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Best LED Bulbs for Replacing Metal Halide Lamps

Posted on July 24, 2017

Metal halide lamps have long been the standard for high-wattage lighting applications. Thanks to their high lumen to watt ratio, they have been the industry standard for outdoor, industrial, and commercial lighting for decades. They are limited, however, by a steep dropoff in efficiency as they age. Until recently, frequent replacement or additional fixtures have been the only options to maintain peak lighting as bulbs age, but LED bulbs are fast becoming a better solution.

Where Have LED Bulbs Been Hiding?

By finding the best LED bulbs for replacing metal halide lamps, you can get a high level of illumination using less watts, lowering your utility bills. Light emitting diode (LED) technology advancements now allow you to retrofit your metal halide lamps with a simple bulb change. LEDs can give you comparable lumens at a fraction of the energy cost. They are also longer lived and show a lower reduction of performance over their service life. While the initial bulb purchase can be more expensive, the cost differential is more than made up for in savings over the life of the bulb.

Which Bulbs Should I Use?

When choosing the best LED bulbs for replacing your metal halide lamps, you will want to decide whether or not you want to remove the ballast and operate the bulb on direct line voltage 120-208-220-240 or 277v or if you want to operate the bulb directly on the existing metal halide ballast. Then you want to make sure your bulb that offers comparable lumens first and foremost. Remember, metal halide bulbs degrade relatively quickly and lighting systems are designed to take that into consideration, as should you when selecting your LED bulbs.

As an example:

Metal halide bulbs are used commonly in post top lights, street lights and in warehouse high bay fixtures. In some instances it is a great idea to retrofit your metal halide bulb with an LED retrofit option. However sometimes it is not a great idea. Our team of experts can help you decide whether or not your fixture was designed to allow some heat dissipation as the heat build up in a fixture can drastically shorten the life of the best LED bulb.

If you are going to do away with the ballast and run direct voltage to the lamp you will want to find a bulb that has a smart voltage sensing system. Typically you will see the bulb is rated for 120-277V. This means it will operate on any voltage in between 120 or 277V. For these type retrofits we suggest an electrician come in and dismantle your fixture and bypass and or remove the old metal halide ballast and run direct voltage to your socket. Sockets can be medium E26 base or mogul E39 or EX39 please be sure to check your sockets to make sure you get the right one.

The common ballast bypass LED metal halide replacement bulbs are what we call LED corn cobs. They come in mogul or medium base and only the mogul based lamps are DLC approved for applying for rebates. These bulbs have multiple chips and are shaped like a tube so that they fit where the old bulb was. Verify beforehand that your new LED retrofit bulb will fit inside the fixture. In many instances the equivalent LED option is bigger than the metal halide bulb that came out of the fixture.

Some of these bulbs have a 5Kv surge suppression system built into them and others like Arva come with an additional 10Kv surge protection unit. This unit goes inline with the power as a separate unit to protect your new investment from power surges, lightning strikes and other acts of god that are not covered under the factory warranty. These are great replacements for post top lights, wall packs and recessed can lights.

The other option is to run your new LED on the existing metal halide ballast. With this technology it is truly a plug and play switch. There is no need to update the wiring or to change anything with your existing fixture. In this application the biggest thing is to make sure you know what ballast you are operating so you can match up the correct LED plug and play metal halide replacement bulb to the ballast. All ballast have an ANSI code on them. The codes for metal halides start with an “M” once you find this you will see 2 or 3 numerical digits like “M59” . This tells you you have a 400w metal halide probe start ballast. If you had a warehouse with a high bay fixture in it you might find these ballast and bulbs, as they are very commonly used in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s in commercial applications.

An LED metal halide retrofit bulb that would work great for this application would be the  Lunera lamp. All you would need to do is remove the old lamp and replace the new one!

A metal halide bulb rated at 15,000 lumens will, in the course of a few months, degrade 20-30%, giving you an output at that point of 10,500 - 12,000 lumens. Your fixtures are, most likely, laid out in such a way that 12,000 lumens gives your employees sufficient light. You could opt for an LED bulb rated at 12,000 lumens and have sufficient lighting, or opt for a 15,000 lumen model that will actually be brighter than your usual experience.

What’s In A Name?

To make sure you’re getting the best LED bulbs for replacing your metal halide lamps, you’ll want to make sure you  are using a supplier that can give you brand name LED bulbs. There are plenty of manufacturers rushing to join this growing segment of the lighting industry, but their products may not stand the test of time.

Brands such as Arva’s HyLite line, Lunera, Keystone Technologies, and Eiko have put in the blood, sweat,  tears, andyears to push LED technology forward for commercial application. By choosing a trusted brand, you are ensuring you get a quality product manufactured to the industry’s most stringent standards.

Who Can I Trust To Source The Best Options For Me

For over 35 years Atlanta Light Bulbs has worked behind the scenes to light up America’s skyline. We are proud to be a leader in the lighting industry, working as both suppliers and consultants to some of the most ambitious projects around the world.

We can bring you the best LED bulbs for replacing your metal halide lamps because we have cultivated the knowledge and experience that makes us the lighting experts. Whether you are retrofitting a 5,000 sq. ft. warehouse or building a new stadium, we are your lighting solution.

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