To be safe behind the wheel, a driver must be alert, always looking around. While this is usually a fairly simple matter when driving during the day, complications tend to arise after dark.
Poor visibility often casts doubt on making critical decisions from the driver’s seat, creating a number of dangers. Fortunately, many of these difficulties can be solved through the use of improved headlights, which are now widely available to all consumers.
These types of headlights are designed to shed much more light on your path than standard halogen bulbs produce. The most relevant options include HID, LED, and laser headlights.
In many cases, drivers have some difficulty distinguishing between these individual headlight configurations. This often leads to confusion, especially when it comes to deciding which specialty headlight offers the best value in a given situation.
The following guide will help you determine the best headlamp for your specific needs. Read on to learn more about the unique features of HID, LED, and laser headlights.
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What are HID headlights?
HID means High-intensity discharge. When used in an automobile headlight bulb, this technology illuminates the road in ways unimaginable with standard halogen bulbs.
HID headlights provide for the use of a traditional filament thread. Instead, bulbs in this configuration are based on the use of xenon gas as a lighting source.
Xenon, in high-pressure form, is excited by the electrical input of the high-voltage electrodes of an HID headlight. When excited, this xenon input superheats into a plasma state, displaying an intense blue or white glow.
Most HID headlights are used in conjunction with projector beam assemblies, which are intended to focus and direct the bulb’s beam. This maximizes the effectiveness of HID headlights and reduces the risk of unintentional collisions with other drivers.
HID headlights have been around for a while, first appearing on the 1991 BMW 7 Series. In the 30 years since their introduction, HID headlights have been known for their long lifespan, averaging over 30,000 hours on most applications.
Overall, HID headlights are a viable alternative to using standard bulbs. In most cases, properly installed HID headlights produce 2 to 3 times more energy than halogen bulbs and consume less from the vehicle’s charging system.
HID headlights can also be purchased at a reasonable price compared to other types of replacement bulbs.
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What are LED headlights?
LED means light-emitting diode. Although LED technology has been used in various technical roles for decades, this type of lighting has recently gained popularity in the automotive industry.
LED headlights do not use pressurized gas in their design, just like halogen and HID headlights. On the other hand, LED headlights emit light through semiconductors, or diodes.
When activated, the diode in an LED bulb converts its electrical charge into light energy. This light naturally turns a bright white color. In general, the light emitted by an LED bulb is brighter and of much higher intensity than the light emitted by most standard halogen bulbs.
However, LED headlights are also available in several individual colors. These changing colors are created using colored lenses, which are applied to individual bulb diodes. The legality of non-standard-colored LED headlights generally differs by state.
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One of the most significant advantages of using LED headlights is related to the relative efficiency of the bulbs. By design, LED headlights use a very limited amount of energy in operation, especially compared to that required by standard halogen headlights. This greatly reduces the load placed on a vehicle’s charging system.
Overall, LED headlights are very useful for most drivers looking for greater visibility at night. The lights in this design also look great in use, emitting a bright, crisp beam of light.
However, LED headlights tend to be much more expensive than halogen and HID bulbs.
What are laser headlights?
The advent of laser headlights is a new development in automotive design, compared to the advent of HID and LED headlights. BMW first introduced this technology in 2011 when it unveiled its i8 Hybrid Concept.
Although headlights of this design have working lasers, they do not project light as most drivers assume.
Contrary to popular belief, laser headlights do not actually project laser beams onto the road. Instead, the lasers used in the lights in this setup are reflected by a lens filled with yellow phosphor. This phosphor reacts to what the set’s laser provides, emitting ultra-bright light.
The light produced by this reaction is then projected by a specialized reflector, through the outermost lens of the headlight assembly. As a result, no laser beam is ever projected directly in a direction that could cause damage.
Most laser headlight assemblies even include safety features that disable operation if disturbed during dimming.
Some manufacturers, including BMW and Audi, claim that the lasers in these headlights are 1,000 times brighter than average LED bulbs.
As a result, laser headlights project much more authority than any other type of light currently available on the market. This can be very useful when navigating winding roads or other treacherous paths under the cover of darkness.
Currently, laser headlight assemblies cost significantly more than typical HID and LED bulbs. Although these prices should be a little higher than the latter, due to the complexity of laser assembly, it is quite reasonable to expect the cost of these units to drop a bit in the future.
- HIDDEN – Moderately bright, offers excellent visibility. In most cases, lamps of this type project 2 to 3 times more power than standard halogen bulbs.
- Lights – Very bright and slightly brighter than HID bulbs. Headlights of this type also provide clear light.
- Laser – Much brighter than HID and LED alternatives. Headlights of this type typically turn off at distances greater than 1/4 mile.
- HIDDEN – Durable enough in most situations. Many HID headlight manufacturers specify that their products have an average lifespan of 2,000 to 3,000 hours.
- Lights – Very durable with a claimed lifespan of up to 10,000 to 50,000 hours. Therefore, headlights of this configuration can be expected to last a period of 5 to 10 years under normal circumstances.
- Laser – Very resistant. Most laser headlights are rated for more than 50,000 hours of operation, although the true longevity of these headlights should become clearer in the coming years.
- HIDDEN – Color can vary greatly, from yellow to blue/purple. The difference between the color of one particular bulb and another lies in the exact temperature to which the xenon gas inside a bulb is heated.
- Lights – A bright and clear light is emitted. However, there are some special colored LED bulbs available that use custom lenses.
- Laser – The vast majority of the light emits a light similar to the color that the sun emits. However, it is reasonable to assume that different versions of laser-type lamps will be available in the near future.
- HIDDEN – Very similar size to standard halogen headlights. Although not as compact as LED bulbs, these types of bulbs can be expected to provide adequate adjustment when carefully selected for an application.
- Lights – Slightly smaller than standard halogen bulbs. This is because LED bulbs do not require a high-pressure gas supply to operate.
- Laser – In most cases, it comes as a unified set because no generic bulbs are used. However, the lasers used in these lights are extremely compact.
- HIDDEN – Generally more affordable than LED lights and lasers. Bulbs of this type cost an average of $30 to $100 per set.
- Lights – They tend to cost more than their HID cousins but are much cheaper than laser models. These types of bulbs cost an average of $50 to $100 retail.
- Laser – Really expensive. Laser headlights typically cost over $250 per set and can even reach prices of over $500 depending on the exact make and model of the vehicle.
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Which headlight technology is best?
Choosing the perfect type of headlight for a particular application is largely a matter of opinion. However, there are some situations where one type of headlight has a clear advantage over its competitors.
If you find yourself searching for the brightest light for money, it’s pretty hard to argue against the value of HID bulbs. In fact, many new vehicles now come standard with HID headlights for this very reason, including some models offered by Toyota, Lexus, Ford, and Audi.
On the other hand, many owners of high-performance or sports vehicles prefer LED headlights. This is often due to the sharp, striking appearance of the light emitted by LED bulbs, which often take on a crisp white color.
For the driver who is only interested in the latest technology and has a little extra money in his pocket, there is no lighting system more effective than those of the laser variety.
Laser headlights can project over a distance of more than 1/4 mile, improving a driver’s ability to identify and avoid hazards.