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About HID and Xenon Lamps

What's the Candlepower output of an HID lamp? Hella does not rate it's lamps in candlepower and you should beware of anyone who does. It is a misleading measure of lighting power. A truer measure of light output is the Lumen, a unit of luminus flux. A typical Original Equipment 35 watt HID system makes about 3500 lumens. Compare this to an H7 halogen bulb which makes about 1400 Lumens, or an H9 which products 2100 Lumens.

There are some HID systems that operate at higher wattages and claim higher output. Hella has tested some of these systems and found that they are okay for racing, but not practical for street use due to a short life. The output deteriorates quickly and can be no better than a 35 watt system after a few weeks.

The color of the light produced by an HID system is normally about 4300 degrees Kelvin compared to about 4500°K for daylight. The highest color temperature offered by a vehicle manufacturer is by BMW at about 6000°K. They are distinctly whiter than daylight and border on blue. HID systems claiming light color up to 20,000°K are available on the internet. You've seen these guys on the road with their headlamps the color of neon beer signs. Most of the light they produce is ultra-violet and the visible light output is worse than a halogen bulb. They are all made in China and are illegal in every country of the civilized world.

A standard halogen bulb produces light at about 3200°K. Some high performance halogen bulbs produce light up to 4000°K, but as of this writing anything whiter than that is a pipe dream.

Doesn't the HID draw a lot of current? The Hella HID is a 35W lamp - which means it draws about 2-3 Amps when lit. There is an initial surge of about 15 Amps for less than a second to kick it off, but then it rapidly tapers off to the 2-3 amps.

Don't these lamps run hot? Actually, there is very little heat involved. The technology runs reletively cool -- one reason for the long life of the bulbs and the big reason for the efficiency. In a Halogen bulb, most of the energy is converted to heat, not light. Because of the low heat output of HID, we have had reports from the great white North that at temperatures of -40°F they don't run hot enough to melt off the snow and Ice. In ECE countries (All of them except the USA) cars with HID headlamps are required to have headlamp washer systems. This is partly intended to keeping the lamps clean, but primarily to spray windshield fluid on the lamps to melt the snow.

Suppose I burn out a bulb. Aren't they expensive? Our price for the capsule is less than $90 - but the rated life is a conservative 2000 hours as compared to a few hundred hours for a high wattage Halogen.   The reason a halogen fails is because of vibration affecting the hot filament - it's basically a mechanical failure - like if you continuously bend and rebend a piece of wire, it eventually breaks.   An HID has no mechanical filament as the light is from an electric arc - hence, vibration has no effect on the life. Heat is also a factor on the life of a bulb - little heat in this case.

HIDs use 28,000 volts to start. Is the technology SAFE? The Ignitor associated with any HID, when it first turns on, sends out a 28,000V current to the capsule to start the gas discharge then it tapers off to about 4000V to keep it going. If it detects the discharge shutting off, it sends the 28,000V signal again. This can be very exciting if there is a fuel leak. Because the Hellas are used on the road in Europe, they had to meet the conditions and the qualifications of the German TÜV - their equivalent of our DOT. Safety is a big factor for them - so the Hella design has built in protection to shut the lamp off in the event of a crash and damage.

This can be a real problem with this type of system. Since HID systems are most commonly found in high end luxury cars, introducing electrical noise into the sound system is not an option. Hella  HID systems are specificaly engineered to contain the RF field normally generated by this technology and keep the tunes a comming.

There has been of recent an increase in use of aftermarket HID kits. These Chinese made kits are illegal in every civilized country in the world. No reputable manufacture makes them even though you will find the names Hella and Philips illegally printed on the boxes.

HID lamps are an engineered system of a capsule (bulb), ballast and the lamp. These HID kits insert an HID capsule, usually modified on someones kitchen table in China, into a lamp that was never designed to control the enormous light output of an HID capsule. The chances that the capsule is properly located at the focal point of the lamp are slim at best, but even if it is, the source of light is a different shape than for which the lamp was designed. The result is a lot of stray light shinning into the eyes of oncomming traffic. The guy who installed the HID kit thinks he can see a lot better, but all he really is is rude. They even have a name, "haters" for people who disagree with them.

HID kits normally have no low beam. Sellers of HID kits claim that they can get high and low beams by moving the capsule within the lamp. The reality is that even Sylvania could not produce a system that moves the capsule accurately and last for more than a few months. They finally had to buy back all of their lamps. The only reliable system for a High/Low HID system is called a Bi-Xenon and uses a shutter like those systems supplyed by Hella to BMW, Mercedes and Audi. Safety and Electronic Noise as described above are also common problems with HID kits.