For reducing energy costs and reducing environmental impact from energy usage, there’s no easier way than replacing standard energy-wasting light bulbs with more energy-efficient products. After seeing a display at a home improvement store, I decided to do a side-by-side comparison, and believe LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are the way to go.
Many consumers who are reluctant to stop using incandescent and halogen bulbs feel that way because 1) LED bulbs still cost about 10-15 times as much and 2) they are afraid the quality of light will not be equal to that warm, familiar glow. The cost issue will never completely go away, as manufacturers would likely price themselves out of existence since LED’s last so long (up to 20 years!). As a trade-off, however, manufacturers have expanded shapes and styles available and have developed new colors of bulbs and coatings used on the outer casings that drastically improve the quality of light.
During my at-home comparison, I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the light. There was virtually no difference between the quality of the ambient light given off by the LED and an incandescent of the same wattage. You pretty much have to stare directly at it to notice that it’s not a standard bulb. No unflattering bluish glare like with many CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs. (Photos at end of article.)
Other advantages over CFL’s are that there’s no wait time for them to warm up to full brightness, most LED’s are dimmable (as opposed to most standard CFL’s), LED’s housing is shatterproof, they do not contain mercury (disposal of CFL’s is an issue—the EPA’s recommendation of recycling them at home improvement stores is inconvenient at best), and they are cool to the touch. While CFL’s are cooler than incandescent and halogen bulbs, they can still get hot enough to shatter if used in can lights or enclosed fixtures, or if the bulbs are of low quality or defective. LED’s do, however, contain toxic substances, but there will be far fewer bulbs to dispose of in the future. Plus, the risk of these substances (lead, arsenic) escaping the enclosure is minimal.
Not everyone has hundreds of dollars to go out and replace all the bulbs in their home with LED’s right away. Here’s where to start:
- Rooms where lights are usually on for lengthy periods. This will yield the highest energy savings (LED’s use up to 85% less energy than incandescents).
- Closets with bare-bulb fixtures. Bare incandescent bulbs are a potential fire hazard if they come into contact with flammable material stacked on closet shelves.
- In cathedral ceiling can fixtures. Anyone who has ever tried to use a bulb changer extension pole with 18-foot ceilings knows what a pain that is. And why risk falling off a 12-foot ladder every few months? Imagine not having to deal with either for the next 10 years.
- In halogen track lighting. This is one of the more recent LED bulb styles available. Halogen bulbs become blazing hot after being on for mere seconds, can cause burns (and also burn marks on ceilings if too high of wattage is used), and are a bit fussy (new bulbs are not supposed to be touched with bare hands, as skin oil can make them burn out quicker)
- Rooms where immediate brightness is needed, and where waiting for a CFL to warm up would be a safety hazard or merely annoying.
Photos below: 1) CFL—yikes! 2) 40-watt incandescent 3) 40-watt equivalent LED—ahhh!