Top 8 PAR Light Meters for Orchids (2024)

lux light meter

AskGardening is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more.

Orchids are particularly sensitive to light and have varying light needs. Some species need strong light or even full sun, while others can thrive under partial shade. 

For those who grow orchids indoors, a PAR light meter is the best tool to measure if your orchids are getting enough light from the window or an artificial light source.

The best light meter should be a PAR meter (which measures light in umol/m2/s) instead of a LUX light meter (in units of lumens) to measure the full light spectrum that is invisible to the human eye but is usable by plants. 

Check out our comprehensive review of the 8 most popular PAR light meters for plants. 

Quick Summary

PAR Light Meters for Plants

Review

Editor’s pick

1.  Photobio LGBQM2

PHOTOBIO LGBQM2 Advanced Quantum Sensor PAR Meter (Micromoles), Measure Light Intensity

Features
• Reliable, durable
• 2 cables (one straight, one coiled)
• Carrying case




Pros

• Measures all light sources
• Keeps track of 99 previous readings
• Affordable


Cons

• Bulky case

Laboratory grade for professionals

2. Apogee MQ-500

Apogee Instruments MQ-500 Full-Spectrum Quantum PAR Meter & Telescopic Wand Bundle - Digital PPFD Meter for LED Greenhouse Grow Lights, Sunlight, & Plant Monitoring

Features
• Waterproof
• 33-inch telescopic wand


Pros
• Durable
• Most precise readings on the market
• Waterproof
• Rarely needs calibration
• 4-year warranty


Cons
• Expensive

3. Apogee DLI-400

Apogee Instruments DLI-400 PAR, Daily Light Integral, and Photoperiod Meter - PAR 400-700 nm (Sunlight Only) Light Measurement Tool for Plants & Agriculture

Features
• Waterproof
• Can be mounted onto camera tripod


























Pros

• Durable
• Waterproof
• Rarely needs calibration
• 4-year warranty

Cons

• Expensive
• Can only measure sunlight and limited range of grow lights




4. Quantum PAR Meter (METER)

Quantum PAR Meter - Upgraded: High Precision, Grow Light Meter, Indoor Plants Meter, Good for Growing droseras and All Indoor Plants

Features
• Lightweight unit
• Long, straight cable


Pros

• Measures all sources of light
• Low battery indicator
• Lightweight
• Affordable

Cons

• Breaks easily
• Cable breaks from main unit
• Low accuracy

5. Quantum Sun (Generic)

Quantum Par Meter Light Meter for Plants Led Grow Lights Indoor High Precision Rechargeable

Features
• Durable unit
• USB cable
• Low battery indicator


Pros

• Affordable
• Easy to use
• Rechargeable
• Measures all light sources


Cons

• Not as precise as other models

6. VABIRA VBR-200

VBR-200 PAR Meter for Grow,Data Logger,Test PPFD,DLI,LUX,CCT,Temperature,Humidity,VPD.Dimmer

Features
• Sensor
• Long cord
• Unit

Pros

• Measures all sources of light, as well as humidity and temperature
• Can be used in aquariums
• Sleek design

Cons

• Has to be plugged in to get a reading

Best Value

7. FUTUREHORTI

PAR Meter up to 6000umol/(㎡s) DLI Calculator PPFD Recording

Features
• Downloadable app
• Sensor

Pros

• Versatile, can be moved to hard-to-reach areas
• Simple setup
• Easy to use
• Affordable

Cons

• Needs internet
• Not waterproof
• Cannot verify accuracy

8. VABIRA VBR-100

VBR-100 PAR Meter Up to 6000umol/(㎡s) DLI Calculator PPFD Recorded Methodically by Grids

Features
• Downloadable app
• Sensor

Pros

• Versatile, can be moved to hard-to-reach areas
• Simple setup
• Easy to use
• Affordable

Cons

• Needs internet
• Not waterproof
• No way to check accuracy

PAR meter vs Lux meter: Why you need a PAR meter

To measure light intensity for plants, a PAR meter should be used instead of a lux meter or footcandle sensor even though they are much cheaper, ranging from 20 to 40 US dollars. 

Lux meters

Lux meters or footcandle sensors measure light which measures the brightness or intensity of visible light emitted from a light source in units of footcandles (also known as lumen, which is the amount of light in one square foot of space. They are useful for photographers.

The problem with using lux meters in horticulture is that they can only detect the light visible to the human eyes, but not the wide spectrum of light usable by plants in photosynthesis.  Also, the value of lumens and lux varies depending on the type of light (eg. light bulb, fluorescent lamp, LED light, etc.) used. 

PAR meters

The PAR meter is the only tool for measuring the light intensity for growing plants because it measures the photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) or the wavelengths of light usable by plants for photosynthesis, mostly in the range of 400 and 700 nm. 

The light intensity is measured in units of PPFD or photosynthetic photon flux density (umol/m2/s), which is the quantity of light photon molecules received over a surface or by the plant per second.

Also, PAR readings do not vary with different light sources.  

Best PAR light meter review

1. Photobio LGBQM2 – Editor’s pick

Verdict: 5/5

PHOTOBIO LGBQM2 Advanced Quantum Sensor PAR Meter (Micromoles), Measure Light Intensity

The Photobio LGBQM2 has the advantage of being both affordable and able to accurately measure any light source, including LED light, sunlight, fluorescent light, traditional light bulb, and grow lights. Its padded carrying case makes it easy to transport without causing damage. 

The Photobio LGBQM2 PAR meter comes with not one, but two connecting cables – one being coiled and the other straight and 12 feet in length. It keeps a record of up to 99 different readings for quick reference. 

This easy-to-use PAR meter has everything that a high-quality meter has, but for much less than many premium products.

For under $200 on Amazon, the Photobio LGBQM2 wins our place for best value PAR meter. 

2. Apogee MQ-500 – Laboratory grade

Verdict: 4.5/5

Apogee Instruments MQ-500 Full-Spectrum Quantum PAR Meter & Telescopic Wand Bundle - Digital PPFD Meter for LED Greenhouse Grow Lights, Sunlight, & Plant Monitoring

The Apogee MQ-500 PAR meter is a laboratory-grade light meter revered by serious growers and scientists. Its measurements only have a 5 % uncertainty range, which is much lower than most other PAR meters. 

The Apogee MQ-500 measures all sources of light that plants use for photosynthesis, including LED, traditional light bulbs, sunlight, and grow lights. The meter is stable and rarely needs calibration, having a drift rate of only 2% per year, adding extra reliability to this meter.

Included is a 33-inch AM-310 telescopic wand to assist in measuring light in hard-to-reach places, such as beneath leaves and in crevices.  The unit is waterproof, making it a reliable and rugged option for harsh conditions – including the extreme humidity to which orchids are accustomed.   

It also has a high customer satisfaction rating, with the overall consensus being that the Apogee MQ-500 is both durable – “built like a tank,” as one satisfied user stated – and extremely sensitive, giving precise readings. 

However, the superb quality also comes at a price, which is more than 3 times the cost of our “best overall” pick.

3. Apogee DLI-400

Verdict: 4/5

Apogee Instruments DLI-400 PAR, Daily Light Integral, and Photoperiod Meter - PAR 400-700 nm (Sunlight Only) Light Measurement Tool for Plants & Agriculture

This PAR meter by Apogee is compact and durable, perfect for measuring the light for outdoor orchids. It is a sensitive meter that is made in the USA and comes with a four-year warranty.

Like the Apogee MQ-500, the Apogee DLI-400 doesn’t need to be calibrated often – having a low drift rate of just 2% yearly. 

The major downside of the Apogee DLI-400 is that it only measures sunlight and limited ranges of traditional light bulbs and grow lights. So only choose this PAR meter if you have outdoor orchids. It will not accurately measure light from fluorescent and LED grow lights. 

The Apogee DLI-400 comes with a four-year warranty. Its high quality and precise readings are the primary features listed by customers on Amazon as reasons for high ratings. 

The durable unit is waterproof, durable, and can stand on a flat surface or be mounted into a standard camera tripod. 

4. Quantum PAR Meter (Lifees)

Verdict: 3/5

Quantum PAR Meter - Upgraded: High Precision, Grow Light Meter, Indoor Plants Meter, Good for Growing droseras and All Indoor Plants

This high-precision PAR meter is designed for measuring the lighting of indoor plants. Lightweight and fully portable, the Quantum PAR meter measures all sources of indoor light spectrum in the wavelengths of 400 – 700 nm. 

This PAR meter comes with a low battery indicator and takes between 1 – 2 hours to fully charge.

The cable seems to be the primary customer complaint, as the cable disconnects regularly from the device and exposes the inner fine wiring, providing the potential for greater damage. Low precision seems to also be an issue, with customers comparing the Quantum meter with others such as Apogee. 

While this meter’s lightweight construction makes it easy to transport, its downside is that it breaks easily and feels cheaply made, according to customer reviews. 

The Quantum PAR Meter comes with a one-year warranty. 

5. Quantum Sun (Generic)

Verdict: 4/5

Quantum Par Meter Light Meter for Plants Led Grow Lights Indoor High Precision Rechargeable

This rechargeable PAR meter is designed for measuring all light sources for indoor plants. It has a built-in low battery indicator and takes 1 – 2 hours to charge from no power to full power. 

While batteries aren’t included in this rechargeable meter, a USB cable is included for easy charging. Calibration is convenient and hassle-free with electric light calibration modes. 

This model isn’t flashy, but it’s simple, easy to use, and straightforward. The fact that it measures all sources of indoor light is a huge plus. 

6. VABIRA VBR-200

Verdict: 3/5

VBR-200 PAR Meter for Grow,Data Logger,Test PPFD,DLI,LUX,CCT,Temperature,Humidity,VPD.Dimmer

Sleek and efficient, the Vabira VBR-200 is one of the most versatile PAR meters on our list, able to be used both for indoor plants and aquariums. The waterproof sensor is small, flat, and round and can be placed in hard-to-reach places. Despite the sensor’s small frame and lightweight design, it is high quality and durable. 

The Vabira VBR-200 measures all sources of indoor light, as well as humidity and temperature. The color index is a feature that isn’t available on most competing models. This PAR meter’s long cord makes placement and measuring easy and hassle-free. 

While this PAR meter is among the more affordable entries on our list, the major downside according to customers is that it has to be plugged in to get a reading. This makes using the Vabira VBR-200 inconvenient for scientists and horticulturalists, who may need to measure PPFD out in the fields. 

7. FUTUREHORTI – Best value

Verdict: 3.5/5

PAR Meter up to 6000umol/(㎡s) DLI Calculator PPFD Recording

Unlike the other entries on our list, the Vabira VBR-100 is reliant on a phone app.

The sensor is small and flat, untethered by a cable like traditional meters.

The most significant customer complaint is the disorganized app interface, as well as having no way to check accuracy. This app isn’t suited for scientists or devoted horticulturalists but is designed for hobbyists. It can’t be used in the aquarium, as the sensor isn’t waterproof.

Another downside is that the app also needs internet connectivity to work, making it inconvenient for those without reliable internet access near their grow lights. 

The sensor’s small size makes it easy to attach to a drone or remote-controlled car to measure the light in hard-to-reach places. 

However, the advantage is that for under US$100, this is one of the cheapest PAR meters in the market.  We consider this the best value PAR meters for hobby growers.

8. VABIRA VBR-100

Verdict: 3/5

VBR-100 PAR Meter Up to 6000umol/(㎡s) DLI Calculator PPFD Recorded Methodically by Grids

Like the FUTUREHORTI listed above, the VABIRA VBR-100 is an app that connects to your phone.

The flat, square sensor is placed, and the reading is transferred directly to your phone via the app. This can make measuring PPFD easier, though there is always the risk of the app running slowly due to connection issues. 

The confusing reading format seems to be the primary customer complaint, as a reading of what would be 60 on other apps is translated to 6.0 in the Vabira VBR-100’s app. Remembering to shift the decimal when reading the number can be confusing and inconvenient for users. 

While the product description advertises easy use in aquariums, customers have reported that the Bluetooth signal gets cut off as soon as the sensor is submerged. 

An advantage of the Vabira VBR-100 is that its small size and lack of a cable makes it easy to attach to a drone or remote-controlled toy car to measure light in hard-to-reach places. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How do I select a good PAR light meter?
Check the sensitivity of readings, durability, and frequency of calibration. Also, select a PAR meter that measures all light sources. 

Q2. How do I use a PAR light meter?

Place the sensor in the desired location – including hard-to-reach places – and press the button to get a reading. Most meters have clear indicators on what buttons to press for a reading.

Q3. What light intensity do orchids require?

For orchid growers, the PAR meter should be able to measure a PPFD reading of between 100 and 500 umol/m2/s, which is the optimal light intensity for most orchids for photosynthesis, development and blooming.

Specifically, the optimal light for different types of orchids is:

– 100-135 umol/m2/s: Phalaenopsis, Jewel orchids, Paphiopedilums, variegated orchids

– 300 umol/m2/s: Dendrobium, Oncidium, Miltoniopsis

– 300-500 umol/m2/s: Cattleya, Vanda, Odontioda

Related:

How Much Light Do Orchids Need? (With Light Chart)

Best Grow Light For Orchids (For Table Top & Shelves)

Carol Chung

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top