What Are HID Lights?

HID lights (High Intensity Discharge lights) are a type of lighting that uses an electrical charge to ignite a gas, typically xenon, in a sealed capsule. HID lights, sometimes called xenon lights, create an intense bluish white light and produces more light with much less energy than a standard bulb.

The quality of light produced by HIDs is quite close to natural sunlight, which makes them highly sought after for automotive fixtures.

How Does It Work?

Basically, HID emanates light based on the gas discharge principle. An electric arc discharge happens between two electrodes that are sealed inside an airtight quartz tube. The inert gases (e.g., xenon) enables the arc’s initial strike, and once it starts, it evaporates metal salts that are contained inside the tube. Passing a current through the metal vapor then produces light.

This heated plasma state is responsible for the intense visible light that HIDs produce, as metals have many visible spectral lines. HID lights require a ballast to regulate the voltage supplied to the tube.

Applications

Because they are able to emit intense visible light with a larger radius, HID lights are often used in streetlights, roadways or large public areas, gymnasiums, stadiums and other outdoor activity areas, warehouses, and high-ceilinged interiors.

HID lamps, meanwhile, are used in residential and retail spaces because of the bulbs’ longevity and power efficiency. Ultra-high performance (UHP) HID lamps are also seen in projection displays and TVs.

HID lights are also quite popularly used in automotive headlights because of the great amount of light per unit power.

Advantages of HID Lights

HID lights have one big advantage over other artificial sources of light: they offer more visible light for every unit of electric power consumed. Since electric power only serves as a catalyst for the discharging gas instead of burning filament, HID’s electricity requirement is considerably less. In fact, HID lights use 25-30% less energy than halogen bulbs.

Aside from producing better light quality, HID lights also last longer than other standard light sources like incandescent or halogen bulbs, because there is no filament to burn out.

The advantage in light quality and longevity are the reasons why HID lights are preferred by automakers. Not only are they durable and bright, HID lights can save more money in the long run due to efficient energy consumption.  

And let’s not forget that HID lights look far more attractive than your typical halogen headlights. The quality of light emitted adds to a car’s classy, sophisticated look. It’s no wonder that these headlights are preferred by the manufacturers of many luxury vehicles. They are highly functional and aesthetically appealing at the same time.

Disadvantages of HID Lights

While there are a lot of benefits to using HID lights, of course, there are also a few drawbacks. One is that HID lights tend to be more expensive than halogen bulbs. For instance, if you choose to get HID headlights for your automobile, they will be costly to install, and any damage to them will have a bigger effect on your insurance premiums.

Another disadvantage is that the intense brightness and glare from HID headlights can cause a problem for drivers in front of you. This issue has even prompted a 2001 report by USA Today that detailed how federal safety regulators looked into possible safety hazards caused by HID lights on cars.

According to the report, studies showed that while many drivers were irritated by the brightness, there was no evidence that HID glare could cause traffic accidents. But a bigger issue, aside from the nuisance that HID lights may cause other drivers, is how these lights perform in foggy conditions. Since blue light tends to be scattered by water droplets, there are reports saying it’s harder to see when there’s mist outside.

In addition, some drivers find it hard to get used to how HID headlights sharply cut off rather than fade out gradually when turned off.

HID lights are a cost-effective artificial light source that can be used for many different purposes. Although using them may come with a few issues, the advantages of efficient energy consumption, longevity, and illumination make HID lights your brightest option yet.