Metal Halide VS LED: Which Is Better For Facilities?

If you’ve got metal halide lights (MH) in your facility is it time to switch to light emitting diodes (LEDs). The biggest reasons are to save your facility money and energy. Of course, there are even more reasons, which we will get into later in this article. If you’re wondering how MH light and LED technology compare then you’ve come to the right place. This metal halide vs LED article will get you up to speed on the differences between the two!

What is metal halide light?

A metal halide lamp produces light by passing an electric arc through a combination of gasses. A metal halide bulb or MH bulb is made up of an inner arc tube and an outer tube. Mercury and metal halide salts are condensed inside an MH lamp inner arc tube until it is activated. 

What is HID light?

HID stands for high-intensity discharge. HID lights are found in stadiums, parking garages, street lights, and in retail locations. An HID bulb or HID lamp will have a long warm-up period no matter the type. Metal halide lamps and high pressure sodium (HPS) lights fall into the HID light category. Metal halide light is white in color, while the visible light from an HPS bulb is an amber color.

What is LED light?

LED stands for light emitting diode. An LED light bulb works by passing an electric current through a diode, a semiconductor device, which causes it to emit light. Learn about the 16 key benefits of LED lighting here.

Is metal halide better than LED?

No big surprise here – LED lights are better than metal halide lights. Here are some of the reasons why:

Metal halide lights have the longest warm-up period of any other light on the market.

  • Metal halide lights can take 15-30 minutes to warm up. 
  • If you have metal halides in your warehouse, factory, or other industrial space, they are likely a huge hindrance to your operations. 
  • You will always need someone to be in your facility before the workday begins to start up the lights otherwise your employees will walk into a dark space.
  • You waste a lot of energy leaving the lights on when they don’t need to be to avoid another warm-up.
  • Energy is wasted during the on and off periods. 

Why LEDs are better: LEDs don’t have a warm-up period. They can be adjusted on demand. An LED fixture instantly turns on, while a metal halide fixture can take minutes.

Metal halides have a short lifespan.

  • On average, one LED product can sustain for as long as 5-6 metal halide bulb replacements.
  • Metal halides have a short lifespan of 6,000 – 20,000 hours.
  • Metal halide lights quickly reach their L70 mark. The L70 mark is the point when a light is producing 70% of its original output, or is at 30% of its life. 

Why LEDs are better: LEDs have a lamp life of 50,000 – 100,000 hours. MH lights usually last 6,000 – 15,000 hours but their poor lumen efficiency usually causes them to depreciate even sooner. LEDs take much longer than metal halides to reach their L70 mark – 50,000 to upwards of 200,000 hours. 

Metal halides have a high rate of lumen depreciation.

  • Metal halide bulbs quickly lose their original lumen output. You likely have to replace them every six months.

Why LEDs are better: LEDs can last for many years with the same lumen output.

Metal halide lamps have huge maintenance costs.

  • Metal halides often need their ballasts replaced.
  • Since metal halide lights are hot to the touch, they require at least some of your lights to be turned off when they need to be replaced, causing disruption to your operations.
  • Metal halide bulbs burn out quickly adding even more to your maintenance costs.

Why LEDs are better: Upgrading to LEDs can substantially reduce your maintenance costs. Unlike conventional lamps, LEDs don’t “burn out,” they dim slowly over time. They also have the longest lifespan of any other lighting on the market so they don’t need to be replaced for a long time. LED lighting products don’t require ballasts, helping you cross another maintenance cost off your list. 

Metal halides are omnidirectional.

  • Metal halide lights project light in all directions, 360 degrees, which is highly inefficient since you would have to find a way to redirect the light to focus it on one area.
  • Metal halide lamps produce less than 30 lumens per watt due to losses from their omnidirectional light output.

Why LEDs are better: LEDs are directional and are great for task lighting at your facility. With LEDs, you don’t have to worry about obtaining and figuring out how to use light reflectors or lenses to get the light where you need it. LEDs produce 75-100 lumens per watt.

Metal halide lamps generate a lot of heat.

  • Metal halide lights produce a lot of heat. In fact, a metal halide fixture has to be specially made to withstand high temperatures. 
  • The heat generated by a metal halide light source adds costs to your electricity bill. The extra heat forces your facility’s HVAC system to work overtime in order to cool down your facility. 

Why LEDs are better: LEDs don’t generate any heat and are cool to the touch. Our clients are often surprised to see how much they can save on this expense alone. 

Metal halide lights are fragile.

  • Metal halide lights are extremely fragile and require special care if broken.

Why LEDs are better: LEDs are durable and aren’t easily damaged. This is yet another way LEDs can save you on maintenance costs.

Metal halide lights require special equipment to make them dimmable.

  • Metal halide lights need expensive electric or magnetic ballasts to be dimmable.

Why LEDs are better: LEDs can be dimmed. Many LEDs come with drivers that allow you to dim the light to your wishes. LEDs can also be equipped with special controls so you can adjust the color temperature or intensity of the light.

This is how metal halides and LEDs compare when it comes to lumens:

Metal Halide Lumens LED equivalent
100 4,000 30 watts
125 4, 800 35 watts
150 6,000 40 watts
175 7,000 50 watts
250 8,000 55 watts
320 10,000 70 watts
400 16,000 115 watts
750 30,000 215 watts
1,000 40,000 285 watts
1,500 60,000 430 watts
2,000 80,000 570 watts

Please note, the numbers displayed are rounded figures and show averages. 

Ready to make the switch from metal halide to LED?

The differences between metal halide lighting and LED lighting is astounding. The longer you wait to make the switch, the more money you rack up on your electricity bills. No matter what type of commercial lighting you’re looking for, whether it is office lighting or warehouse lighting, LED technology is the best way to brighten your facility and increase worker productivity.

WattLogic has been saving its commercial LED lighting clients energy and money for decades through LED lighting retrofits and innovative lighting controls. WattLogic provides turnkey packages for many other energy efficiency technology solutions, including power monitoring, HVLS fans, commercial solar installations, energy storage, and smart motors

Contact us today at (800) 834-8737 and get your audit started. Let us get you the technology and the cost savings you need. We’ll take care of all the headaches that come along with a LED lighting retrofit so you can spend your time on other pressing issues at your facility.