• Seeing the light

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    For some time now, a recurring topic among friends has been about automotive lighting. What is better – HID or LED bulbs? Putting cost aside, I would hear friends reason out why they prefer a certain type of technology. I, personally am an old school kind of guy so I still use the old halogen type bulb in my cars. But I am tempted once in awhile to install either an HID or an LED system. One big benefit if you install either one is the load on the electrical system. Both HID and LED systems consume less electricity as compared to a halogen bulb. A traditional bulb uses a filament enclosed in a vacuum surrounded by glass. The challenge there is to find a filament that will convert electrical energy into light energy without burning itself out, but along with it you generate heat. A lot of the electrical energy is wasted on by way of the heat generated. In an HID (high intensity discharge) system, you bump up the voltage high enough and when it is discharged, the electricity jumps between two electrodes and the spark create a bright light. Something similar to Arc welding high voltage but with low amperage. Meanwhile, LED (light emitting diode) is a semiconductor specifically designed to emit light when current flows through it. This results to low power consumption and longer life expectancy. Ideal for use in applications requiring low power consumption, such as indicator lights in electronic items.

    A challenge for LED is how to increase illumination without burning itself out.

    Now as compared to regular halogen bulbs, both HID and LED systems can generate brighter illumination. So much brighter that it comes closer to the color of sunlight. Now, with that we usually see them packaged in a housing that is small, but beam of light coming out is focused. Narrow but it also illuminates the objects around it. From a driver’s perspective, it is easier on the eyes. Objects tend to be more visible at night. Road signs are more visible at night. Regular halogen bulbs tend to “white out” a subject when it is illuminated. Although when it rains, a too strong HID or LED system will have a tendency to white out also. The rain droplets will reflect the light back to you.

    Now for cars with old tech designed headlights, installing an HID or LED system may not rap the full benefits of the system. Yes, when you look at it, it looks bright. But the headlight may not be able to properly focus the beam. This is one reason why I am hesitant to install a set on my headlights. Take the box-type Pajero’s round headlights. Aimed properly and using 90/100 watt bulbs driving at night is a breeze. I then changed to a set of lenses made by Hella and things got better. Better light pattern. But when I tried a sample of HIDs, the illumination didn’t seem right. But when I tried a set of HID auxiliary projector lamps, the illumination was much better. I prefer the pattern by the auxiliary lamps. Now I am not saying not to install a set on your old set of headlights… no. This just my experience with the system. But I have seen some cars retrofitted with projector type headlights and I have to say the beam pattern is much better. The light doesn’t seem too scattered. Although I see some cars with strong headlights but the front tint is so dark. I wonder how the driver is able to see the round and his lights are always on high. Makes you wonder…

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