COB LED vs HPS: A Comprehensive Comparison Guide

LED technology revolutionized lighting products and displays. It paved the way for more energy-efficient products. However, traditional lighting is still being produced and sold. It will probably take more years before the whole world fully transitions to LED lights and displays. In this article, we’re talking about two display types that are widely applied in various industries—COB LED vs HPS.

When it comes to indoor gardening or commercial lighting, COB LED and HPS are both possible options. These two lighting products are useful in agriculture and horticulture. They provide light sources that can mimic natural sunlight. However, COB LED emerges as a newer and better alternative, challenging the position of HPS. Hence, to help you in making a decision, we’re comparing the two products and see which is the best pick.

In summary, our COB LED vs HPS comparison reveals that:

  • COB LED is ideal for energy efficiency and long-term use
  • HPS is ideal for outdoor lighting that has a low initial investment.

Our Expert Opinion

We believe that COB LED is the better product in this comparison. They have excellent luminous efficacy, lower heat production, and a longer lifespan compared to HPS lights. The pros of COB LEDs outweigh their cons. Though COB LEDs are expensive, they don’t have high maintenance costs and can last for up to ten years.

COB LED Overview

COB LED vs HPS: COB LED overview.

COB LED stands for “chip on board LED” because the LED chips are literally placed in a circuit board. This type of LED technology features multiple LED chips that are packaged together as a single module. This design enhances the light density and efficiency of the LEDs. Since the LED chips are close to each other, they can produce bright light that rivals traditional lighting sources at high wattage levels.

Pros

  1. Produces a uniform light output: COB LEDs are popular because they can output uniform light, unlike other lighting products. The intense light that it produces makes it a suitable lighting choice for light-intensive activities in agriculture and horticulture. Since the chips are tightly packed together, the final light output of COB LED enables it to be brighter.
  2. Is energy-efficient: LEDs are known to be energy-efficient products. With COB LEDs, you can produce excellent light outputs without consuming a lot of electricity. Because of its low lumen per watt, COB LEDs reduces energy costs and environmental impact.
  3. Features a compact design: They can be applied in various shapes, sizes, and lengths. The best example for this would be LED strips. Because these strips are flexible, COB LEDs are better suited for LED strips. The compact design of COB LEDs makes them suitable for various applications, including tight spaces.
  4. Has better heat management: As we all know, LEDs are sensitive to heat. They don’t like heat at all. The only thing with LEDs, in general, is that they don’t generate a lot of heat on their own. But heat is still heat, and it may affect the chip. Because of the COB LED’s design, the chipboard absorbs the heat and takes it away from the chip, maintaining optimal performance and extending the lifespan of the LEDs.
  5. Lasts for years without replacement: All LEDs have long, useful lives. COB LEDs can last for 11 years if used moderately, significantly reducing the need for frequent replacements. In our opinion, that’s already more than enough time to recover your investment in COB LEDs.

Cons

  1. Is expensive: COB LEDs generally have a higher upfront cost compared to traditional lighting solutions like HPS. Given that COB LEDs are relatively new to the market, they come at a high price. COB LEDs may get cheaper in the future as newer manufacturing techniques are discovered. Due to the manufacturing difficulty of COB LEDs, it’s quite normal for manufacturers to charge a higher price.
  2. Has a limited beaming angle: Because of its design, COB LEDs aren’t suitable for widespread illumination. COB LEDs have narrow beam angles so we don’t recommend it for lighting a large area. It’s only good if you want to focus lighting in a specific small area.
  3. Can be difficult to manufacture: The intricate design and technology behind COB LEDs make it more challenging to apply to existing systems. COB LEDs are new technology, and it is expected that it may take a while for them to be more accessible in different applications.
  4. Doesn’t have a good color rendering index: Color accuracy is not COB LED’s strongest suit. COB LEDs have a decent CRI but are not as high as other LED types. That’s why COB LEDs aren’t great for displays, especially for those users who require spot-on color accuracy.

HPS Overview

COB LED vs HPS: HPS Overview

HPS, or High-Pressure Sodium lighting, uses chemical reactions to produce light. The sodium vapor ignites and produces a yellow-orange light when electricity passes through. Since sodium only generates limited light colors, it’s not used in various applications. These are mostly applied in street lighting, industrial lighting, and horticultural applications. HPS also has decent lifespans but not as great as LEDs.

Pros

  1. More affordable than COB LEDs: As mentioned previously, COB LEDs are expensive. They don’t come cheap and only those with enough resources can afford it for widescale application. Fortunately, older lighting technology like the HPS have a lower initial cost compared to newer lighting technologies. 
  2. Produces excellent light output: If you’re looking for high-light outputs and illuminance, it’s best to pick HPS. They are known for their high intensity, making them suitable for large-scale and outdoor lighting applications. In fact, old streetlights use HPS, and they’re great at lighting up the streets at night.
  3. Has an average useful life: HPS may not have a long useful life like COB LEDs but it can last for 24,000 hours at maximum. If used 12 hours daily, the maximum lifespan of HPS is around five to six years. With proper maintenance, HPS lights can last many years, offering a reliable light source for various applications.

Cons

  1. Has limited light spectrum: HPS lights emit a narrow spectrum of light, mainly in the yellow and red wavelengths. That’s why most streetlights before have orange colors. Because of this limitation, HPS is not ideal for other applications that require different colors of light.
  2. Generates a lot of heat: Another problem with HPS is its heat generation. They generate a significant amount of heat, especially when turned on for longer periods. The heat generation of HPS lights can be problematic in controlled environments. Installing additional cooling systems may be needed to control the added heat.
  3. Consumes a lot of electricity: HPS lights consume more electricity compared to LEDs. This makes HPS not cost-efficient because it can raise your electric bill. Besides that, it has a negative environmental impact and a high carbon footprint. If you’re campaigning for energy conservation and environmental causes, it’s best to steer away from HPS.
  4. Contains toxic substances: HPS lights contain materials like mercury. Improper disposal of HPS can cause environmental contamination like mercury poisoning.
  5. Has high maintenance cost: Since you’re getting HPS at a cheaper price than LEDs, you’ll have to prepare for regular maintenance and replacements in the future. So if you don’t want to keep changing light sources, we recommend going for LEDs.

COB LED vs. HPS: Energy Efficiency

In our opinion, COB LED is still the best pick for energy efficiency. HPS lights consume a lot of electricity per watt. Though HPS can generate high lumens per watt, COB LEDs still beat HPS in that regard. In our COB LED vs. HPS comparison of energy efficiency, we give these criteria to COB LEDs because they are more power efficient than HPS.

  • Energy Consumption: COB LEDs are significantly more energy-efficient than HPS lights. COB LEDs produce more light per watt than HPS. Though the gap is very close on lumen per watt, HPS has a higher wattage than COB LEDs. The efficiency that COB LED provides not only saves on electricity costs but also reduces the carbon footprint of artificial light sources.
  • Heat Production: HPS lights generate heat, unlike LEDs. You may not want to use HPS in controlled environments. Heat in controlled environments may alter the conditions you’re trying to preserve. Moreover, it’s not suitable for indoor gardening because excess heat can stress plants. In contrast, COB LEDs produce much less heat and reduce the need for extensive cooling solutions.

COB LED

  • 80 to 1000 lumens per watt
  • 0.03 to 0.06 kWh consumption
  • For 12 hours of usage, 0.36 to 0.72 kWh of total consumption
  • Assuming the average kWH rate is $10 per kWH, the total electric bill contribution is $3.6 to $7.2 per day.
  • If used consistently for 30 days at 12 hours, the total electric bill contribution is $108 to $216 monthly.

HPS 

  • 70 to 90 lumens per watt
  • 0.4 to 1.0 kWh consumption
  • For 12 hours of usage, 4.8 to 12 kWh total consumption
  • Assuming the average kWH rate is $10 per kWH, the total electric bill contribution is $48 to $120 per day.
  • If used consistently for 30 days at 12 hours, the total electric bill contribution is $1,440 to $3,600 monthly.

In summary, you can save up to 94% of electricity costs with COB LEDs if compared to HPS.

COB LED vs HPS: Light Quality

The quality of light is another crucial factor, especially in horticultural applications where the spectrum and intensity of light affect plant growth. Overall, COB LEDs still win in terms of light quality. In our expert opinion, COB LEDs win in our light quality comparison for COB LED vs HPS because they have a broader color spectrum, making them a suitable application for different uses. On the other hand, HPS are very limited.

  • Spectrum: COB LEDs offer a full light spectrum, closely mimicking natural sunlight. On the contrary, though HPS offers a full light spectrum, it still lacks a bit in this regard if we’re talking about other applications.
    • However, for horticultural use, the spectrum that COB LEDs offer is perfect for the healthy growth of plants, as it supports photosynthesis throughout different growth stages. 
    • HPS lights, on the other hand, emit a narrower spectrum that’s mostly in the yellow to red wavelengths, primarily in the yellow and red wavelengths. Plants need blue and red light wavelengths to grow. With HPS lights, blue is absent, which may hinder vegetative growth.
  • Light Intensity: In terms of light intensity, COB LEDs and HPS don’t have a huge gap. Both light sources produce excellent light outputs. Both also have even and uniform light distribution, making it a good pick for uses that require balanced illumination.

For reference, the color rendering index ranges from 0 to 100, with 0 as the index for the poorest color representation and 100 as the best. COB LEDs are within CRI 80 to 95, while HPS is only CRI 22. Thus, we can say that HPS doesn’t have a good CRI, and it cannot generate different light colors in the spectrum.

COB LED vs HPS: Useful Life

The lifespan and maintenance requirements of lighting solutions are critical considerations for both commercial and residential users. We believe that in terms of useful life, COB LEDs still win over HPS. No doubt that in this COB LED vs HPS comparison, HPS didn’t stand a chance. LEDs, in general, possess longer useful lives, so there’s no doubt about their longevity. 

  • Lifespan: COB LEDs last longer than HPS lights, though most LEDs also boast a long useful life. On average, COB LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours, whereas HPS lights typically last around 24,000 hours. COB LEDs can operate for 5.7 years if used 24 hours a day while HPS only lasts 2.7 years. Hence, you won’t have to worry about replacement costs with COB LEDs because they last for years.
  • Maintenance: HPS lights require regular maintenance, including replacing bulbs and cleaning reflectors to maintain optimal performance. In contrast, COB LEDs are relatively maintenance-free, offering a hassle-free lighting solution. Since HPS comes at a cheaper cost than COB LEDs, you’ll have to pay for bulb replacements in the future, which can be a hassle, given that future spending is involved.

COB LED vs HPS: Cost

While initial costs are a significant factor, the long-term financial implications of each lighting technology must also be considered. For cost, we have to give it to HPS. In this COB LED vs HPS comparison, it’s evident that HPS lights are more affordable than COB LEDs. Perhaps this is due to it being an older technology and the fact that there are already many manufacturers out there. While COB LEDs, on the other hand, are relatively new and entail 

  • Initial Investment: HPS lights usually cost less upfront than COB LEDs because they are priced more affordably in the market. However, the initial savings may be offset by higher operational and maintenance costs due to increased energy consumption and maintenance.
  • Operational Costs: COB LEDs are more cost-effective in the long run even though it require a significant amount of investment at purchase. Their energy efficiency and lower maintenance requirements give you additional savings in the future. Additionally, it doesn’t generate heat, so there’s no need for cooling or ventilation systems, which will add to the electricity costs.

To illustrate, let’s assume that a COB LED costs $200 per unit while an HPS costs $50. The energy cost is $0.15 per kWH. For computation purposes, we’ll use the light bulbs for 12 hours a day and for the next ten years.

Watt Consumption and Cost

  • COB LED = 50 watts / 1,000 x 12 hours x $0.15/kWH = $0.09 per day
  • HPS = 1,000 watts / 1,000 x 12 hours x $0.15/kWH = $1.8 per day
  • Yearly cost for COB LEDs = $0.09 per day x 365 days = $32.85 per year
  • Yearly cost for HPS = $1.8 per day x 365 days = $657 per year

Replacement Cost

  • COB LED = $0 because they can last for 11 to 12 years.
  • HPS = $50 because they only last for five years, so in the fifth year, you need to replace the old bulb.

Total Cost

  • COB LED = $200 cost + ($32.85 x 10 years) + $0 replacement cost = $528.50
  • HPS = $50 cost + ($657 x 10 years) + $50 replacement cost = $6,670

Savings from COB LED

  • You’ll save $6,141.50 with COB LEDs.
  • That is equivalent to $61.42 per year or $5.12 per month. 
  • With a savings of roughly $5 per month, it’s similar to getting a free Starbucks drink per month.

COB LED vs HPS: Environmental Impact

In today’s world, the environmental impact of our choices is more critical than ever. If you’re campaigning for environmental conservation, you should pick COB LED because it has a lesser carbon footprint. HPS, on the other hand, is not great for the environment. Its carbon footprint is too high because it uses a lot of electricity.

  • Energy Efficiency: COB LEDs use less energy than HPS lights. Less energy means fewer carbon footprints. While carbon footprints are unavoidable, it’s best to always aim for the lowest.
  • Disposal: HPS contains mercury, a hazardous material. When not disposed of properly, mercury can contaminate the environment and cause ecological damage to humans and wildlife. It can seep into the soil and mix with groundwater, which could later go into oceans and rivers. Animals unconsciously induce mercury, which may affect human life, especially for fish and seafood.

For illustration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides that the average factor for carbon footprint is 0.707 CO2 per kWh of electricity consumed. If COB LEDs are used 12 hours a day for one year, the average CO2 emission that COB LEDs generate is 153 kg yearly. On the other hand, by using the same period, the CO2 emission of HPS is 3,054 kg/year. Though COB LEDs still generate CO2 emissions, they are very low compared to HPS.

Conclusion

Our final opinion about COB LED vs HPS is clear and unchanging. Of all the factors we looked into in this comparison, it’s clear that COB LED is better. While it comes at a high cost, the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefits, especially the minimal impact of COB LEDs on the environment. We hope this comparison gave you objective points of view and evidence. Whether you’re a vegetable grower or an industrial designer, COB LEDs and LEDs are the future. Invest in it for peace of mind and the environment.

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