Differences between HID and LED Lighting

There are several differences between HID and LED lighting. The light output from the two is different in terms of quality, distribution, brightness and color temperature. In addition, the two differ in design, how they produce light, cost, and lifespan. The HID (high-intensity discharge) is an older technology that is currently in use in many applications. However, the LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology is evolving and slowly replacing the HIDs for a variety of reasons.

Performance differences between HID and LED lighting are evident due to their construction, materials they use and how each of them produces the light.

Construction and operation of the HID and LED lamps

There are several differences between the HID and LED lighting construction. The HID produces its light through radiation resulting from an electric current that passes through a metal vapor. On the other hand, an LED produces light when current passes through a photodiode.

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps

The HID uses a capsule of gas instead of a filament such as that used in a standard bulb. The lamp produces light when a high current passes through a metal vapor between two electrodes. And current between the two electrodes causes an arc discharge which in turn produces the light.

Collisions occur between free electrons and the atoms in the metal vapor. This knocks off electrons from the atoms and causes them to go into higher energy orbits. As the displaced electrons return to their original energy levels, they radiate energy whose wavelength depends on their disturbed energy level and type of metal vapor.

The HID light color temperature closely resembles that of natural daylight. However, it takes between 15 and 20 seconds for the HID lamp to reach its full light output potential. In addition, if there is a power outage or lamp is turned off, it requires between 5 and 10 seconds for the arc to cool down, meaning that the bulb cannot be re-lit instantly.

HIDs are prone to failures and therefore require frequent replacements, unlike the LEDs which are long-lasting and less costly over time.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps

LEDs are solid state components that rely on special photo diodes to produce the light. When an electric current passes through the diode, it emits energy in the form of light and a small amount of heat. The photodiodes in the lamps require only a small amount of electricity to produce the light, hence, low energy consumption. However, there must be a provision to remove the heat generated to prevent damage to the diodes and other electronic components in the bulb.

The LEDs are available in very small sizes, which allow manufacturers to design and build lights in a wide range of custom shapes. Another advantage is the ability to produce a directional light, which makes them ideal for applications such as car headlights and downlights.

Comparing the LED and HID lights

light emitting diodeBelow are some differences between LED and HID lighting.

Light output

The HIDs produce about seven colors and are generally brighter than the LEDs which has only four colors. However, the LEDs have an instant ON unlike the HIDs which requires a few seconds to reach its full luminance level. In addition, they have less lumen depreciation, unlike the HID lamps.


The LED bulb is more durable than the HID because it doesn’t have any moving parts or a filament. There are several moving parts in the HID that makes it have an average durability. In addition, the LED is more shock proof and doesn’t get damaged by vibrations.

LED lamps are more durable with an average lifespan of about 25000 hours compared to 5000 hours for the HIDs.

Installation Time

It is much easier to install the LED, this takes about 30 minutes compared to the HID which requires almost an hour.

Power consumption and efficiency and durability

Due to the construction of the LEDs, they have a higher energy efficiency and better energy savings than the HIDs. The diodes draw small amounts of current from the supply while dissipating less heat.

LED and HID Lamp cooling

There are also several differences in HID and LED lighting cooling requirements. The LEDs have less cooling demands than the un-ventilated HID lamps. In addition, the LEDs have very little, if any, potential to cause fires in applications such as grow tents.  

HID and LED lights applications

The two light sources have several benefits over the older, standard lamps. However, there are several differences between HID and LED lighting that often influence the choice of what to use for a certain application.

HID lamps are best suited for applications that require more visible light per watt. This includes large retail warehouses, stadiums, gymnasiums and as grow lights. Other applications include the car headlights.

LEDs are best for flashlights, night lights, indicators, signs under-cabinet fixtures and for downlight or recessed light applications which do not require a constant color temperature.

As we can see, the nature of illumination arising from the differences between HID and LED lighting is important when choosing the ideal lamp type.

Headlamps for vehicles

Other than lighting the residential and commercial spaces the two types of bulbs have other uses in the automotive industry. Although common in the high-end and luxury vehicles, the owners of the standard cars can also upgrade to the LED headlamps or Xenon HIDs.

Each of the bulbs can produce a strong and efficient light. But since the two are designed and built differently, they require different installation procedures and circuits. In addition, they have different power requirements, with the HID consuming more battery power compared to the LED.

Why you need to consider the differences between HID and LED lighting

The differences between HID and LED lighting arises due to their design, manufacturing process and circuits. By being solid state, the LEDs can withstand several vibrations without deteriorating like the HID which requires regular replacements.

In addition, it has a smaller size, low energy consumption, and longer lifespan. However, the manufacturing of the solid state lighting is more involving, hence making the LED lamps more costly than the HIDs.

The HID lights are usually brighter but more fragile than the LEDs. Since the HID lamps have side-emitting capabilities, it is much easier to focus their light compared to the LEDs. HIDs are best suited for applications that require great intensity and focus light such as car headlights.

The HIDs may be problematic over time, once they start going bad, they will burn at higher or lower temperatures than the design one and hence affect the quality of their light output before eventually burning out. The LEDs do not have these problems and make a better short-term or long term choice.

Generally, the HID lamps produce warm white/yellow or cool white/blue light and may not work well in applications where visual quality is important. Additionally, since the HID lamps require a warm up or cooling time before turning them on again, they are not suitable for applications that require instant light or frequent turning on and off of the lamps.


Due to the differences between HID and LED lighting, the choice of what to use depends on the application requirements. The two differ in design, light output, energy efficiency, and cost. The high intensity of light from the HID makes them suitable for applications such as floodlights, warehouse lighting and other places that require more light per watt.

On the other hand, the small size, energy efficiency, instant on, and ability to withstand vibrations makes the LEDs suitable for a number of applications in general, residential, commercial, and harsh environments. Although they are more expensive than HID lamps, the LEDs have a longer lifespan, which makes them more cost effective over the long term.