What is a Metal Halide and the Lumen Output?

A Metal halide (MH) lamp is an electrical lamp or bulb that produces light by creating an electric arc, combining a gaseous mixture of vaporized mercury and various metal compounds (Bromine or Iodine). A type of High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lamp (1), this light is typically used in high bay lighting fixtures in warehouses, parking lots, and hangars because of their high lumen output.  However, most MHs are a thing of the past due to the advancements of LED technology that are more efficient and use less energy to operate.

What is the Lumen Output of a Metal Halide?

MH lamps range in a variety of lumen outputs depending on their wattage.  Though they can reach high levels of brightness they take much more energy to operate than LED Bulbs.  Based on the wattage of the MH lamp, you can determine what LED Bulb you need.

Metal Halide Wattage

Delivered Lumens

LED Wattage Equivalent

70 W


19 W LED

100 W


23 W LED

175 W


62 W LED

250 W


124 W LED

400 W


186 W LED

750 W


186 W LED

1,000 W


500 W LED

What are the Advantages of Using Metal Halides?

When assessing any type of light bulb, there are always advantages and disadvantages depending on the lighting application. Let’s look at the benefits of using Metal Halides:

  • Indoor and Outdoor Use: Unlike LED bulbs, the surrounding temperature does not affect how the MH works.  This makes this type of bulb the perfect lighting option for long term indoor and outdoor use.
  • Long Life Span:  In comparison, MH lamps will last around 10X’s longer than fluorescent or halogen bulbs and have an average of life span of 15,000 – 20,000 hours.
  • Color Rendering Index:  Metal Halides produce a much whiter and natural white light than CFL and halogen bulbs.  Since metal halides can use different MH lamps, they have a larger variety of color options and color temperatures.

  • Efficiency: Compared to incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, MH lamps use less energy to operate and have a high lumens to watts efficacy.
Metal Halide Lamps

What are the Disadvantages of Using Metal Halides?

MH lamps are an inefficient lighting option compared to LEDs. The cost to retrofit your old fixtures to LEDs can be costly up front but over time the return on your investment will continue to grow since LEDs require only a fraction of the cost to operate. In addition to costly utility bills, here are some other disadvantages of using MH Lamps:

  • Slow Start Up Time: Because of the way in which metal halides operate, you cannot just flip the switch and have them turn on.  Metal halides require a warm-up time that can be anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes.
  • Cool Down Period:  If power to the metal halide shifts or is disrupted, the lamp will automatically turn off.  MH lamps need at least 10 to 15 minutes to cool down before they can be turned back on.
  • Color Fading:  Over time, MH lights do not continue to produce a uniform color or brightness.  This will be noticed in areas where multiple MH lamps are used, such as warehouses and gymnasiums
  • UV Radiation:  Metal Halides emit UV rays due to the gasses used to operate the lamp.  This can become a hazard to those around the lamps.
  • Mercury:  Mercury is found in Metal Halides and can be toxic if anyone is exposed to the mercury in the lamp.  In addition, you will need to recycle your old MH lamps since they are classified as a hazardous material.

Retrofitting Metal Halides to LEDS

Most gymnasiums, warehouses, and big box retail stores have always used metal halides lamps since they have a higher wattage output and produce the desired brightness for these commercial applications. However, with the advancement of LED lighting most Manufactures now offer high lumen output LED retrofit kits to convert Metal Halides to LED Bulbs. LEDs do not contain UV or Mercury and use a fraction of the energy that MH lamps require. In addition, LED lamps often come with cost saving certifications such as Energy Star, DLC, and many others.

Here are some of the top reasons to replace your MH lamps to LEDs today!

  • Reduces maintenance costs. Metal Halide fixtures require more replacements and tend to age over time and lose lighting quality.
  • Maintains original color.  LEDs can keep a consistent color temperature (CCT) over time and do not fade or dim.
  • Maintains longer life span.  The average LED bulb has a lifespan of 20,000 hours and some as many as 100,000 hours.
  • Saves energy. During a six-hour day, a 60-Watt LED costs only $17.00 a year to operate versus an equivalent 175 Watt MH that costs $77.14 a year.
  • Provides an alternative. Mercury, UV radiation, and gas free make LED a non Haz-Mat alternative.
  • Maintains brightness. LED fixtures can achieve high lumen outputs at a fraction of the watts

Solutions for Retrofitting your Existing Metal Halide Lamps to LEDs

Parking Lot LED Retrofit

MH lamps are most often found in commercial applications. Depending on your existing fixtures there are many different options for retrofitting old Metal Halides to LEDs. In addition to commercial buildings, professional sports venues are replacing old MH lamps to LEDs to increase standard of play as well as the enormous energy savings. See how simply replacing outdoor lights to LEDs can change the overall experience in professional sports. Other areas to replace MH lamps to LEDS are warehouses, parking lots, retail stores, and street or area lights.

Shop HomElectrical for LED retrofit kits today!

Connect with us !

What are some lighting projects you are currently working on? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

For blog updates, industry news, cool videos, product reviews, funny memes, free giveaways, and more, like our Facebook page!

And don’t forget to follow us on Pinterest and Twitter!


  1. http://www.edisontechcenter.org/metalhalide.html

Recommended Reading

HID and LED lights sees more and more use as energy efficient replacements for CFL and halogen bulbs, but which of the two saves the most energy? Learn about the two types of bulbs and the similarities and differences between them.

LED retrofits allow you to install LED lights without having to replace your fixtures. Read our guide to learn about the different types of retrofit kits and find the one that works best for your fixture.

Retrofit your warehouse light fixtures with LED's to increase the quality of your light and save energy and money. You can choose to either retrofit the fixture or replace it entirely.

Retrofitting refers to the process of removing the internal components of your current fixtures and replacing them with LED technology. Read our guide to learn about the different types of fixtures you can retrofit.

David Chiodo
David Chiodo

Founder of Authentic Media Marketing Inc. Funny, brooding, and mysterious, David takes pride in everything he writes and doesn't mind ruffling a few feathers along the way.

Need Assistance?