metal halide lamp light bulb Metal Halide Lamp

For many decades, metal halide lighting was touted as one of the best available lighting alternatives on the market. Metal halides boasted a brighter and more efficient light in comparison to its predecessor, the incandescent light. However, many now believe the technology is being eclipsed by the quickly evolving technology of LED lighting.

LED lighting offers many solutions to modern lighting problems, leaving industry professionals wondering if metal halides are becoming an obsolete technology. However, there are still several applications that are better suited to metal halides that LEDs have not been able to fulfill. Which lighting fixture is best for your next project? Keep reading for an in-depth analysis of LEDs vs. metal halides.

Metal Halides
Metal halides are the byproduct of metal and halogen elements mixing together. They consist of substances like sodium chloride (salt) and uranium hexafluoride (the fuel used in nuclear energy reactors). By running an electric current through a mixture of mercury and metal halide gas, metal halide lamps emit light. They operate fairly similarly to other gas-discharge lamps (such as mercury vapor lamps), with the main distinction being the gas's composition. In general, the efficiency and quality of the light are both improved by the addition of metal halide vapor.

The Pros of Metal Halides
In comparison to incandescent bulbs, metal halide lights are three to five times more efficient and create a significantly better light. They frequently have an extremely high color temperature, which varies depending on the specific combination of metal halides (up to 5500K). As a result, metal halide bulbs can be a great asset for high-intensity applications such as auto headlamps, gym lighting, and photographic lighting. The high-quality light that metal halides produce is by far their greatest asset.


The Cons of Metal Halides
With the growing industry preference towards LEDs, the list of metal halide cons seems to continue to increase, here are just a few cons of the metal halide light:

  1. Of all the light fixtures on the market, metal halide lights take the longest to warm up. It can take up to 15 minutes for many metal halide lights used in warehouses and athletic venues to achieve their typical working temperature. This is a serious problem for a number of reasons:
  • Because they do not turn on and off instantly like an LED, they must be used for extended periods of time.
  • You must be proactive in planning your light usage.
  • Lights may need to be operated during brief downtimes in order to avoid another warmup period once turned back on, resulting in wasted usage.
  1. Running metal halide lamps at less than their maximum operational power reduces their efficiency. A typical metal halide bulb operates for 6,000 to 15,000 hours. You might initially pay around the same amount on LEDs and metal halides, depending on the specific bulb. The issue is that it will eventually take many metal halides (2–5) to match the lifespan of a single LED. Ultimately, this will result in highly expensive maintenance costs.

LED stands for light-emitting diode. An electrical diode is a component or device that conducts electricity via two electrodes (an anode and a cathode), often in only one direction (in through the anode and out through the cathode). Typically, semi-conductive materials like silicon or selenium (solid-state elements that conduct electricity under some conditions but not others) are used to create diodes (e.g. at certain voltages, current levels, or light intensities). The semiconductor material in the device emits visible light when a current flows through it. It is a photovoltaic cell's complete opposite (a device that converts visible light into electrical current).

LEDs were first used in computer circuit boards but gradually expanded their usage into outdoor lights like traffic lights. Now, LEDs are even being used in tons of indoor settings such as gymnasiums, warehouses, commercial buildings, and schools.

The Pros of LED Lights
There are many pros that come with LED lights, but here are just a few:

  1. LEDs have incredibly long lifespans, with new LEDs lasting from 50,000 – 100,000 hours or more. In comparison, metal halides only last between 6,000 – 15,000 hours at best.
  2. LEDs cut costs by being extremely energy efficient and requiring less maintenance. LEDs emit little to no heat, helping facilities cut down on in-house energy costs. They also emit light directionally, making them work smarter not harder in a space and requiring less need to redirect or reflect light for your purposes.
  3. LED lights produce very high-quality light.
  4. They require far fewer accessory lamp parts, further cutting down costs.
  5. No warm-up time is necessary, unlike metal halides.

The Cons of LED Lights
The one major con of working with LED lights is that they are one of the more expensive lighting alternatives as far as up-front costs. However, LEDs are known to pay themselves off very quickly in energy and maintenance costs alone. LEDs are also rapidly becoming an industry standard, with prices dropping year over year as they become more profitable.

When comparing them to metal halides, LEDs and metal halides actually cost virtually the same, ranging from around $10-$30 per luminaire. 

What’s the Difference Between Metal Halides and LEDs?
The two systems use totally different approaches to producing light. LEDs are a solid-state semiconductor technology, in contrast to metal halide bulbs, which include metals that are vaporized into inert gas inside their glass shell. Both solutions produce a very high-quality light. LEDs are a more energy-efficient and low-maintenance technology that have a tendency to last much longer. Metal halides are one of the most effective lights when it comes to very cool color temperature outputs despite having longer warm-up times and a lower lifespan. They also create very high-quality and bright light that is crucial in outdoor event settings.

When it comes to choosing which lighting works best for you, it's important to consider your project’s requirements and your preferences. Every job is different, which can make the task of choosing a fixture difficult. At Shine Retrofits, we have a highly-qualified staff of lighting professionals who are ready to help you through your next lighting project. If you have more questions regarding LEDs vs. metal halides or have any other general lighting questions, please contact us today!