Can You Replace Metal Halide Bulbs with LED?

For decades, high pressure, metal halide (MH) bulbs had been the chosen luminaire for commercial and industrial lighting applications, both indoors and outdoors. Metal halide wall packs and high bay lights are common in parking lots, high bay work areas and retail stores.

For lighting of large areas that require high lumen outputs (around 75–100 lumens per watt), MH bulbs and fixtures proved to be an incandescent bulbs energy efficient alternative that also produced a higher quality light.

But today, you can replace your existing fixture with high bay metal halide bulbs with the much more energy efficient LED retrofit bulb technology. Not only can an equivalent LED replacement bulb deliver the same crisp, high-quality light and the LED corn cob bulbs have a similar shape to metal halide bulbs.

LED Technology vs Metal Halide

Metal halide bulbs are notorious for the length of time it takes them to warm up and reach their maximum lumens output. Therefore, they are typically used for areas that do not require constant on/off switches, like retail stores and factories. For metal halide bulbs to operate efficiently, they must be supplied with full power, and they also require a more regular bulb replacement schedule.

Here are the average technical specs for metal halide bulbs:

  • High pressure MH bulbs range from 75-100 lumens/watt.
  • Cool white light – color temperatures from warm 3000K to cool 20,000K.
  • Heat emission – very high with 10-15 percent of the total energy consumed is emitted as heat.
  • MH lamps require a ballast to operate with a slow start-up and slow cool-down.

High bay LED lighting technology offers a higher level of illumination while using considerably less power (wattage). This means lower utility bills, even with comparable lumens output. You can also expect your LED replacement bulbs to last longer with a significantly lower reduction in brightness and performance over the life of the bulb.

Here is why LED bulbs are taking over high wattage applications:

  • 30-90 lumens/watt, 80 to 90 percent efficient,
  • color temperature from 2200K-6000K ranging from “warm” yellow to light or “cool” blue.
  • LEDs operate at cooler temperatures and emit very little forward heat.
  • No ballast required, and they feature instant on/off cycling.
LED cluster lamp

What are LED corn replacement bulbs

LED corn lights are a nickname for a high wattage LED replacement bulb that looks similar to a cob of corn in shape and corn kernels because of the rows of LED chips along the lamp. These LED bulbs are an incandescent bulb’s energy-efficient alternative along with being a substitute for other high pressure, mogul-base bulbs like metal halide bulbs.

LED corn cob bulbs are available with a ballast bypass, meaning they can be directly wired to line voltage. This effectively removes the ballast transformer from the circuit so that they can be used in either a medium E26 socket or mogul-based (EX39/E39) socket. Without the ballast, power usage is reduced, and LED light bulbs require less maintenance.

Choosing a LED metal halide replacement

The first factor in replacing light fixtures with an equivalent LED energy-saving bulb is to match the LED bulb wattage to the existing fixture wattage. Other considerations include which LED color choices you prefer, which can range from a warm 3000K and go up to a crisp blue/white 5000K.

Another option is whether the corn cob LED light bulbs have auto voltage sensing meaning they can operate at a range between 120v and 277V. Finally, you want to consider the lumen outputs, as LED replacement wattages range from 12 watts up to 200 watts.


  • LED corn lights are a nickname for a high wattage LED replacement bulb.
  • High bay LED lighting technology offers a higher level of illumination while using less power
  • LED color choices range from a warm 3000K and go up to a crisp blue/ white 5000K.

Visit Olympia Lighting online to view our range of LED Retrofit bulb kits to replace your existing metal halide and high-pressure sodium lamps and fixtures.