The differences between halogen, xenon, led and laser headlights

You must’ve noticed by now that, when driving at night, not all headlights look the same. Some are yellowish, some are whitish, and some even shine blue. Moreover, some headlights shine brighter than others. The factors which create the differences between headlights are the age of a car, seeing it as modern cars usually have brighter headlights than their older equivalents, and, most importantly, the technology used to produce light bulbs and lenses. It is exactly different technologies, that is, the headlights which come as a result of their implementation, that are the subject of this article.

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1. Halogen Headlights

A halogen light bulb is made of a glass envelope resistant to high temperatures, a gas which is usually a combination of argon and nitrogen, and a tungsten filament. In order to produce light, a halogen light bulb receives electricity from the car’s battery, warming up to a temperature of 2,500 °C, which is when it starts to glow.

Halogen Headlights

The Pros of Halogen Headlights

Halogen headlights are currently the most popular option in the car industry, and the reasons being their simplicity and good price-quality relationship. A halogen light bulb has a lifetime of around 1.000 hours under normal conditions, and the expense required to replace it is lower compared to the one needed to replace other headlights' light bulbs.

Beside their simplicity and good price-quality relationship, halogen light bulbs are characterized by practical qualities, seeing it as they can be found in different sizes, which makes them convenient for most car models.

The Cons of Halogen Headlights

No matter how popular of a choice halogen headlights tend to be for drivers, more and more car companies use them as a second option. The reasons for this are the following…

The lifetime of a halogen light bulb is usually over once the tungsten evaporates from the filament, piling up on the glass envelope which, as a consequence of that, becomes unfunctional. An even bigger issue is that, while receiving and emitting light, a halogen bulb produces large amounts of heat, which leads to an increased consumption of electrical energy.

The sensitivity of halogen light bulbs presents an additional problem. For example, when replacing them, one is not recommended to touch the quartz glass envelope of the spare light bulb with their bare hands, seeing it as the grease from the fingers gets stuck to it, causing the light bulb to warm up unevenly and shortening its lifespan. Instead, for the purposes of replacing a halogen light bulb, use a clean cloth with which you will hold the glass envelope.

2. Xenon Headlights

The name comes from the fact that light bulbs for these types of headlights are filled with xenon (gas), thanks to which they produce typical-for-them whitish light. Seeing it as electricity is run through this gas, and given there is no filament to warm up and burn up, xenon light bulbs usually last longer than halogen ones.

Cars with xenon headlights have to be equipped with a washing mechanism (sprinkler). This is because occurrences, such as dirt or dust, can disperse the light emitted by xenon headlights, thus blinding other drivers on the road.

Xenon Headlights

The Pros of Xenon Headlights

In addition to the aforementioned fact that xenon headlights last longer than halogen ones (around 2.000 hours under normal conditions), the light they produce is also brighter, which is especially important when it comes to night driving, seeing it as it has a positive effect on your safety. To elaborate, if we take into consideration that, when driving at a speed of 110 to 115 kilometers per hour, you cover a distance of 32 meters per second, you start to realize that the increased visibility xenon headlights provide can mean the difference between hitting the brakes on time and having a car accident.

Not only do xenon headlights shine brighter, but the light they produce is more even compared to the one halogen headlights create, which limits the dispersion of light, thus giving you a “dimmed” view of the road. This can be extremely important if you happen to live in a place with a high frequency of pedestrians and cyclists who can come out in front of you at any given moment, which is why a clear road view can help you notice them on time.

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The Cons of Xenon Headlights

The biggest downside of xenon headlights is their complexity, seeing it as they require more sophisticated and, therefore, more expensive parts than halogen headlights. It further means that their replacement, if they get damaged, costs more.

A lesser concern for the owners of cars with xenon headlights is their washing system which mainly functions automatically and is activated the first time you use the windshield sprinklers or after every few times. This can have the consequence of too much water being splashed onto your windshield, which is something to bear in mind, especially if you are a proud owner of a convertible or if you are passing by pedestrians who are not in need of that kind of “refreshment”.

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It should also be pointed out that xenon headlights need a few seconds to reach full brightness.

3. LED Headlights

The principle on which LED headlights work is not easy to explain, but in a nutshell, the way they function is based on a constant flow of electrons through the semiconductor. LED light bulbs can come in different shapes and can emit light of different color temperatures, which is always expressed in kelvins. They are cold to the touch and don’t contain poisonous elements, such as lead, mercury or cadmium.

LED Headlights

The Pros of LED Headlights

LED headlights are becoming a more and more popular option for cars due to their technology which requires much less energy and works via diodes that emit light. Their light bulbs require lower power than standard halogen light bulbs in order to function, which has them spend as much as 10 times less electrical energy. This is also the reason certain hybrid cars (e.g. Toyota Prius), in which electricity plays a key role, use LED technology, not just for the headlights.

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The other reason LED headlights are taking over the competition is that, thanks to their small dimensions, they can be designed to be of any shape or size. Of course, this, besides making LED headlights compatible with different car models, provides designers with the possibility of being flexible and creative, which contributes to vehicles having a more attractive look.

LED headlights produce brighter light than halogen headlights, and warmer light than xenon headlights. Furthermore, they provide the possibility of automatic adjustment of light levels while driving, such as, for example, the light level for urban driving or the light level for highway driving, which reduces the possibility of blinding the drivers of cars moving in the opposite direction.

The Cons of LED Headlights

Although LED light bulbs don’t emit heat while on, unlike halogen light bulbs, they do produce a certain amount of heat at the bottom of the emitter, when electricity is passing through, which puts adjacent assemblies and cables at risk.

This is also the reason LED headlights require the presence of a cooling system. Unfortunately, the cooling systems are located in the engine bay, which makes maintaining the proper temperature more difficult, and which further makes the implementation of LED headlights in cars more difficult and expensive.

4. Laser Headlights

Laser headlights are a result of a technology in development and they function by using, as the name itself implies, lasers to light up the road. As BMW has explained, its laser system will work via 3 blue lasers positioned at the back side of the headlight assembly, which are directed toward a set of small mirrors that focus their energy on a small lens containing phosphorous gas.

Once in contact with laser beams, this substance creates white light which is directed toward the front side of the headlight assembly. Given the aforementioned information, laser headlights are actually a result of a technology based on creating light via phosphor rather than laser.

Laser Headlights

The Pros of Laser Headlights

A laser headlight can produce light up to 1,000 times stronger than the light produced by LED technology, while only using 2/3 of its power. This is why laser headlights can light up a distance twice as long as the one LED headlights can light up.

Owing to the aforementioned phosphorous gas, the color temperature of a laser headlight is very close to the color temperature of natural daylight. The dimensions of laser headlights are small enough to allow for flexibility during the design process.

The Cons of Laser Headlights

Beside the fact that BMW has pointed out that the technology of laser headlights will be, at least in the initial phase, implemented only on high beams, it will also come at a high price, which does not have to be a problem for drivers who are able to afford cars, such as BMW or Audi.

Laser headlights require cooling, seeing it as they create more heat than their LED equivalents.

Conclusion

As is the case with most things when it comes to the car industry, the selection of headlights for your precious 4-wheeler will depend on numerous factors, such as the car model you drive, your personal preferences and, of course, the budget you have at your disposal.

Note

Prior to deciding upon installing any of the aforementioned types of headlights, make sure you find out everything you need to know about the current laws regarding it, that is, explore the possibility of acquiring attestation for it.

We hope that you’ve found this article useful. For any questions, unknowns, and suggestions you may have, please, feel free to contact us.

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