The 9 Best LED Headlights
A Brief History Of LED Lights
Holonyak's little red lights would soon be found in calculators and watches the world over.
Within 10 years of Holonyak's invention, green and yellow lights would also hit the scene.
While Thomas Edison gets all the credit for inventing the lightbulb, many people don't realize that he only created one type of bulb: the incandescent light. It was certainly a watershed moment in human history, but far from the only advance in artificial lighting made around that time.
After all, the LED light wasn't far behind.
Electroluminescence, which is the process through which LEDs emit light, was first discovered by British experimenter H.J. Round in 1907. In this phenomenon, light is made when an electrical current passes through a semiconductor. This allows for the creation of light with very little heat, enabling LED (or "light-emitting diode") lights to last longer, consume less energy, and be much smaller than their incandescent counterparts.
Still, commercial uses for LEDs were still a long ways off when Mr. Round made his discovery, especially considering that the light he discovered was outside of the visible spectrum. It wouldn't be until 1962 that an engineer for General Electric named Nick Holonyak, Jr., would create an LED that humans could see. Holonyak's little red lights would soon be found in calculators and watches the world over.
Within 10 years of Holonyak's invention, green and yellow lights would also hit the scene. Still, the red light was king, and as they replaced incandescent bulbs in electronics and computers, both the price and size of those items became much more consumer-friendly.
These lights would stay relatively dim until 1993, however, when Shuji Nakamura developed a new production method that created a much brighter beam. LEDs quickly became ubiquitous in flashlights as a result, and by the early years of the 21st century they'd taken over TVs as well.
In 2007, the Lexus LS600 hybrid became the first car to use LED headlights, and once other automakers saw the inherent advantages in these bulbs, many quickly followed suit.
It may have taken LEDs a few decades to catch up to their incandescent brethren, but as more and more industries turn to LEDs for their illumination, it's clear that their future is very bright indeed.
Benefits of LED Headlights
You might think that a headlight is a headlight, and as long as you can see well enough not to run over anything, you'll be fine. That may ultimately be true, but LEDs definitely offer a few major advantages over their halogen competition.
First off, LEDs are extremely energy efficient. They won't put very much draw on your battery or alternator at all, which will in turn reduce your fuel consumption. Now, don't expect miracles here, as this won't turn a Hummer into a Prius by any means, but every little bit helps. They also last much longer, and you can probably expect your headlights to survive longer than your car if you switch to LEDs.
Ultimately, if you want to feel like you're driving a car from the future, LEDs are definitely the way to go.
The light they put out is much crisper than that of traditional halogens, as well. This means that everything in your field of vision will be highly visible, allowing you to see and avoid any potential hazards that you might otherwise hit. However, many people find that halogens project their light farther down the road, giving them more time to react, so there may be a bit of a trade-off there.
Also, it should be noted that many LED lights are extremely bright for oncoming traffic. You can expect to get flashed often when driving at night, even with your low beams on.
Beyond that, however, LEDs just look really cool. They'll give your car a sleek, modern feel, and they emit a very clean, white light, which is something that oncoming motorists will appreciate right before they run off the road. Ultimately, if you want to feel like you're driving a car from the future, LEDs are definitely the way to go.
These lights won't change your life, and they may not be substantially safer than traditional halogens, but they'll give you a crispness you may never have seen before, while also saving you a few bucks on gas.
All in all, that's not a bad return for a simple set of lights.
What To Consider Before Making The Switch
If you're considering switching your car's halogen bulbs out for LEDs, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you whip out your credit card.
The most important thing to check is whether LEDs are even street legal where you live. After-market bulbs aren't kosher everywhere just yet, and even if you never get a ticket, installing them could prevent your car from passing inspection, or cause you to be at-fault in the case of an accident.
After all, nothing shows people that your '71 Pinto means business quite like a brand-new set of LED headlights.
The type of car you drive is another factor to consider. Some makes and models will require adapter kits, as well as heat sinks behind the diodes. The housing of your headlights can also affect their ability to project light, so that's something else you'll need to think about.
The lights may also cause conflicts with your vehicle's computer system. This can lead to erroneous warning messages, as well as flickering in the lights themselves. Check your owner's manual for any compatibility issues before installing after-market lamps.
Also, ask yourself why you want to make the switch. If it's to save money, chances are it won't be worth your while, as you'll have to spend some fairly serious cash on the lights, any extra gear necessary to install them, and installation costs if you're not comfortable doing it yourself. It's unlikely that you'll save enough in fuel or replacement bulbs to offset these expenses.
However, if you're only concerned with aesthetics or night-time visibility, it can certainly be worth making the switch. After all, nothing shows people that your '71 Pinto means business quite like a brand-new set of LED headlights.