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Metal halide lights used to be the most common type of commercial lighting before the advent of LED lights. They provided a bright light and were economically priced. They are typically used in the following fixtures/applications:

High Bay Lights
NSF Food Processing lights
Shop lights
Flood lights
Parking lot lights
Wall pack lights
Stadium lights

They are now seen as outdated and not as functionally or economically effective as LEDs. LED lights represent the present and future of lighting because they are longer lasting, have a higher quality of light, and are much more energy efficient. As an added benefit, the price of LED lights has come down in recent years. Previously, they had higher upfront costs, but this was offset by the savings realized in energy and maintenance costs over the long term.

Over the years, we’ve received many calls from people wondering what they could do about replacing their metal halide lamps and fixtures. We’ll break it down in more detail later in this article. But first, let’s give you a bit more background and technical information about these two types of lighting.

What are the differences between metal halide and LED lights?

The light output of metal halide is measured based on wattage. The light output of LEDs is measured based on lumens. This means that you can’t use the same wattage of a metal halide and make it comparable to the same wattage for an LED light. Wattage is a measure of energy output. Lumens are a measure of light output.


LED lights are up to 75% more energy efficient than metal halides. This represents a major advantage when it comes to energy draw and savings on utility bills.


LED lights have a higher Color Rendering Index (CRI) than metal halides. CRI is a value that measures light quality. The highest CRI is 100, which is equivalent to natural sunlight. If a light has a higher CRI, you will need fewer lumens to properly illuminate an area. Quality beats quantity. Here is a visual example of CRI levels:


light bulbs cri

Metal halide lamps are omnidirectional which means that their light is not directed or focused. Reflectors are required to focus the light where it is needed. This results in lumen loss because some of the light beams are bounced off the reflector. LED lights are directional which means that no reflectors are required. You simply need to select the proper light beam spread for your application.


Another thing about lumen loss is that over the course of their lifetime, metal halide lights experience lumen loss much more quickly than LEDs. What’s worse, metal halides continue to have the same energy draw despite their loss of lumen output over time.


It’s important to understand the two main types of lumens: Photopic lumens and Scotopic lumens.


What do I need to know about replacing a 1500 and 2000 Watt metal halide with LED?

It’s important to note that 1500 watt and 2000 watt metal halide lights are among the most powerful lights that you can buy. Because of this, their applications tend to lean towards illuminating very large indoor and outdoor areas.

Project types that may require replacing 1500 and 2000 Watt metal halide lights with LED include:

As with everything related to lighting, determining what you’ll need for a 1500 watt metal halide LED replacement and a 2000 watt metal halide LED replacement depends on many factors. Here is what you need to consider:

Is it for indoor lighting or outdoor lighting?

Indoor: You’ll want the output to be 65,000 to 120,000 lumens (depending on the application and mounting height).

Outdoor: You’ll want the output to be 65,000 to 100,000+ lumens (depending on the application and mounting height).

Even though you should not use wattage to compare the two types, it’s still useful to make a general comparison between them. Here are some helpful examples:

A 1500 watt metal halide roughly equals 500 to 750 watt LED. Effective lumens should be in the range of 60,000 to 75,000.
A 2000 watt metal halide roughly equals 800 to 1000 watt LED. Effective lumens should be in the range of 100,000 to 200,000.

It is recommended that you have a professional lighting expert provide you with a lighting plan that fits your needs. It will give you a visual report of the area that you want to illuminate and help you to determine placement and fixture specifications for your project.

About the Author

Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.

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