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01/05/17 HID versus LED in Hunting Lights

Article - January, 5 2016 By

High Intensity LED Light Bar

HID versus LED in Hunting Lights

Currently, high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are robust lighting technologies that can be found in the competitive hunting sector. Both types of luminaries have a solid reputation for producing bright, powerful light beams. However, when it comes to design and light production, they differ greatly.

Light Generation

HID fixtures, such as metal halide, high pressure sodium and mercury vapor lamps, generate light using filaments and gas. During light output, fast-moving electrons become displaced inside a quartz glass casing that facilitates the arc discharge. HID bulbs require a warm up period of roughly 5-10 minutes before full light output. When the light is powered off from an operational state, the fixture must be cooled down considerably before re-striking. In application, HID lights produce concentrated, lengthy light beams. They can also distribute light over a wide area, making them ideal for environments where a bright, compact light that can withstand exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures is needed.

HID Overview

  • Great for concentrated light beam requirements
  • Short lifespan
  • Tolerates extreme temperature environments
  • Wastes energy on heat production
  • Prone to breakage

LEDs support a solid-state circuit configuration to power diodes via electroluminescence during light production. Unlike HID variants, the units do not rely on toxic chemicals to achieve brilliant lighting conditions. Additionally, LEDs can reach maximum light output almost instantly, and individuals may toggle such fixtures from a live, operational state without cool down periods. Because they do not utilize filaments, and solely use semiconductor material, the lights are very energy efficient (less energy is wasted on heat, more energy is turned into actual light). When taking long-term factors into consideration, LEDs can offer minimal lumen depreciation at 30 percent (or 70 percent lumen maintenance) during its lifespan, which translates to lower maintenance costs. HID lumens may depreciate as low as 50 percent during its intended, shorter lifespan.

LED Overview

  • Sturdy, solid-state design (no toxic chemicals)
  • Long lifespan, energy efficient
  • Superior optical control
  • Low maintenance
  • Ideal for illuminating close and moderately far distances

Light Concentration

Despite LEDs’ dominance over traditional lighting technologies, such as incandescent bulbs and fluorescents, some individuals still prefer to use HID lamps while hunting. This is because HID lights can be configured to shine brighter than LEDs. Using its side-emitting light features, HIDs can generate tightly focused beams that do not scatter when applied to long distances. By comparison, LEDs incorporate front-emitting configurations that offer a myriad of light distribution settings; and are most effective at close to moderate ranges. For long distances, LEDs can still be used to illuminate large target areas. However, the luminaries are simply not as efficient at generating intense, concentrated light beams, compared to HIDs.

One should carefully note that LED technology is being developed at a rapid pace, and analysts believe that LEDs will outclass HID lighting in the foreseeable future. In fact, LEDs are already revolutionizing the hunting sector by making lighting equipment more reliable and compact. Furthermore, some hunters are reportedly switching over to LEDs, because they are more functional for mainstream hunting applications on the field.

Case Studies

There are several case studies available today that highlight the advantages of portable LED luminaries. In 2003, an experiment, led by Anthony Catalano Ph.D., aimed to retrofit incandescent flashlights with LED kits. The team’s objective was to build a sustainable flashlight that can withstand unpredictable outdoor environments. During the study, the crew uncovered the pitfalls of incandescent lighting: long periods of use pushed the operating temperatures of the units to 2,500 degrees Celsius, which caused the filaments in the fixture to turn brittle. Moreover, small incandescent bulbs were staggeringly inefficient, rapidly consuming batteries within an hour of use, while losing over half of their brightness during the same period. At the end of the study, Catalano and his team concluded that 30-lumen LEDs were viable replacements for the failing bulbs. The new light sources boasted a lifespan of 50,000+ hours and the compact design of the LEDs allowed it to tolerate rough treatment, maintain constant light intensity without dimming and streamline heat dissipation through the aluminum housing.

In another case study, a business based in Peachtree City, California, upgraded its parking lot lights from HID lamps to LEDs. The company replaced 400-watt metal halide fixtures for 12, 309-watt LED light bars with 4,000K color temperature ratings. As a result, the establishment was able to reduce long-term maintenance costs and create more optical, cost-effective light distribution options. But perhaps the biggest takeaway from the study is that the LED fixtures operate noticeably cooler. For hunting applications, this is crucial, especially for handheld spotlights and scope lights.

Hunting Applications

For general lighting requirements during hunting trips, LEDs are the way to go. They are more reliable that HIDs, and can be used to illuminate short to moderate distances for long periods of time. From a sustainable perspective, because the lights are sturdier and less prone to breakage, LEDs can give hunters peace of mind on the field. HID luminaries do extremely well when illuminating locations in far distances. This type of light could be useful for light bars on trucks for traveling to and from the remote hunting site. It could also be used for scanning and tracking animals that are out of reach. Lastly, HID units could be useful in hunting environments with low visibility, such as areas that are prone to fog, mist and dark spots. Because the lights have different uses, it would be beneficial to have both in one’s hunting arsenal. But if forced to only choose one, LEDs could be the better choice, since they more versatile and dependable for long-term hunting applications.

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