One of the biggest decisions you will need to make when planning a landscape lighting project is choosing between LED lights or halogen lights. While LED lamps are generally considered the better option in almost every category, halogen bulbs win in a very important one: upfront cost. Because of this, the option you ultimately choose will largely depend on your project budget and whether you prefer to save money up front or in the long run.
To help you determine which option is best for you, here are seven things you need to know before choosing your outdoor lighting.
Halogen vs. LED for Landscape Lighting: 7 Things You Need to Know
1. Expense: The initial cost of halogen lights can be significantly lower than the cost of installing LED lights for a comparable project. However, LED lamps can save you money over time because the bulbs need to be replaced much less often and their energy usage is much lower.
2. Energy Efficiency: Halogen bulbs lose most of the energy they draw to heat. This is why halogen bulbs can get quite hot and have shorter lifespans. On the other hand, while LED bulbs also produce heat, it is drawn away from the bulb and dissipated by a heat sink, which is one reason LED bulbs last much longer.
In terms of energy usage, LED bulbs are the hands-down winner with much higher energy efficiency than halogen bulbs. For example, if you switch to LED bulbs, you can see a reduction in energy use by as much as 80-percent.
3. Warranty: In many cases, halogen landscape lighting systems come with either no warranty or a less-appealing warranty than LED lights. Landscape light LED fixtures generally come with a warranty. You will want to confirm the warranty with your professional outdoor lighting installer prior to installation.
4. Color Output: Most landscape lighting applications call for warm light with a bit of a yellow hue, which is what you will commonly find with halogens and other incandescent bulbs. There was a time when LED bulbs were simply too white (more like daylight) to be a flexible option for a wide range of outdoor lighting projects; however, modern LED fixtures offer more inviting hues and offer a level of consistency between fixtures that is superior to halogen bulbs.
Unique Lighting, which is one of our landscape lighting suppliers, offers LEDs in color temperatures of 2700k (warm) and 3000k (white), which are lower light levels that look identical to warmer halogen colors. This allows homeowners to achieve their desired look with LEDs, which are a better investment over time and more energy efficient.
5. Longevity: Halogen bulbs generally last between about 2,000 hours and 5,000 hours; whereas LED bulbs can last up to 40,000 hours. It should be noted, however, that not all LED lights are created equally; older options and LED landscape lighting purchased from big box stores are generally not on par with the fixtures an outdoor lighting professional will provide.
It is also helpful to understand that the lifespan of LED bulbs is calculated differently than that of halogen bulbs. Halogen bulbs burn out or fail, which is what determines the end of their useful life. According to the Energy Star website (EnergyStar.gov), “LEDs typically do not ‘burn out’ or fail. Instead they experience light depreciation, where the amount of light produced decreases and light color appearance can shift over time.”
Because of this, halogen bulb life is determined by “the time it takes for 50% of a large group of lamps to burn out,” as opposed to LED bulb lifespan, which is “based on a prediction of when the light output decreases by 30 percent.” (EnergyStar.gov)
6. Maintenance: Both options offer low-maintenance landscape lighting; however, halogen bulbs will need to be replaced much more often than LED bulbs. For example, you can expect to replace halogen bulbs every one to two years, depending on usage. You can achieve the same lighting design with LED fixtures and should not have to replace bulbs for 10 to 20 years.
This makes LED bulbs a particularly appealing option for hard-to-reach areas, such as high in trees, or for folks who simply do not want to be bothered to change light bulbs every couple of years.
7. Lumens versus Watts: It is common practice to look to a bulb’s wattage to be a good indicator of the brightness of the light it will produce. With halogens, this way of thinking works fine, but it can become confusing when trying to compare halogen bulbs with LED bulbs. Wattage tells us how much energy the bulb draws to produce light, but LED bulbs pull far fewer watts to produce the equivalent light of halogen bulbs. It is actually lumens that you want to look for, since lumens are the measurement of the brightness of the light produced.
For example, if you have a light fixture in your home with a 60-watt bulb that produces 800 lumens, you would only need to find an 8- to 12-watt LED replacement bulb to achieve the same level of light.
So when considering landscape lighting, be sure to look at the lumens, particularly if you are considering LED lights.