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LED vs HID Lighting Comparison

HIDs & LEDs Compared



Energy Efficiency 100+ Lumens/Watt (note: This is advertised lumens per watt, which isn’t always what it seems. Explanation below). 100+ Lumens/Watt
Durability Fragile – has moving parts, glass bulbs, and filaments Heavy-duty – has no electrode or filament, shock & vibration resistant
Lifetime 15,000 to 25,000 hours 100,000 hours
Lumen Depreciation Moderately high Low
Cold Tolerant – 40 F -30 F (instant on)
Performance Requires 5-10 minute warm-up time, creates light in all directions Turns on instantly, no flickering, creates focused light
Color Temperatures Few Options (3000 to 5000 Kelvin) Multiple Options (2700 to 6500 Kelvin)
Color Rendering  5 to 93 CRI Average 80 to 85 CRI
Dimmable? No Most
Warranty Usually 1 to 2 years Usually 5 years
Cost Lower upfront cost, but requires regular relamping and ballast replacement High upfront cost but virtually no maintenance expenses


As noted in the energy efficiency section of the chart, you can’t always take a lamp’s advertised lumens per watt (Lm/W) at face value. This is because there is no standardization in the labeling process, so some manufacturers may print the mean Lm/W while others list the initial Lm/W. The problem with making a purchasing decision based on the initial rating is that number can diminish over time, and other factors can also reduce a lamp’s efficiency.

For instance, while most HIDs appear extremely efficient, not all their lumens actually make it outside the lamp, as some of the light is trapped inside or reflected back from the protective covers. Efficiency also decreases in cold weather or when using ineffective ballasts. Furthermore, after 8,000 hours of use, most HID lamps will lose about 20% of their lumens per watt while LEDs will still be operating at nearly 100%.

The bottom line is, while HIDs may advertise 100+ Lm/W, most are lucky to get 60 Lm/W.


In this matchup, LEDs come out the winner in four major areas: efficiency, lifespan, durability, and low maintenance. However, there are still some instances where an HID is still a smart choice. For example, HIDs make sense for temporary low cost lighting, if you want to match existing ballasts and fixtures that are still in good shape, or if strong multidirectional light is your primary goal.

On the other hand, LEDs can save you money over the long-term, require no warm-up (can be turned on and off regularly), have no toxic chemicals, and don’t emit UV radiation (like some HIDs). Although, LEDs don’t have quite the multidirectional illumination as HIDs, their technology is advancing all the time and their many other benefits often make them worth the compromise.