Posted by Doug Root on 22nd Oct 2019

Best Retrofit LED Bulbs to Use in Metal Halide Light Fixtures

LED Corn Cobs for Replacing metal halide

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 metal halide 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 replacement for your metal halide fixture, you can get a high level of illumination using less wattage and 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 replacement for metal halide fixtures, 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. In the latter case, you want to make sure your bulb 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.

Corn cob and metal halide bulb comparison

LED corn cob bulb replaces metal halide

Metal halide fixtures 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. 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’ll 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 between 120 or 277V. For this type of retrofit, 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 so check your sockets to make sure you get the right one.

LED corn cobThe most common variety of ballast bypass LED metal halide fixture replacement is 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 to 6Kv surge suppression system built into them and others like Keystone Lighting, Philips and Halco come with an additional surge protection 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 fixture. 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 ballasts 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 that 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. They were very commonly used in the ‘70s, ’80s, and ‘90s in commercial applications, such as metal halide fixture warehouse high bay lighting.

What’s In A Name?

To ensure you’re getting the best LED bulbs for replacing your metal halide lamps, LED metal halide replacements you’ll want to use 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 Philips, Keystone Lighting Technologies, Halco and Eiko have put in the blood, sweat, tears, and years 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 30 plus 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 replacements for metal halide fixtures 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. Get in touch today.