Xenon and halogen are among the two most common types of automotive headlights. While both lights serve the same general purpose of illuminating the road for drivers and making the car more visible to others on the road, xenon lights differ greatly from halogen lights in a number of key areas.
Halogen headlights are simple miniature versions of conventional household lights. They use a filament inside a glass enclosure to produce light and a series of reflectors to focus that light on the road. Xenon lights use a similar housing but employ bulbs with xenon gas trapped inside. The xenon causes the light to burn more brightly and extends the life of the bulb.
One of the biggest differences between halogen and xenon headlights is the cost. While a standard halogen bulb may only cost a few dollars, aftermarket xenon conversion kits or factory-installed xenon headlights may cost several hundred dollars. In addition, automakers tend to offer xenon lights on luxury and sport models.
Xenon headlights last much longer than halogen lights, offsetting at least a portion of their initial cost. Xenon lights have a rated life between 8,000 and 20,000 hours, which means that at least half of the bulbs produced are expected to last this long. Xenon lights last longer because the xenon gas causes particles from the burning filament to settle back on the filament once the bulb is turned off, partially restoring the filament's structure and delaying it burning out.
Xenon headlights produce a light that is slightly blue in tint and more focused on the road in front of the car. By comparison, the light that halogen bulbs produce has a warm, yellow cast. Halogen bulbs also burn very hot to the touch, while xenon bulbs are much cooler during operation.
Some drivers have expressed concern over the brightness of xenon headlights, which may be a cause of distraction for other drivers. This is due to the greater intensity and unusual blue colour of the light xenon headlights produce. The phenomenon has been the subject of a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, although there are no laws or recommendations against the use of xenon headlights.
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