Halogen light bulbs are similar to incandescent light bulbs, in terms of the way they work, but they also have a couple of things in common with CFL and LED bulbs. Though they aren’t just as energy efficient in the latter category, they do come with their perks. They last longer and are better than incandescents.
How do halogen lights work? What are they, precisely? What types are there on the market and how should you go about picking the best ones for your car?
We answer all those questions and plenty more, right below.
Image source: Bright Hub Engineering
What Are Halogen Light Bulbs?
A halogen light bulb can also be referred to as a tungsten halogen, quartz-iodine, or quartz-halogen light. In a nutshell, it’s the evolved cousin of the conventional incandescent light because it’s based on the same types of physical reactions, with a bit of a halogen added to the mix.
The definition of a halogen light bulb:
A halogen light bulb is an incandescent lamp with a ductile tungsten filament inside a glass bulb. The difference between halogen bulbs and regular bulbs is the higher pressure (7-8ATM) of the gas inside the bulb. In turn, the glass is stronger, to withstand the pressure.
How halogen light bulbs work:
As we’ve just explained, they work exactly like typical incandescents, but with one key differentiating factor—the halogen cycle.
In regular incandescents, the filament burns out and evaporates the tungsten in the process. The lamp’s glass bulb grows darker, thus inadvertently dimming the light. Since the filament is also thinning, the lamp’s lifespan is reduced.
In halogen lamps, the halogen gas (usually iodine or bromine) doesn’t allow the tungsten vapors to settle onto the glass. Instead, some of the tungsten are brought back onto the filament, which makes it last longer. The higher pressure and temperatures required by these reactions mean halogen bulbs need to be made of more powerful glass, high in silica content, made of aluminosilicate, or of fused quartz.
Image source: Osram
How to Dispose of Halogen Light Bulbs
So far, it seems like halogen bulbs have quite a lot going for them, in terms of lifespan: they can last up to 3 times as much as regular incandescents, they give off more light and need next to no time to heat up and produce light.
However, much like their less efficient cousins, halogen lightbulbs cannot be recycled. That’s essentially because of the halogen gas inside these bulbs, which is dangerous to both humans and the environment. Also, they contain small pieces of wire, which can clog and even damage recycling equipment.
Unlike LEDs and CFLs, which can be picked up by Home Depot, the local authorities, or other retailers and manufacturers, the only way to safely dispose of a halogen bulb is on your own.
Here are the steps you should follow, in order to safely get rid of a halogen bulb:
- Make sure the light bulb has cooled off. This is perhaps more important with halogen bulbs than with any other type of light fixture. They tend to burn very hotly, to temperatures high enough they can be used as heaters and in ovens.
- Consider wearing gloves when removing a halogen bulb. Not only can they cause burns on human skin, but they can also react with the oils that skin naturally contains. This can trigger an explosion of the light bulb. An exploding halogen bulb will release the harmful gas inside it.
- Make sure not to drop the bulb. This one is self-explanatory. You don’t want shards of glass on your floor and/or carpeting, nor do you want to inhale toxic halogen vapors.
- Clean up thoroughly, if the bulb does break. Evacuate the premises, air it properly, put on a mask and gloves, and sweep up the shards, with a broom or cardboard. Remove smaller bits of glass with adhesive tape. Do not vacuum, unless pieces of glass remain in the area.
- Throw out the bulb. Make sure not to dispose of it in one of your recycling piles, as these fixtures cannot be recycled. Bag them—and consider double-bagging them, for utmost safety. If you decide to take them to the local landfill, make sure they’re safely contained, to avoid soil contamination.
Halogen Light Bulb Types
For years, halogen light bulbs have been successfully used in the performance arts (stage, TV, and film) as work lights. They were perfect for this because of their compact design, small size, and comparatively high output in lumens. In the meantime, they’ve gotten to the point where LEDs, mini HIDs, and CFLs are replacing them.
Image source: YouTube
There are essentially two main categories of halogen bulbs: single-ended and double-ended. Most such bulbs used for commercial or residential lighting nowadays are double-ended, because of their higher wattage.
Aside from being used as work, film, and stage lights, halogen lamps are very well suited for motion detection sensor activation (e.g.: as security lights), since they turn on instantly. Practical as that may be, frequent on/off switching actually decreases the lifespan of any type of light bulb.
From the mid-1990s onward, halogen lights have also been increasingly used as mood lights. They’re used by photographers, for portrait and product work, but also in residential settings, to highlight a decorative item or simply set a soft, mellow mood. They can also be fully dimmed, unlike CFLs, and using them dimmed actually prolongs their life and saves energy.
Though high-efficiency 30lm/W+ halogens have enjoyed significant popularity, experts expect their sales to decline in the coming years. LEDs, daylight CFLs and HMIs are replacing energy-guzzling halogen lamps, which consume 125-750W and more. This means one can only plug in so many halogens into a 15Amp circuit (the standard).
That being said, halogen bulbs are still the go-to choice for certain specific uses, outlined below.
How to choose halogen light bulbs for cars
Halogen light bulbs have been losing ground to xenon, laser, and LED lights since circa 2014. However, they maintain their popularity. That year, British car mag Auto Express took several contenders to the Osram light tunnel in Herbrechtingen, Germany, and tested them all. While the newer designs fared well, halogen bulbs held their own.
Why do halogen headlights continue to be popular? It’s simple: they’re cheap and last for an average of 1,000 hours. They don’t cost much to replace, compared to HID, LED, or laser lights (about $30 for a good pair).
To boot, halogen lamps come in a lot of different sizes, which means you can use them on just about any type of car. They don’t emit the often damaging amounts of light that LEDs do, so you don’t risk blinding the other drivers. All in all, and they’re very cost-efficient.
Image source: DIY Trade
On the downside, since they heat up so badly, they end up wasting a lot of energy. To boot, as explained below, replacing them takes a lot of extra special care since you’re not allowed to touch the glass. Skin oil can stick to the quartz, causing it to heat up unevenly and ultimately ruin the bulb. You can clean a bulb you’ve touched with an alcohol-based product and a clean piece of cloth.
How to replace a halogen flood light bulb
Sounds simple enough, right? There are actually countless jokes about how changing a light bulb is the easiest task in the world. Well, be that as it may, if you’re not entirely comfortable on a ladder, changing a flood light might prove complicated for you. Here are a couple of simple tips to bear in mind:
- Check the ladder.
- If you’re using an extension ladder, make sure all the rungs are sitting well in place and that the ladder is firmly placed against the wall. This will help you avoid swinging and swaying while you’re up in the air.
- If you’re using a step ladder, make sure it’s properly extended at the braces. Don’t go all the way to the top rung to change the bulb: make sure the ladder is tall enough for you to work from the second or third-to-last rung.
- Check the bulb. Make sure the replacement is the right base size and wattage. Make sure it can safely go inside the fixture before you actually attempt to replace it.
- Change the bulb. As previously mentioned, make sure the bulb is cool before you even attempt to touch it. Also, don’t forget to turn the lights off—and don’t turn them on until your replacement bulb has been safely screwed into place. Consider taking two light bulbs with you up the ladder and ask someone else to turn the lights on and off for you, to make sure the bulbs aren’t faulty. If you’re changing a flood light inside an enclosed fixture, always take a screwdriver (the right size) up the ladder with you.
Halogen Light Bulbs vs. Incandescent vs. LED
Is this still a debate? Apparently, it is, even if the U.S. Congress started phasing out incandescents as early as 2007 and finally completed their phase-out in 2014. In brief, conventional incandescent light bulbs are not an option anymore—they fare poorly even when compared to halogen bulbs.
Check out this chart to understand the differences between the main types of bulbs in use today—halogen, incandescent, CFL, and LED:
Image source: Top Bulb
That being said, CFLs, LEDs, and halogen bulbs are all better suited for specific uses. Consider this chart, for further reference:
|Type of bulb||Type of light||Other key features||Best used for:|
|Halogen||Bright and crisp, similar to daylight.||– starts up instantly;
– can be completely dimmed;
– 10-20% more energy efficient than incandescents.
|– reading lamps;
– office lamps;
– spotlights for artwork;
– outdoor lights.
|LED||Generally unidirectional, though omnidirectional models are being produced.||– 75% more energy efficient than incandescents;
– can last up to 25 times more than incandescents and 3 times more than CFLs;
– don’t heat up as badly;
– no filament that can rupture.
|– in fixtures that don’t allow bulbs to be easily replaced:
– under cabinets;
– in recesses;
– in other fixtures which require a thin profile.
|CFL||Several colors available, including softer white.||– Can fit in any fixture;
– Saves 75% energy (compared to incandescents);
– some models take as much as 3 minutes to light up;
– emulates the color range of incandescents well.
|– residential use;
– any room in which immediate, full bright light is not immediately needed: family room, bedroom, living room, etc.