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Xenon vs. Halogen Lighting

by Chris Johnson

Xenon versus halogen lighting Most of us arenít chemists. So, terms like "xenon lighting" or "halogen lamps" might make vague images of the Periodic Table come to mind, or hearken back to the hazy days of high school science class, but thatís about it. One thingís for sure, these loosely sci-fi-ish words donít seem like common household objects. But, many of us use them every day.

As commercial or residential lights, both halogen and xenon lamps have many benefits. But how to choose between them? Read on to compare the pros and cons of halogen and xenon light bulbs.

In order to understand the nuances of xenon and halogen light bulbs, letís first cover the basics:

Both xenon and halogen light bulbs are kinds of incandescent lights. They have a thin tungsten filament within their glass envelope, and when electricity flows through it, it heats up until the filament glows white hot and produces light.

Xenon and halogen lamps get their names from the kinds of gases added within the light bulbís glass envelope.

Why add gas? Well, regular incandescent light bulbs have vacuums within their envelopes because air oxidizes the glowing tungsten. An inert gas, like xenon or a halogen, slows down this process, prolonging the life of the light bulb. The large gas molecules deflect the tungsten molecules; slowing their rate of evaporation and making the filament last longer.

Now that weíve established the essentials, letís discuss how xenon and halogen light bulbs differ.

The Gases
A halogen is a monovalent element on the Periodic Table, which easily forms negative ions. There are 5 such halogens - fluorine, chlorine, bromide, iodine, and astatine - but only iodine and bromide are used in lamps. In a halogen light bulb, the filament wears down, shedding tungsten atoms over time. These discarded atoms unite with the halogen gas molecules in the lamp forming tungsten halide, which is then redeposited on the filament. This lengthens lamp life, and prevents blackening.

Xenon is one of the noble gases on the Periodic Table, and itís odorless and colorless. It works in much the same way as the halogen gases when retarding the filamentís evaporation, but it also produces a bright-white light when stimulated by electricity. Xenon is a more expensive material than any of the halogens.

Efficiency
Both xenon and halogen lamps are more efficient than regular incandescent lamps, but thereís quite a discrepancy between the two.

A halogen lampís typical rated life is about 2,000 hours, which is about 2 times longer than that of standard incandescent lights. On average, they produce 10-35 lumens per watt, while an incandescent produces only 8-24. One thing to note: Halogen lights produce the most heat of almost any other light source, and much of the energy they use is given off as heat. If you choose only halogen lights to illuminate a room, you may have to compensate for this heat with air conditioning

A xenon lightís typical rated life is around 10,000 hours, lasting 5 times longer than the average halogen lamp. Because xenon gas glows when excited by electricity, it also takes less energy to achieve the same lumen output. Xenon gas also requires less heat to produce light, so you donít have to worry about such high energy bills.

Sensitivity
Itís no secret halogen lights run hot, which means theyíre not suitable for every application. They could possibly damage sensitive artwork or displays with their high temperatures and UV emissions, and could be potentially hazardous if used to light high traffic or enclosed areas like kitchen cabinets.

The halogen light bulbs themselves are also rather delicate. We donít recommend touching them with bare hands, even when cool. The oil your hands leave behind on the glass will eventually heat up and may cause an imbalance, making the light bulb rupture.

Xenon light bulbs donít produce as much heat, and emit minimal UV rays. This means theyíre safer to use in fragile and high traffic applications. Theyíre also much more durable Ė oil doesnít affect their performance, and they can even withstand unstable voltages.

Color
Both halogen and xenon light bulbs have perfect CRIs (color rendering indexes) of 100. That means they both portray colors very accurately.

Halogen lights emit a crisp white light, while xenon lights offer a slightly warmer color temperature. Both are cooler than the average incandescent light.

Uses
With flattering colors and easy dimming capabilities, halogen and xenon lamps are both great choices to light your home or building.

Halogen lights can be used as accent lights, display lights, and recessed downlights, to name a few. As long as the area of use is fairly tranquil, their performance is quite pleasing.

To start with, xenon lights are perfect for under cabinet lighting, task lighting, cove lighting, and also accent lighting.

Itís easy to switch out your halogen lights for xenon or vice versa, just remember the following:

  1. The lamps should have the same wattage and voltage ratings.
  2. The lamps should have the same type of base (bipin, wedge, festoon, etc.)
  3. The lampsí glass envelopes should be the same shape and size.

References

  • Halogen Bulbs - Learn more about how halogen light bulbs work, their lifecycle, properties, and proper use.
  • The Halogen Lamp - Find out about the history, function, pros, and cons of the halogen lamp.
  • Why Are Some Lights Called Halogen Lights? - This page offers a succinct answer to the question: Why do halogen lights burn longer than standard incandescent lights?
  • Light Sources: Halogen Explained - Lighting Designer James Bedell describes the operation of the halogen lamp, and offers tips on how and where to use it.
  • Halogens - Discover the facts about the halogen family of chemical elements.
  • Xenon Incandescent Lamps - Brush up on the basic truths about gas filled lamps, and find out why xenon gas works so well.
  • Xenon Bulbs - Experts weigh in on the qualities and benefits of choosing xenon lighting products.
  • The Element Xenon - Peruse the history, uses, and properties of the element xenon.

 

Written by Chris Johnson



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