HID, which stands for high-intensity discharge, is the gold standard in automotive lighting. The bulbs, which are filled with Xenon gas, are as much as four times brighter and last up to ten times longer than conventional halogen bulbs do. Recently, HID lights have gained popularity as a premium option on tractors, machinery and indoor lighting as well.

For farmers, the most noticeable difference with the lights is a wider, brighter beam that illuminates a larger work area without drawing any more power than a conventional light. “These exceptional lights offer near-daylight color impressions that provide tremendous illumination,” says Andy Anderson, senior parts marketing representative at John Deere. “Obstacles and potential problem spots in fields are more visible and easier to recognize.”

Tractor upgrade. HID lights come standard or as a premium option on many new tractors. A farmer looking to upgrade his old tractor’s headlamps or rear-facing work lights will have to go through a machinery dealer to get compatible HID lamps. Ag machinery companies and dealers buy the lamps through companies such as United Group, a major OEM supplier of HID lighting. United lists AGCO, Caterpillar, CNH Global, Franklin Equipment and John Deere among its major ag customers. Farmers can’t buy direct from United Group, but anyone can access the company’s Web site, www.unitedgroupcommerce.com. It has an excellent technical specs page for COBO-brand HID lighting.

The next big thing — LEDs. Ask any grain trailer salesman what’s new in lighting and you’ll probably hear about red-colored light-emitting diode (LED) safety lights. Gaining in popularity since the late 1990s, these highly efficient lights produce virtually no heat. That saves energy, allowing truckers to put more lights on a trailer without needing to upgrade the electrical system. You’ve probably seen red LEDs in lighted displays for electronic instruments such as calculators. Basically, an LED is a microchip that produces light. But in the electronics world, red LEDs are old news. High-tech semiconductor companies, such as Kopin (www.kopin.com) and Cree (www.cree.com), have come up with blue LEDs for use in electronic gizmos.

Blue LEDs have already turned up in automobile dashboards and mobile phone displays. What’s the big deal with blue? For one thing, consumers seem to think blue looks cool. But as companies increase the number of LED colors, it appears likely that they’ll be able to economically produce bright, white LEDs as well. When that happens, possibly in five to ten years, we’ll see another lighting revolution for vehicle headlights as well as indoor lighting.

LED technology could produce light bulbs that last for years and consume less than half the energy of conventional lighting. The federal government, which sees LED technology as a conservation initiative, has allocated $50 million a year through 2011 for research on what it calls “next generation lighting.” So we’ll just have to wait for LED headlights.

In the meantime, you’ll have no problems finding discounts on HID lights for your car or truck. HID lamps are common fare at most auto parts stores. And if you don’t mind buying online to save a few bucks, you can log on to a distributor such as www.buytruckstuff.com. HID lamps also work well for workplace and building lighting. Options include deluxe phosphor-coated lamps for better color rendering, self-extinguishing Saf-T-Gard lamps, and EZ-Merc self-ballasted lamps that can be retrofitted into incandescent sockets. You can find a list of stores that carry these lamps at www.gelighting.com.