LED vs Halogen Bulbs

Halogen vs LED Bulbs

Posted on 08, January, 2016

Last Modified on 25, August, 2023

Halogen light bulbs used to be the go-to for lighting homes and businesses in America. Like traditional incandescent bulbs, their illumination comes from an electric current run through tungsten wire, which generates heat and a bright white light. What makes halogen more efficient than incandescent bulbs is the gas behind the glass — halogen prevents the build up of soot from the burning metal, increasing the life of the bulb. Over the past decade, however, bulbs have become even more efficent with the development of the light-emitting diode, or LED for short. When these bulbs first hit the market in the early 2000's, they came at a high cost of $30 to $40 per unit. However, in recent years, LED technology has become more and more affordable as it has made its way into our homes, businesses, and institutions. Why have LED bulbs become so popular? Read on to see what makes LED such a great alternative to halogen lighting.

LED vs Halogen Lights

Features LED Halogen
Heat Emission 10%-20% of total energy 80%-90% of total energy
Power Consumption Average of 8 Watts Average of 90 Watts
Lifespan 50,000 - 60,000 hours 800 - 1,200 hours
Average Cost $6-$8/bulb $3-$5/bulb
UV Emissions None Minimal

Advantages of LEDs

LED lights are much better for display cases than halogen lights for numerous reasons. The biggest factor separating these two display options is heat emission. Halogen lights use about 90% of their energy giving off heat, making them a potential fire hazard near combustible materials. With such high temperatures, halogen lights can be dangerous and cause burns if touched. An LED emits a mere 10% of their energy in heat, making them much more energy efficient and cool to the touch. This feature is particularly important if you regularly attend trade shows because many convention centers now enforce restrictions on halogen light due to safety issues and energy conservation.

Halogen lights are much cheaper to purchase, but the lifespan of an LED light is about 25-50 times longer. Longterm users of LED's will save money on the amount of replacements that need to be purchased. Users will also save costs on power consumption. An average LED light uses 8 watts of power, while halogen lights average about 90 watts. That's more than 12X as much! You can also expect the cost of LED bulbs to come down as technology advances in the coming years.


When you turn on a light bulb of any kind, it produces two things: light and heat. Since light is really what we want, we measure a light bulb's efficiency by the percentage of electricity they convert to light compared to how much is converted to heat. A perfectly energy efficient bulb would produce no heat at all, instead using all the supplied energy to make light.

While we're not there quite yet, LED's have made great strides toward 100% efficiency. As shown in the table above (see LED vs Halogen Lights), LED lights are about 80-90% efficient, with only a small percentage emitted as heat, whereas halogen bulbs are only about 10%-20% efficient, with most of their energy being converted to heat.

We measure the amount of light produced in Lumens. A common way to express energy efficiency of light bulbs is in lumens per watt (lm/W), or how much brightness is produced for every watt of electricty supplied.

In August 2023, a rule issued by the United States Department of Energy went into effect stating that light bulbs must emit a minimum of 45 lumens per watt. The rule applies to both the manufacture and sale of bulbs. You may have seen this referred to as a "ban" on incandescent bulbs as, by their nature, standard bulbs produce about 14 lm/W — far below the new threshold. Because halogen is a kind of incandescent bulb, and produces around 16-25 lm/W, they would fall under the minimum standard of this rule. As a point of comparison, LED bulbs produce anywhere from 75 to 200+ lm/W.

Real-Life Applications for LEDs

contemporary glass LED display case

Now, let’s take a look at some real-life applications. In retail, LED lights are preferred and recommended by many jewelry stores. Besides the previously mentioned benefits, LED light is more natural than halogen lighting. Customers are only disappointed when a necklace or bracelet is removed from a display case and it ends up appearing differently when in natural light. This issue can be avoided with LED light. Jewelry will be enhanced in the display, but will not be a different color or tone. LED lighting can also be directed at specific areas, while halogen light radiates in every direction, giving LED a clear advantage in showcasing merchandise.

Many trade shows have rules stating which kinds of bulbs can be used in exhibitor booths. While they often target traditional incandescent, some have extended this to include halogen as well. It's best to check out your specific show's guidelines first, or better yet, go with LED lights instead, which won't run afoul of any show's guidelines.

Of course, the applications of LEDs in retail and professional settings go beyond just display cases and trade show booths. We've compiled a selection of display solutions that incorporate LED lighting to help spark some inspiration!

Environmental Effects

LED lights are environmentally friendly! These lights are 100% recyclable, leaving a small carbon footprint. Not to mention over the lifespan of an LED light, you would use about 25 times the materials to produce the incandescent lightbulbs. There are essentially zero UV emissions from LED lightbulbs. This also makes LED ideal for using in museums to illuminate items, such as artifacts and old documents. Don't risk damaging a piece of history by choosing the wrong lighting!

Try Our Energy Cost Calculator

  • Average LED usage = .008 kilowatts
  • Average Halogen usage = .09 kilowatts
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