LED vs HPS Street Lights: What’s Better in 2020?

Wondering about what is better between LED and HPS street lights? Here’s a fresh, detailed and updated evaluation you are looking for.

sodium street light illuminating the road and house at night

LED street light illuminating road and house at night


Left: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/dark-back-alley-under-sodium-street-1219175203

Right: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/night-street-quiet-residential-quarter-795193015

So you are not a lighting engineer or a horticulturist to have an instinctive ability to know the best requirements for outdoor lighting. But you need to know if buying the new LED lighting luminaire justifies its upfront cost. Is it really better than the old sodium street lights you’ve grown up with?

Today, solar LED street lights are mainstreaming worldwide. Everyone wants to shift to greener alternatives, zero electricity costs and less carbon footprint.

So whether you’re an expert lighting professional, a contractor, a building manager or a homeowner wanting to know more about LED lighting versus HPS lighting, this article is for you.

In this blog, we have laid out the differences in characteristics, performance, efficiencies, costs and warranties of LED and HPS street lights. Read on!

What is a High Pressure Sodium (HPS) Street Light?

old High pressure sodium light on grey sky

High Pressure Sodium (HPS) street lights are one of the most common street lights you can see today. They produce a distinctively yellow-orange, monochromatic glow.

You can still see many HPS lights for lighting large areas, manufacturing sites, roadways, parks, and parking lots. They are also commonly used as grow lights for plants. But today, HPS street lights are quickly being retrofitted with more efficient and eco-friendly LED lights.

What are the Advantages of an HPS Street Light?

If you’re wondering why a lot of HPS lights haven’t been taken down today, this is because they still present some benefits to the community. Here they are.

  • Among the other types of street lights, HPS is the most efficient (about 7 times more than incandescent lights, 2 times more than mercury vapor lights).
  • Quicker warm-up time than other lamp types (3 to 4 minutes) like mercury vapor and metal halide.
  • Longer lifespan (24,000 hours).
  • Cheaper price
  • Higher lumen efficiency than older street light types.
  • Wide variety of lighting brightness and power ranging from 35 to 1000 watts.
  • Great for growing plants.

What are the Disadvantages of an HPS Street Light?

But HPS street lights don’t come entirely clean. Here are the drawbacks.

  • Does not accurately reflect the true color of objects.
  • Needs a transformer/ballast for voltage and current regulation to assist start up and operation.
  • Requires a few minutes (5 to 10 minutes) before reaching full light brightness.
  • Needs one minute to cool down.
  • Produces reddish color at the end of its life
  • Burns at the end of its life.

Now let’s move on to the newest type of street lighting today.

Best Uses of HPS Street Lights

Since HPS street lights have high intensity lights, they are best for tall mounting applications like for industrial lighting and security lighting. They are the best options when you need to mount street lights with 15 feet and above heights.

They are not suitable for applications needing high color rendition accuracy, like in retail and commercialize lighting. HPS lights would do poorly on projecting the colors of objects with high precision. If street lights are to be switched on and off frequently, HPS lights are also not appropriate for the job. This is where LED street lights are best at.

What is a Light Emitting Diode (LED) Street Light?

Led street light against blue sky


An LED street light is a better street lighting option which is highly preferred in today’s struggle towards green living. This is because integrated LED street lights are more energy-saving than other outdoor lights, requiring less maintenance and operation costs.

In fact, they are 50% more efficient than traditional sodium street lights, and can last 20-25 years. This is why majority of the world are shifting towards LED outdoor lights.

LED lamps produce a distinct bluish white glow. Newer LED street lights can produce amber-colored hue or yellow-warm colors which are more animal-friendly with the least light pollution.

What are the Advantages of LED Street Lights?

  • Longest lifespan compared with other street light types (50,000 to 100,000 hours)
  • Least heat emission
  • Directional light (over 180 degrees, unlike other lights with 360 degrees light direction)
  • Easy warm up, and switching on and off
  • Doesn’t emit ultraviolet rays unlike HPS
  • Low maintenance costs
  • Low operation cost
  • Used for smart solar street lights, where brightness can be automatically adjusted

What are the Disadvantages of LED Street Lights?

  • A little expensive upfront

Best Uses of LED Street Lights

LED street lights are best outdoor lighting applications requiring high color rendering accuracy. They can be used for both retail, commercialized and industrial lighting.

Today, you can find solar street lights, smart integrated LED street lights, All-in-One solar street lights and adjustable LED street lights the best choices for smart, energy efficient and low cost solutions.

Smart LED street lights are equipped with automatic dimming and brightness and you can set different lighting modes depending on your area’s requirements. They are also highly recommended for parks, parking lots, roadway lighting, pathway lighting, pedestrians, gardens, and many more.

Difference Between LED and HPS Street Light

Here, we present the different characteristics of HPS street lights and LED street lights.

LED and HPS Showdown

Key Interest

Description Criteria for Street Lights LED Street Light HPS Street Light


Color Rendering Index (CRI) CRI is how the light source reflects the color of an object, showing its aesthetics and form.  75-100: Excellent

65-75: Good

55-65: Fair 

0-55: Poor 

65 to 95 20 to 30 LED has a pleasing CRI range, which means light can clearly illuminate/project the colors of objects
Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) CCT measures how warm or how cold the lighting is. It is expressed in Kelvin (K).  For Street Lights, AMA recommends a CCT value of around 3000K.

For Flood Lights, it may range from 5000K to 6000K.

Basis: 2000K -warm yellow; 3000K -warm white; 6000K -white; 6500K -cool white

2200K to 6000K +/-2200K In term of CCT variety, you have more options with LED than HPS.
ON/OFF Cycling describes how fast the street light responds to being switched on and off. 

This is where we account the warm up and cool down of street lights.

Faster warm up time and cool down/restrike time is better. No warm up or cool down Short delay in turning off and on LED street lights are better.
Warm Up Time Instant turn on 1 to 15 minutes LED
Restrike Time Instant switch off 4 to 5 minutes LED
Dimming The ability of a street light to adjust in brightness when not in use. A larger dimming range is preferred as it’s a way of saving on energy consumption at certain times when the street light is not in use at night. Can have automatic dimming functions from 100% to 30% to 0.5% Dimming requires a ballast; can be dimmed up to 50% LED street lights have a larger dimmability range and don’t require special ballasts.
Directionality The ability of light to focus in one direction. Street light focusing in one direction is highly desirable.  LEDs illuminate light at only 180 degrees. Sodium lamps emit light in all directions (360 degrees). 

Hence, a reflector is needed to redirect the light downward, reducing the light’s illumination efficiency.

Outdoor LED street lights illuminate roads more efficiently than sodium street lights because they are highly directional.
Efficiency It’s the ability of light to illuminate more brightness at less energy and is measured in lumens per watt. Best to use higher efficiency light types to offset lesser maintenance and operation cost. 114 to 160 Lm/W 80 to 140 Lm/W Integrated LED street lights are more energy efficient.
Efficiency Droop It’s the tendency of lights to lose efficiency at high currents, raising heat emission. Least efficiency droop is better. You can simply feel this when there is less heat emitted at longer periods of lighting. Has low efficiency droop up to its end of life. The lowest efficiency of LED is only at 80%. At half of its life (12,000 hrs), HPS emit 90% of its efficiency. At the near end of its life (24,000 hrs), HPS emits 80% of its efficiency. LED and HPS perform well up until the end of their lifespans. 

But remember, LED lights have a longer lifespan than HPS lights.

Foot Candles Foot candle describes the  intensity of a uniform lighting or illuminance of source reaching a 1ft^2  area. 

It gives us an idea if the light is producing uniformity or if unwanted hot spots and dark spots are produced. 

Foot candle also determines if there is an adequate lighting level for outdoor spaces.

Basis: (lumen/sq.ft)

Freeways: 0.6 to 1.1

Local (commercial, residential): 0.4 to 0.8

Pedestrian/bicycle ways: 2

Alleys(commercial, residential): 0.3 to 0.6

Minor Arterials: 0.7 to 1.4

Parking: 5

LED can better attain the foot candle needed for a desired area at a lesser energy consumption than other traditional lights. Since HPS street lights are omnidirectional, a large amount of energy needed and redirected just to attain the appropriate foot candle for a desired area. This also means there’s more energy consumed just to attain the proper illuminance of an outdoor area. LED
Visible Light Emissions The ability of the light emit visible/optical light, safe and healthy for the human eye and animal vision. The light emission must play along the spectrum of visible light (range of 400–700 nm) without reaching the wavelengths of UV or infrared values. For  commercial LED, the visible light wavelength ranges from 360 to 950 nm. Visible light wavelength for HPS is near 589 nm. Both LED and HPS are within the spectrum visible to the human eye, but LED has a stronger light emission.
Infrared none none
Mercury Content Mercury contributes to the lamps efficiency and lifespan, but is harmful when exposed to the environment. That’s why the RCRA and UWR regulates the proper disposal of lamps at the end of its life. Ideally, lights should have minimal to no mercury content so waste disposal is more convenient and no harmful chemicals are emitted in the environment. 0 mg, no mercury content 6mg per 100 Watts With LEDs, you can assure there’s no mercury leakage in the environment upon disposal.
Heat Emissions Heat emission is an energy inefficiency of a lighting system. Ideally speaking, a lighting system is better if it has minimal to zero heat emission. So the lower heat emission, the more energy efficient is the outdoor lighting system.  LEDs do not emit heat as other street light types. This is because it is energy efficient. But it still needs a heat sink like any other electronics to prolong its life. More heat emission. The ballast may either absorb it or be lost in the environment. 15% are likely to be lost by an HPS street light. LED
Cold Tolerance The ability of the street light to withstand extremely low temperatures. High heat tolerance is desirable for cold areas such as Canada, Germany, etc. -40 Degrees Celsius -40 Degrees Celsius LED and HPS can still work at low temperatures, but LED can flick on more instantaneously.
Heat Tolerance The ability of the street light to withstand extremely high temperatures. High heat tolerance is desirable for deserts and areas with tropical climates. 75 to 100 Degrees Celsius 65 Degrees Celsius LEDs have a higher heat tolerance. This makes it more ideal for desert roadway lighting.
Shock Resistance Indicates how well street lights react to mechanical shocks or wind force. Since street lights are outdoor lights, they are exposed to harsh conditions. Durable lighting options are therefore preferred. LED lights are solid state lights (SSLs). Hence they are not easy to damage with any physical shocks. Fragile as they use glass bulbs LED
Failure Characteristics This describes the potential failure points of a street lights before the end of its life. When LEDs dim gradually, it indicates that it’s nearing its end of life. An LED street light usually has a number of emitters in a single luminaire. So when one diode fails, that doesn’t mean the whole LED module should be replaced. When HPS reaches its cycling phenomenon, the light flickers on and off before failing. LED
Life Span Describes the number of hours the light can be rendered useful. Longer street light lifespans are better to minimize maintenance and operation costs. 25,000 hours to 200,000 hours 10,000 hours to 24,000 hours LED has a longer lifespan, but we cannot ignore the fact that HPS lights have a longer lifespan than other traditional lights as well.
Warranty LED street light manufacturers usually give a 3 to 5-year warranty. 1 to 4 years typical warranty LED street lights have longer warranty.
Upfront Costs This accounts the cost of installation, maintenance and operation of your street lights. To know more about cost analysis of street lights, you can see our blog “How Much Does All-in-One Solar Street Light Costs The lower total cost is of course the more desirable option. Typical 100W costs $8 to $13 $5 to $10 for 100W HPS costs less upfront.
Maintenance No maintenance cost Frequent equipment replacements accounts for labor cost, and tooling costs and repair costs  LED
Lifetime Costs According to our calculation, it can cost you $8990 in 10 years. According to our calculation, it can cost you $16,710 in 10 years. LED

Can You Replace High Pressure Sodium Bulb With LED Bulb?

LED and HPS street light before and after replacement


Yes you can! You simply need to know the wattage of the existing HPS light bulb and know the amount of light brightness in lumens. Then find an LED bulb that can deliver the lumens required.

Here’s a sample High Pressure Sodium to LED Conversion Table:


Lumens Needed


Power Draw in Watts



100 30-40
















18,000-22,500 400


For example, you have a 400W HPS light bulb and you want to replace that with an LED light bulb. This means, you can use a 120 Watt LED bulb with 18,000 lumens to replace your 400W HPS light bulb.

To know more about LED retrofitting options for a specific outdoor lighting application, see our “Which Type of Street Lights is the Best for Your Retrofit Project” article.

To know more about other traditional street lights and their alternative outdoor LED light option, see our “12 Types of Street Light Bulb for Any Outdoor Lighting Illumination” blog.


From the above analysis, we can now conclude that LED street lights are far better than HPS street lights in a ton of ways.

Cost efficient. Check!
Higher and faster ROI. Check!
Energy efficient. Check!
No apparent pollution created. Check!
Smart, innovative and convenient. Check!

Did this definitive analysis enlightened you to switch to outdoor LED lights? Are you willing to replace your existing high pressure sodium street lights with LED street lights?

If yes, do not hesitate to contact us to give you the best street light options for your neighborhood, area or municipality. At HeiSolar, we design, manufacture and ship budget-wise and quality-wise solar LED street lights, solar LED garden lights, solar LED floodlights and many more.

3 thoughts on “LED vs HPS Street Lights: What’s Better in 2020?”

  1. Dear Sir,
    We want to replace 400 watt HPS , 277Vac by LED lamp.
    These are flood light.
    Lamp fixture is mounted on 5.0 Meter lighting pole.
    This is for security fence lighting.
    Pl suggest suitable LED light wattage.
    Mob – 00966-595671409

  2. It would be great if you could include information about the impacts on wildlife of these different options. There is a lot of research showing negative impacts of white spectrum lighting (like those LEDs you are promoting) on pollinators, hatchling sea turtles, migrating birds and many others. These are really important considerations when choosing lighting in one’s community.

  3. Who would have guessed that a company that makes LED lights comes to the conclusion that LED lights are definitely better

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Commercial Solar Street Lighting Solution Provider


HeiSolar is a leading China-based manufacturer of commercial solar-powered LED lighting products. 



Add:  No. A3, Fourth Industrial Zone, Heshuikou Community, Matian Street, Guangming District, Shenzhen, China

  • info@heisolar.com
  • +86 0755 21062856
  • +86 185 7665 2791
Scroll to Top