T5 vs LED: What’s The Difference?

We all know that plants need sunlight to survive. It is their source of energy to manufacture their food and promote their growth. For indoor cultivation of plants, artificial lighting can do as well.

The past few years have introduced us to products that can provide such lighting - a lighting which is suitable for indoor plants. Fluorescent bulbs, like T5, are the most common lighting today. Plant growers use these but the advent of LED lighting has started to take over the business.

That's because of the advantages it has to offer. People switch from fluorescent bulbs to LED lighting because of savings and efficiency. They choose lighting which can best benefit the grower at the lesser cost.

Comparing T5 vs LED would give us helpful information. Let's discuss what they are along with their advantages and disadvantages.

Defining T5 vs LED Grow Lights

Basically a fluorescent light bulb, the T5 grow light number refers to the diameter of the bulb itself, which is 5/8". Lengths are available in 2-feet and 4-feet.

Previous models were T8 and T12. But because of their inefficiency in performance, the development of T5 happened. And this model has proven itself to be efficient both in plant production and power usage.

T5 bulbs can last long and can effectively provide the desired light for your plants. The composition of T5 is a combination of mercury vapors, xenon, argon, krypton and neon gases. These elements are all compounded in a tube with tungsten electrodes. These materials contribute to producing great lighting.

LED grow lights, on the other hand, are more recent than T5 lights. They are the most current kind of lighting made in the market now. That's why a lot of people aren't using them yet. LED lights seem small and inefficient but they're actually really powerful. These lights are efficient and will save you a lot of space as you are growing plants indoors.

LED grow lights have become very attractive to indoor growers. They were only used as a supplementary kind form of lighting in the past. Growers used LED lighting to add on light as needed. But now, they stand alone as grow lights for plants.

Nowadays there are even LED panels which can provide light to a whole room full of plants. This light will keep your plants vibrant and healthy.

LED grow lights have of light-emitting diodes. They are usually placed in casings and built-in fans. Unlike fluorescent bulbs, they do not require ballasts. They are directly powered into standard electrical outlets. They are now becoming a better alternative to fluorescent grow lights.

Benefits of T5 vs LED Grow Lights

Because of their ease of installation and replacement, the T5 is very efficient. That is why it's widely used by plant growers today. Furthermore, the model provides just the enough lighting for healthy plant growth. Some models can even do better as they can surpass 100 lumens/watt efficiency. But LED grow lights also come with a lot of benefits - both for you and your plants. Let's compare the benefits of these kinds of lights:

Efficiency and Ease of use of T5 vs LED

The T5 fluorescent bulbs win over the LED diodes in this aspect. The installation and replacement of T5 bulbs are easier. Dispose of burned-out bulbs and replace them with new ones the old fashioned way. The T5 also has very small ballasts. They need small spaces, making them more convenient to install as compared to LED diodes.

Let us define two terms here. First, the Lumen it is a unit of measurement for light. Simply said, the more lumen, the brighter the light. Second, the Watt is a unit of electrical power. Simply said, the more watts, the more lumens produced, resulting in brighter lights.

Efficiency is the amount of light produced from one watt of electricity. You can express this in lumens/watt. T5 fluorescent bulbs can have an efficiency of 80-110 lumens/watt. That depends on the bulb length and brand. Right now, they are the most efficient grow lights available.

But LED grow lights are efficient too. This is because they give off bright lights while saving energy. LED lights do not emit as much heat as traditional lighting systems. They are more efficient when it comes to energy saving.

They consume 60% less energy than the traditional lights but still give off the same level of light. Unlike T5, LEDs do not burn anything for them to produce light. So, there will be lower energy bills.

Lifespan of T5 vs LED

In a non-stop lighting condition, the T5 will last for a good 1.7-3.4 years or between 15,000-30,000 hours. This is a good life expectancy for a lighting for your plants.

But LED lights have a longer life expectancy. LED lights produce minimal or even no heat at all, so they have a longer lifespan of over 50,000 hours. That is a lot longer than the traditional lighting systems. Fluorescent bulbs expand heat in their operations and this significantly reduces their lifespan.

By deduction, a longer lifespan will mean more crops harvested. You also won't have to replace LEDs as often, which means great savings.

Price of T5 vs LED

These days, the T5 fluorescent bulbs are the most available grow lights in the market. They prove to be efficient and cost saving. They are popular not only as grow lights but also for industrial lighting conditions.

They are mass-produced and so, the price is cheaper. Compared to LED diodes, which is relatively new in the market. That's because there is not much demand for them yet. So right now, the T5 rules.

LED grow lights are more costly. This is because they are more recent and they last a lot longer. So when deciding which lights to get, consider the cost against the light's longevity.

Plant quality of T5 vs LED

Although the sun is vital to plant growth, the UV, IR, and heat rays that it radiates are destructive to plant life. These rays cause plants to dry up quickly, making them thirst for water and energy to thrive. With the use of LED lights, these rays are considerably reduced. So the plants use the water and energy for its growth instead of healing itself. This allows you to grow healthier plants.

LED lights will permit you to enjoy a faster harvest cycle. Plants grown indoors don't have enough of environmental exposure. They don't know what season it is, thus they don't know how to behave. Confused is a good word to describe indoor plants. So, in this situation, you have the control to dictate how the plants should behave. With LED lights, you can alter daylight hours.

You also control the amount of red wavelength light. When given at the precise time, you can maximize plant growth rate. With this control, many harvests are possible. And that's just in one season, instead of one harvest. Changing flowering times will definitely increase production.

The plants you grow using T5 lights are more average than those grown with LED lights. They also have regular harvest cycles. But that doesn't mean that they are of lower quality. Growing plants with T5 lighting will produce healthy plants too, especially if you care for them well.

Heat factor T5 vs LED

With T5 lights, you have to be careful in terms of placement. These lights tend to give off heat when in operation so you can't place them too close to your plants.

Because LED grow lights do not give off a lot of heat, there is no need to install cooling systems in the growing area. As minimal heat is released, there is no effect to the operating temperature.

Environment friendly T5 vs LED

LED lights are 100% recyclable. They do not contain toxic substances like mercury in their composition.

T5 lights can also be environmentally friendly. If you use solar panels to power your grow lights, they can run on solar energy.

The Downsides of T5 vs LED Grow Lights

The biggest downside of using T5 grow lights is that it gives off heat. This is especially true when you compare it to LED lights, which give off no heat at all. When using these kinds of lights, you have to be careful in positioning them. The reason for this is that too much heat can cause damage to your plants or hinder their growth.

Another downside of using such lights is that you may end up with smaller yields. This is especially true if you use the lighting when your plants are in the flowering stage. T5 light doesn't reach as far as LED lights, so again, positioning is important.

Since T5 grow lights have a fuller emission angle of light, you need supplementary equipment for it. You need to use good reflectors to point the light at your plants directly. Light emitted by LED’s is like those in flashlights and covers only small areas. This may be good for plants that fall in the range, but it might not reach others. It's not spread out like the lighting of T5 grow lights.

LED lights give off very bright lights. If you're not careful, the bright blue light produced by LED grow lights can cause blindness. Also, since they are sensitive to high temperatures, the LED diodes may fail when exposed to it. The quality of light they will produce could suffer. This is why they will need a good heat sink and a fan system in their installation.

Finally, unlike T5 lights, certain changes may occur as the LED lights get older. Color changes and the quality of light may not be as good, more so if the LEDs are of a low quality. If you buy the LED lights from reputable companies, the quality will not be an issue.


The choice for lighting your indoor garden will depend on important factors. These factors are efficiency, cost saving, and productivity. Right now, many people prefer T5 grow lights. This is because of price consideration. It's also because of its ease of installation and replacement. T5 lights prove to be efficient in productivity and power usage.

LED grow lights are becoming more popular. Nowadays, many growers are switching to this lighting. This is because of its many beneficial features. Because it is a new technology, its price is costlier. But give the LED lighting system a few more years and it will gradually take over the market for grow lights.

The bottom line is, it all comes down to your own personal preferences and your budget. Now that you know all about these 2 lighting options, choosing one of them is easier. You can go with T5 grow lights if you're looking for a cheap but efficient option. If you're looking for a longer lasting grow light, then LED is the better choice.