What’s the difference between HID and Halogen lights?

Halogen vs Xenon Bulbs
Just because the bulbs are shaped similarly, doesn’t mean they share many traits.

The original automobiles literally used lamps (glass housing with a candle burning inside) to light the way on the roads, similar to how people would light the way on horseback. And I’m sure you’ve heard of Thomas Edison, who invented the first long-lasting incandescent light bulb in 1879, what most vehicles use in their modern day headlamps are based off of his original designs. A standard light bulb has a filament, and it gets electricity applied to each side of the filament and when this happens the filament gets very hot and reaches a state of incandescence. This is why we call light bulbs with filaments, incandescent light bulbs. High-power incandescent light bulbs used in car headlights are filled with a gas called Halogen, and it reacts to the brightly glowing filament and creates a massive amount of light, up to 1,200 Lumen of light output. This is why we call standard automotive headlights “halogen bulbs”.

This is not to be confused with Xenon or HID bulbs – they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. An HID light bulb (stands for High Intensity Discharge) is filled with Xenon gas which reacts to the spark created inside the HID bulb. This xenon gas is ignited and creates a vast and powerful amount of light output that can be measured in thousands of Lumen, depending on the power consumption (normally 35w, 55w or 75w). Today, a vehicle that comes factory-equipped with xenon lighting uses a 35w lighting system.

A Xenon HID bulb does not have a filament, instead it has two electrodes that meet inside the xenon-glass filled bulb. A ballast is used to send up to 24,000 volts of AC electricity that creates a powerful spark and ignites the xenon gas mixture. This process is sustained and produces the exuberant amount of light output:

HID Bulb Explained
A true HID bulb uses a ballast to ignite the chemical mixture inside. It does not use a filament.
  • Xenon is 300 times brighter than halogen
  • Xenon can last 10 times longer than halogen
  • Xenon produces cleaner, whiter, brighter and safer light
  • A 35W Xenon bulb consumes less power than a 55W Halogen bulb
  • Halogen bulbs burn hotter than the same wattage Xenon bulbs

Upgrading your headlights from halogen bulbs to HID technology will make a huge difference in visibility at night by projecting a further beam of light and broadening your road coverage. You will see further, see more and be more visible to other drivers. The sooner you can see hazards on the road, the more time you have to react.

Halogen bulbs operate at 12V and use old lighting technology by heating a wire filament to emit light. Over a short period of time that wire filament becomes brittle, and small vibrations caused by everyday driving causes damage to the halogen filament affecting it’s light output and the bulb’s reliability.

xenon versus halogen
Difference between incandescent halogen light bulbs and HID xenon light bulbs.

8 thoughts on “What’s the difference between HID and Halogen lights?

  1. I have Honda Dio, n I have connected it’s headlight bulb and parking light bulb directly to battery i.e, there is no need to start the engine to light up the bulbs. Will it effect the scooty Battery life..??

    1. Any electrical components that are hooked up to the battery and turned on will drain your battery power, so you shouldn’t use the headlights for very long without the engine running because it will drain your battery energy. However, it’s OK to do it for a while. The best practice is to simply only use the headlight bulb when the vehicle is running.

  2. HI

    Just a quick question:

    You say the battery will be drained if the HID lights are switched on and the car is on…Does it drain the battery or pull power when the car is swtched off? ( The HID lights are also switched off)

    Look forward to your feedback.
    Thank you.

    1. This article says nothing about draining the battery. However, I can tell you this:
      The battery will NOT be drained with HID lights turned on and the engine running. The HID lights can only drain the battery when they are on and the engine is off. If the HID lights are off, and the engine is off, they will still not drain the battery.

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