They may be a pretty recent technological breakthrough, but nowadays, most people have heard of LED lights. Many people associate them with robots and other futuristic technology, but the truth is that LED lights are being used in more and more places every day.
They’re being used to light our homes and offices, and they’re also being used in our cars. While it’s true that LEDs are usually seen in the luxury car brands, the trend of cars coming equipped with LED headlights straight from the factory is spreading.
And there is good reason LED lights for cars are becoming more popular. LED lights boast a ton of advantages over other types of car headlights. But like everything in life, they may have a few drawbacks too.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- Why headlights are so important (it may not be as obvious as you think).
- The three types of car headlights.
- What exactly is an LED?
- The pros and cons of LEDs.
- Some things you should consider before making the change.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about the pros and cons of LED lights.
Why Are Headlights so Important
It may seem obvious why your headlights are crucial to your driving experience, they light things up at night.
But the truth is that most people don’t understand just how important the minor details of a headlight can be.
And with 40% of traffic taking place in the dark, it’s really important to get the best headlights for your car.
So what are the different factors that make up the details of a headlight?
Well, one of the most obvious is brightness. We’ll cover brightness and which bulbs are the brightest below, but for now, know that brightness isn’t the only factor at play.
Another extremely important factor is the color of the light. Sometimes this is referred to as the temperature of the light. Cooler colors are more blue, while warmer colors are more yellow-red.
For comparison, cool colors can often seem artificial and flat or shallow, while warm colors are more vibrant. A lit match, as an example, produces a very warm color, whereas an LCD screen produces a very cool color.
Another very important factor is headlight throw. This is the distance light will travel from the headlight. In some of the luxury cars, the throw is automated and affected by factors such as how fast you’re driving. So, when you’re driving faster, the headlights shine farther.
Most headlights, however, have a fixed throw.
These are just some of the many different factors at play in headlights. As you see, there’s more going on than just how bright a light is.
Read on to learn about the three types of headlights and the benefits and drawbacks of each one.
The Three Types of Car Headlights
There are three types of headlights currently being used in cars headlights. The oldest and most common is the simple halogen light. A halogen works the same as the incandescent bulbs lighting up most people’s homes.
Halogens are the tried and true classic for a reason. They’re readily available, easy to add into car design, and very affordable. However, just like any old standby, they come with some drawbacks. This is why other types of light bulbs were developed in the first place.
For example, an HID or High-Intensity Discharge bulb. These have some of the benefits of LEDs but aren’t nearly as popular. This is in part due to their artificial and unattractive light, among other reasons.
The third type, as you can probably guess, is an LED headlight. Of course, these have tons of benefits and just a few minor drawbacks.
We’ll cover some of the details of these below (as well as get into the pros and cons of LEDs specifically).
As mentioned, halogens are the oldest and most common type of headlight used in cars. They work similar to incandescents.
Basically, an electric charge is sent through a metal filament, causing a reaction of heat and light. In a halogen bulb, the highly-reactive gas halogen causes the light to burn much brighter than it would in normal air.
The biggest advantage to halogen headlights is that they’re cheap. The downside is that they have to be replaced often, with a sing bulb having a maximum lifespan of only 1,000 hours.
There are some other drawbacks to halogens, such as their inefficiency, their relative dimness, and their lack of durability.
HID headlights are a completely different design than halogen. Instead of a filament, HID’s run an electrical charge directly through xenon gas.
This produces an extremely bright light with more energy efficiency than halogens. However, HID’s have some serious drawbacks.
First, due to their bright, white light, they can impair the vision of other drivers on the road, thus decreasing light and road safety. They have also been reported to place objects outside the beam of light into deep shadow, making certain things hard to see. A pedestrian crossing an unlit parking lot, for example.
In other cases, such as fog, their blue-white light can cause reflections decreasing visibility for the driver.
LEDs will be covered in detail below, but there are a few things worth noting up front.
LEDs are commonly reported to being an extremely efficient and effective light, in that they’re long-lasting and provide a broad range of options depending on the type of light you need.
However, they are more expensive than traditional halogen bulbs. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons.
What Exactly is an LED Light?
Before we get into the details about the pros and cons, you may want to know a bit more about LEDs. If you’re already an expert, scroll to the next section.
LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode. According to Wikipedia, “A diode is a two-terminal electronic component that conducts current primarily in one direction”. Confusing? It’s ok, we’ll break it down.
Put simply, a diode is a device that allows an electrical current to flow in one direction. It just so happens that in certain types of diodes made with certain types of materials, photons (or light particles) appear.
It’s interesting to note that LEDs work in the same way as regular halogen and incandescent bulbs. But in this case, instead of a metal filament, electrical current is being run through a diode which is emitting light. However, an LED isn’t a single diode like a light bulb is a single bulb, rather, an LED is a series of arranged diodes.
Pros of LED Headlights for Cars
The truth is that there are a ton of benefits of having LED headlights. This is made evident by the growing trend of manufacturers switching to producing luxury cars equipped with LEDs.
Generally, in the auto industry, trends start in the luxury space before moving to lower-end brands, so it’s a good guess that soon, more low-end cars will be produced with LEDs.
In fact, some think that in the future LEDs will be the norm. With the ever-increasing demand for energy efficient technology, LEDs will continue to gain value as a light source.
When it comes to LEDs, here are some of the pros:
- Lifespan: Good quality LED products can have a lifespan 20,000 hours. That’s 20 times longer than a halogen bulb. According to newsroom.com, the average American spends 17,600 minutes behind the wheel each year. That means it would take the average American over 65 years to burn through a good LED headlight. In other words, you buy it for life.
- Efficiency: Halogen light bulbs don’t just produce light, they produce a lot of heat too. This isn’t generally a problem, but it does cause wasted electricity. In other words, instead of all the electricity going towards producing light, some of it is burned off as a byproduct. LEDs, on the other hand, produce very little heat. This means they’ll use less electricity and put less drain on your battery. 260 percent less drain to be exact.
- Brightness: Though not generally as bright as HID lights, LEDs are 275 percent brighter than halogens. In fact, most people think LEDs provide better color and visibility than halogens or HID’s.
- Design: For some people, a headlight should be all about the practicality. For others, unique and attractive designs could be the deciding factor. Because the way LEDs can be arranged, car makers are designing LED headlights with interesting designs. Because of their bulb design, halogens and HIDs, on the other hand, are limited in their artistic range.
- Customizable: But more than just looking cool, LEDs flexibility adds another dimension. The ability to change both the look and function of the lights means you can customize them depending on your need. Of course, to do that you’re going to have to do some after-market adjustments, so for the average consumer, this may not be a big deal.
- Durability: Though not usually a game changer for car headlights, it is worth noticing that LEDs are more rugged and durable than halogen or HID headlights. Generally, durability isn’t a huge deal for car headlights, but it’s something to consider.
But like with all products, there are some potential downsides to using LED headlights. Most of these can be mitigated or are outweighed by the overwhelming benefits of LED headlights. However, it’s important to know both the pros and cons before making any decisions.
Read on to learn more.
Cons of LED Headlights for Cars
As you probably realized, LEDs are a great, energy-saving option for car headlights. So you may be wondering, why wouldn’t I use LEDs?
Before asking yourself that, you may want to consider:
- Price: Because of the newness of the technology and the relative complexity of the design, LEDs cost more than their halogen counterparts. However, due to the increase in popularity, LED headlights are becoming cheaper every year. Plus, because of their increased lifespan, LED’s can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
- Extra component: Though LEDs don’t emit heat, they do produce a small amount of heat at the emitter where electricity passes through. This means they require an extra cooling component to protect the other parts and assemblies. This is one of the reasons for the added costs of LEDs.
- Variance in quality: It’s worth noting, that due to the number of manufacturers currently making LED headlights, there can be a large variance in quality. This can affect everything from efficiency and lifespan to the overall brightness and ability to light up an area. It’s important to remember to use a trusted brand like LED Equipped.
- Difficult for car manufacturers to design: Ok, so this one doesn’t really affect the end user, but it’s interesting to note. Plus, it’s another reason why LEDs have been slow to take over before now. The fact is that LEDs have some restriction in design. This is because of the added cooling component we already mentioned. Basically, because of this component, LEDs can’t be housed in areas with a lot of heat, so car manufacturers have to be a bit more creative when using them.
Considerations Before Making the Switch
So you’re probably ready to make the decision and go ahead and purchase some LEDs from LED Equipped. Before you do, you should know that states regulate aftermarket headlights, so you should definitely check the rules of your state so you can stay in the clear.
In addition, you should know that LED Equipped offers a variety of options for LED lights. For example, our LED grille lights and surface mounted lights are great additions to add to your car to get some LED power without having to replace your headlights.
Here at LED Equipped, we know that LEDs are the future and for good reason. They’re a great technology, they’re efficient, and in the long run, they’ll save you a ton of time and money.