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An HID fixture and an HID replacement bulb
July 28, 2023 6 min read


LED and HID lamps are two of the many lighting technologies that are available today. Knowing the difference between HID and LED can help you make an educated decision on what’s best for your application and budget.

What is an HID?

An HID, or High Intensity Discharge, employs an electric arc to produce light. HID bulbs contain gases that are ignited by an electric current. This ignition initiates an arc of light between two tungsten electrodes, causing the gas molecules to ionize and emit photons. The released photons create the light you see. HID lamps also contain a ballast that controls the voltage and current necessary to maintain the arc.


HID fixture and HID bulbb HID fixture and HID bulbb
An HID fixture and a metal-halide HID bulb

Types of HID Lamps


This type of lamp creates an electric arc through vaporized mercury that produces a bluish-green light. An outer bulb envelope insulates the bulb and protects against ultraviolet radiation. Mercury-vapor lamps are the oldest type of HID lighting and are being phased out because of the increased efficiency and better color rendition of metal-halide lights.


Much like mercury-vapor lamps, metal halides have an electric arc that is created through vaporized mercury. However, metal halides (such as sodium, indium, and thallium) are added to increase efficiency and improve the light’s color-rendering index (CRI). An outer bulb envelope insulates the bulb and protects against ultraviolet radiation.

High-Pressure Sodium:

This type of HID lamp uses mercury vapors and sodium to ignite an electric arc, which produces a gold-colored light that is used mostly in parking garages.

Left to right: differences in output and color rendition of mercury-vapor, metal-halide, high-pressure sodium, and LED high-bay lights for use in typical HID applications

Important information about HID lights:

  • HID bulbs are used for many applications, including warehouses, parking garages, outdoor stadiums, and street lights.
  • They produce a substantial amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can be damaging to skin, eyes, and fabric.
  • Due to the large amount of energy that passes through it, a ballast is necessary to maintain the arc (which often wears out quickly).
  • HID bulbs and fixtures can last up to 20,000 hours but will often start to lose color and brightness long before that. To protect the ballasts, it is recommended that bulbs be replaced when they’ve reached 70 percent of their rated life span.
  • HIDs last at least three times longer and are three times brighter than halogen bulbs. However, their life spans are five times shorter than LED bulbs.
  • HID bulbs are fragile and contain mercury. They should be properly recycled, and bulb contents should be sealed if they are broken.
  • These lights can take anywhere from several seconds up to 10 minutes before they reach full brightness, and some need time to cool after being switched off before they can be turned on again.
Chart of energy consumed at same wattage for LEDs and HIDs Chart of energy consumed at same wattage for LEDs and HIDs

What is an LED?

LEDs, or Light Emitting Diodes, produce the longest-lasting, most energy-efficient lighting available today. A diode is a semiconductor device that allows current to flow in only one direction. When a voltage is applied to the diode, electrons and electron holes combine within the semiconductor material. This recombination process releases energy in the form of photons and produces visible light.

LED wall pack and LED corn bulb

Important information about LEDs:

  • Unless an LED light is specifically infrared (IR) or ultraviolet (UV), it produces little to no IR or UV radiation, which can be damaging to skin, eyes, and fabrics.
  • LED lights can last up to 100,000 hours.
  • The power consumption of LEDs is the lowest compared to all other lighting technologies.
  • LED lights contain no mercury, harmful gasses, or toxins.
  • Many LED bulbs are shatterproof and shock-resistant.
  • LED lights are the best value due to energy savings and longer life spans.
  • LEDs are available in many different colors and variations of white.
  • Because of their low power consumption, LED lights are great alternative lighting solutions for solar-powered and emergency backup systems.

Shop Super Bright LEDs for solutions to retrofit old HID fixtures with more efficient, higher-performing LED bulbs. To remove the hassle of bulb replacement, we also offers many fixtures with LEDs integrated into the fixture. Shop thousands of LED lighting solutions at now.

For technical questions, don’t hesitate to call us toll free at 866-590-3533. Our customer service and technical support teams are available from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT Monday-Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT on Friday.

Why Choose Super Bright LEDs?

When you shop Super Bright LEDs, you can feel confident in knowing you’re getting the highest-quality LED lights on the market. Our in-house test lab rigorously tests all of the products we carry. Additionally, we provide all of our customers with before and after sales support from our call center located at our headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. And we do all of this while still offering some of the best prices in the industry.

*Warranty is subject to change. Please see the product page for a product's warranty.

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