the LED strip light and the CFL grow light, its performance seemed frozen in time, rather than flourishing with the vitality we hoped for.

Assessing Grow Light Efficiency: An Experiment Comparing DIY LED and CFL Lights

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Grow Light 3: CFL Grow Light with 8 CFL bulbs

Description of the grow light setup

Finally, our sturdy, familiar counterpart entered the fray armed with eight CFL bulbs, bathed in a luminous glow of 6500k. Charged with experience and emanating warm light, this fixture held promise.

Analysis of the growth results

The fruits of this experiment, quite literally, surpassed our expectations. Our Roma tomato plants blossomed with a vivacity we hadn’t seen, flourishing with an abundance of leaves and a robust stem.

Comparison to the other grow lights

The comparison to the previous contestants was clear. The seasoned CFL grow light asserted its dominance, its performance even surpassing the natural sunlight’s doting care.

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Comparison of the Grow Lights

Comparison of growth rates

In the rhythmic ballet of growth rates, the CFL grow light emerged as the prima ballerina, nurturing the most impressive growth. Although the LED strip light displayed a satisfactory performance, and the cool white light trailed behind.

Comparison of power consumption

Interestingly, while each grow light featured different power consumption rates, the performance did not correlate with energy used. Our CFL light, with its superior growth results, exhibited evident power efficiency.

Comparison of light spectrum

With each grow light spotlighting a different portion of the light spectrum, it became apparent that our audience of tomatoes responded most favorably to the grown light spectrum provided by the CFL light.

Overall assessment and ranking

After the noise died down and the final notes were played, it was clear that the CFL grow light took center stage. Despite its highly alternative setup, its performance was unmatched by the other contenders.

Assessing Grow Light Efficiency: An Experiment Comparing DIY LED and CFL Lights

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Additional Findings

Comparison to natural sunlight

Remarkably, our CFL grow light even edged past natural sunlight, which left our tomato plants stretching for more.

Analysis of power output

An observable difference emerged in the power output of each light. Despite varying power consumption and lumen outputs, the CFL showed superior results due to higher power and accessible light.

Discussion on potential improvements for LED lights

The adventure into the world of LED lights naturally led us to consider the improvements that could be made to showcase their full potential. Primarily, augmenting their power and optimizing the light spectrum balance could pave the way for greater growth results.

Cost Efficiency and Energy Efficiency of LED Lights

Discussion on cost-effectiveness

In spite of the lower lumen output, LED lights proved to be price performers. Their cost-effectiveness, in conjunction with the observed growth, unraveled a new perspective.

Discussion on energy efficiency

Moreover, the energy efficiency of the LED lights positioned them as suitable contenders for indoor gardening, despite their comparatively lower performance in this experiment.

Benefits and limitations of LED lights for indoor gardening

LED lights, while proving to be cost-effective, still need refinement to match the prowess of CFL lights fully. That said, with their benefits in energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness, LED lights may present a viable solution for indoor gardeners with a budget in mind.

Assessing Grow Light Efficiency: An Experiment Comparing DIY LED and CFL Lights

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Summary of the experiment and findings

Our exploration began with awe and wonder as we wended our way through the world of grow lights. Throughout our experiment, we saw firsthand how each type of light breathed life into our Roma tomato plants. Despite power, cost, and light spectrum considerations, our old friend, the CFL grow light, emerged victorious overall.

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Final thoughts on LED lights vs CFL lights

The journey afforded us new insights into LED lights and their potential for future indoor gardening projects. Although they may not have outperformed CFL lights in this experimental ensemble, their cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency carve out a niche where they may flourish yet.

Future plans and experiments

Our journey does not end here. With zest and vigor, we look forward to further experimenting with LED strip combinations, seeking to enhance their performance by increasing their power and optimizing spectral ratios. Regardless of where our adventure leads us, the music will play on, and we will continue to dance, nurture, and grow alongside our verdant companions.


Source: ‘SSFamilyDad’ YouTube video

Our inspiration and guiding post, ‘SSFamilyDad’s’ YouTube video on the comparison of grow lights, provided the spark that ignited our exploration.


For those who wish to adjourn on their own green adventures, offers plenty more journeys to embark upon.

Authority articles on DIY LED grow light projects

Delving into myriad DIY LED grow light projects proved enlightening, illuminating the potential for LED lights in indoor gardening.

Can we actually construct a cost-efficient grow light utilizing LED strips? That’s the query several of you have posed in the recent weeks since we released the preliminary grow light build video. We’ve performed some upgrades and testing, and we have some fairly satisfactory initial results to share.

We commenced six Roma tomato plants and placed them in like pots all concurrently. We also raised an extra one and placed it near a window. We positioned the three grow lights at an identical height from the plants and using the same timer. The grow lights specifications are listed below –

Grow Light 1 – This is the light we fabricated in the first video with the addition of one improvement. To increase its effectiveness, we incorporated a 6500k 7020 LED strip. The duo of strips we utilized can be found at these links –

Toogod 5050 Grow Light Strip –

7020 Bright White Strip –

Grow Light 2 – We utilized an entirely “Cool white light” grow light using 5630 LED strips. We used two of these 5m strips for this grow light

5630 Cool White LED Strip –

Grow Light 3 – This is our previously tested CFL grow light, employing eight 6500k/23watts CFL bulbs.

CFL Bulbs –

Outcomes –

Grow Light 1 – The growth generated by this light was quite underwhelming; however, it was adequately efficient to keep our seedlings healthy. But it didn’t outperform either the CFL light or our sunlight control.

Grow Light 2 – This light was responsible for the weakest growth among the three lights. This light lacked the power intensity or correct light spectrum required for optimal growth. Nevertheless, it enabled things to grow and stay alive, albeit not very effectively.

Grow Light 3 – This light exceeded the performance of the other two lights, and the yielded growth was even superior to the plant we positioned near our window. We are ecstatic with our old CFL bulbs that have been running strong for more than two years.

This was a preliminary test to placate those who’ve been inquiring about them. We plan to construct more LED light fixtures using various LED strips, and then conduct a final test to see if we can achieve superior growth from the LED strips for lower power consumption and upfront expense. If not, we’ll return to the CFLs!

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Assessing Grow Light Efficiency: An Experiment Comparing DIY LED and CFL Lights