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Dear Driver

Are xenon headlights really better than halogen ones?

We shed some light on this subject.

HALOGEN IS THE most popular type of headlight bulb used in Irish vehicles as they are cost effective.

Halogen bulbs, under normal conditions, will last about 1,000 hours and are cheap enough to replace. However, halogen headlights don’t provide the same amount of illumination as xenon lights.

Xenon headlights or high-intensity discharge headlamps (HIDs) provide about three times the light of halogen bulbs and emit a much longer beam pattern. A xenon bulb produces 3,000 lumens while a halogen bulb produces 1,400 lumens – the higher the lumen rating the “brighter” the lamp will appear.

Moreover, the white light emitted by xenon bulbs is quite like daylight so it is easy on the eye at night – and generally, xenon bulbs last around 2,000 hours, twice as long as halogen bulbs.

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In terms of energy expenditure, they use more energy than halogen bulbs to get going, but once at operating temperature they use less power, meaning a lighter load on the alternator and less torque needed to keep up the electricity requirements. Halogen bulbs draw around 55 watts of power while xenon bulbs draw around 35 watts of power.

A car with xenon headlights will usually only have the xenon low beams and the high beams will still use halogen lights but bi-xenon lights mean the car uses xenon bulbs for both low and high beams.

So, in some ways xenon bulbs are better than halogen bulbs as they offer greater luminosity and greater visibility for the driver, they last twice as long and use less energy.

However, they are more costly to fix, install and replace, they take a few seconds to reach full brightness – and it has been said that xenon bulbs give off a lot of glare that may be distracting to oncoming drivers.

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One thing to note: many people look to having xenon lights installed on their car because of the greater visibility for the driver. However, halogen and xenon bulbs are not interchangeable. Xenon lights need to be fitted and focused properly and need to be fitted with headlamp cleaning and self-levelling systems to pass the NCT.

Badly focused headlamps are among the top five recurring reasons for cars failing their NCT test.

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