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The days of incandescent lights are well and truly over. Those energy-binging bulbs have played their role, and now they light our way no more.
Yet, as great as it is having more energy efficient alternatives, i.e. halogen and LED lights, figuring out which is the right choice moving forward can be tricky.
Thankfully the differences between these technologies are fairly easy to determine, and with this comprehensive guide, you’ll be a savvy shopper in no time.
Cutting To The Chase: Is LED Better Than Halogen?
I think it helps to think of the evolution of the light as the evolution of man (sorry creationists).
You can picture the candle as a primate walking on all fours, a gas lamp as the primate on two feet, the incandescent bulb as the upright middleman with a club, the halogen bulb as the taller semi-human with a sharpened tool, and LEDs as fully evolved man.
This illustrates perfectly which form of lighting is the best: LEDs.
Granted, halogen technology was a total game-changer, and being 20% more efficient, with a longer lifespan, improved upon incandescent lighting a great deal. But compared to LED lights, it’s kind of hard to have halogen’s back.
For instance, LEDs are considered a whopping 85% more energy efficient than their halogen counterparts, and they last longer too — we’re talking 15,000 – 50,000 hours!
But if LEDs are so flawless, why then do some people go with halogen when shopping for a luminary that offers both options?
Well, there are a few reasons for this seemingly confounding decision:
As the more advanced technology with tons of benefits, LEDs are usually a little more costly than the halogen variant. However, combine the stacked energy savings with their longer lifespan, and LEDs will almost always wind up the more cost-effective option in the long run.
Halogen bulbs have been around much longer, and so many people feel comfortable with them.
Lack Of Info On The Topic
Others may genuinely think that halogen bulbs are the better option or that the difference will be so negligible that it doesn’t matter which light technology they shoot for.
Comparing Halogen & LED Lights
Okay, so we’ve established that LEDs are better for two primary reasons…
- They’re way more energy efficient.
- They last a lot longer.
But this isn’t the whole story; LED bulbs are actually more advanced in a number of other ways.
To kick things off, let’s consider running temperature. Halogen bulbs get hot… like really hot! If you touch a halogen bulb that has been on for several hours, it will burn you, no question. LED bulbs, by contrast, will warm up, but not to the point that they harm skin.
This waste heat is the product of the central filament that has to be hot to provide visible light. This filament is incredibly delicate, which means halogen lights don’t take well to vibration and shock.
LEDs, on the other hand, use what is known as semiconductor technology, a much more robust blueprint that is completely insensitive to vibration and is, by and large, shockproof.
In light of this (pun absolutely intended), LEDs have a distinct edge for mobile lighting applications. No matter how bumpy the ride gets when they’re being moved or adjusted, they won’t incur damage.
Perhaps the only department in which halogen lights put the LED usurpers on the back foot is their dimmability.
Pretty much all halogen lights can be adjusted with a dimmer function, and while LEDs can also arrive with dimming capabilities, comparatively speaking, it’s quite uncommon.
If you want dimmable LEDs, you have to make sure the product description explicitly states that they have this function.
Now let’s take a look at a table that condenses all this information into a digestible, direct comparison.
Energy efficiency (using incandescent as a benchmark)
Replacing Existing Halogen Bulbs With LEDs: Voltage Is Key
One of the wonderful things about LED technology is that it’s kind of backwards compatible. In other words, it works with all your existing sockets, but that doesn’t mean you can switch your antiquated halogen bulbs out for LEDs willy-nilly. First, you have to consider voltage.
Some halogen bulbs are low voltage, while others are high, and you need to find LED bulbs with voltages that correspond with those of the halogen bulbs they’re replacing.
The High Voltage Switch
High voltage halogen lights will typically operate on 110 V. They can be switched for a standard 110 V LED light; however, if there’s a dimmer on the unit, it might be a problem.
Certain dimmers are designed to be used with incandescent or halogen bulbs exclusively, so you may have to replace your dimmer to get your new lights functioning properly.
The Low Voltage Switch
Low voltage halogen lights run on 12 V. They can be traded for 12 V LEDs, but, again, there may be an issue. This time, it’s the transformer that throws a monkey wrench in the works.
Transformers usually require a minimum load, and as LEDs are so efficient, they may not meet this requirement, leading to a stuttering light.
In this scenario, the transformer will need to be replaced with one that works well with the LED light.
Brightness & The Color Temperature Conundrum
One of the great things about halogen lights is their cozy color temperature, a feature you likely won’t want to forfeit during the LED transplantation.
LEDs can provide the same warm glow, but you’ll have to pick it out of a whole range of available color temperatures.
A good rule of thumb is to look for LEDs with a color temperature of 2700 Kelvin.
When it comes to brightness, there’s a small issue to address: halogen luminosity is measured in watts, while LED luminosity is measured in lumens. Not to worry, though, as there are numerous conversion charts accessible online.
As you can see, LED lighting is always going to be the better choice for a new light. It’s also going to be worth your while to replace any existing halogen bulbs you have around the place with LEDs, although you may have to switch out dimmers or transformers too.