Halogen Upgrade: HID or LED?
In these days, more and more vehicles come with factory equipped HID Xenon or LED headlights.
But, is the newest technology always the best?
We are here to show you advantages and disadvantages of each (Halogen, HID, & LED) technology to help you make a decision when your time comes to replace your old bulbs.
Let’s talk about the halogen first since it is the most commonly used technology.
Halogen headlights are the most popular technology in the automotive industry because of two factors, long lifespan and cost effectiveness.
Most vehicles come with halogen headlights (or fog lights) because of its long life span. Under normal condition, halogen headlight bulbs last up to 1000 hours.
On top of that, it is relatively cheaper. You can get a pair for under $30.
But you get what you pay for.
It is consuming so much energy, probably the most, but, unfortunately, it is not the brightest. You can tell how much energy it is wasting by the amount of heat it is creating when it’s on.
Moreover, halogen light bulbs require extra care. Because halogen light bulb capsule (glass) is very sensitive, you will damage the bulb if you touch them with bare hands from the grease/salt when replacing them, which will shorten the lifetime in result.
I still believe that halogen is bang for your buck but when I first saw a car with bluish bright headlights back in mid 90s, I was dying to have one for myself.
The Phillips 9005/HB3 Halogen Crystal 4000K Bulbs are a popular option for halogen headlight bulbs.
HID / Xenon
HID Headlights (stands for High Intensity Discharge), also known as Xenon (it uses xenon gas), became a new trend on the market soon after it was first introduced in Japan & Europe in the mid 90s. Due to its higher production costs than halogen, the growth was slow in the beginning.
But, again, you get what you pay for, right?
Even though HID lights are a lot more expensive than a halogen lights, it became so popular over time because it is definitely brighter, but use less energy, than halogen lights. A Xenon HID light bulb produces up to 3200 lumens while a halogen light bulb produces only up to 1400 lumens. Furthermore, because they can control the color temperature (kelvin) as well, you can go anywhere from 3000K (yellow), 4300K (white w/ yellow hue), 5000K (white), 6000K (white w/ blue hue) to 8000K (blue/purple). Choose your unique color to stand out among the crowds!
Did I mention that HID light bulb lasts up to 2500 hours? That is almost 3 times more lifetime than halogen. It is still cheaper to go with halogen but you don’t have to replace (which can be real pain in the butt for some vehicles) your headlights for years!
And of course, HID has its downside as well.
First, even with the aid of a HID ballast, these bulbs still take 5-10 seconds to reach full potential. During that time, it actually uses more energy than halogen. Therefore, some higher end vehicle’s with HID lighting system uses same unit/bulb, which works for both low & high beam (also called Bi-xenon). Also, you need to have a controller called ‘ballast’, which carefully controls the voltage.
Secondly, HID is also known to produce too much glare which can be very distracting, especially to oncoming traffic. However, nowadays, most vehicles do come with headlamps with projectors, which controls your light beam pattern. If your vehicle came with reflector type, you can either try ‘R’ type HID bulbs or retrofit your headlamp to have controlled & focused beam pattern.
Lastly, some aftermarket headlights may contain hazardous substances, such as metal mercury, but you shouldn’t be worried too much if you simply purchase your replacements from well-known brands, such as Philips or Osram. Most vehicles with original factory HID lighting system come with either Philips or Osram due to its known safeness.
Here is a popular example of an HID bulb with the Phillips D2585122.
So you think it’s not worth it? Luckily, as the automotive industry continues to evolve, they come up with new technology.
After HID lights were introduced, automakers started searching for the new, more energy efficient technology. It is called a Light Emitting Diode (LED).
What is so great about LED technology?
LED fog lights require a very low energy to produce light and last longer than both halogen and HID.
Is it bright? Yes, it is brighter than halogen but, unfortunately, not as bright as HID.
However, because LEDs use very small chip, it can be easily manipulated into many different shapes. Therefore, it can be custom fit to any shapeable design you can think of.
You’ve seen many LED lights being used as taillights or side marker but not as headlights, why?
Although LEDs use very low power to produce lights, they do create some amount of heat at the bottom of the emitter. As a result, it is creating a potential risk for nearby assemblies and cables.
For my fog light, I am ready to switch my old Halogen bulb to LED.
However, when it comes to headlights, I sill believe that HID Xenon is the best option on the market as of now.
In my opinion, because it’s hard to give up its given color and brightness, HID Xenon technology will be used continuously in automotive industry for next 5-10 years. Its cost has decreased significantly but performance is way better than ever!