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Saturday, July 25, 2009

LED Lights -- An Emerging Alternative to CFLs

Drawbacks and benefits at a glance.

The photo was taken by Rinto Jiang and posted on Wikipedia and shows how LED lights are being used in large office spaces. Note that these lighting fixtures are similar to the fluorescent lighting fixtures that appear in many office buildings. This same technology is now becoming available for home use.

LEDs use less energy than incandescent bulbs, run cooler than either incandescents or CFLs, and they don't have the hazardous waste issues that CFLs have.

LED stands for "light emitting diode." These were developed in the 1920s, but they did not become commercially available until the 1960s and 1970s, when they were used in LED clocks or in hand-held calculators (remember those tiny red lights on those wafer-sized calculator black screens?).

Recently, they have been used on cars, in traffic signal lights, and some specialty street lighting. LEDs are relatively more expensive than their alternatives, and LED manufacturers have only recently begun to offer LED light bulbs that can be used in the home.

Also, due to their small size, brightness, and diversity of colors, they are used with some holiday lighting. (Check out holiday lighting at Amazon: LED Holiday Lights)

Importantly, however, manufacturers are now introducing a wide range of LED light bulbs for the home. See this listing of LED light bulbs for the home on Amazon: LED Light Bulbs for the Home

The key to understanding this technology is that it uses less energy than an old-fashioned incandescent bulb. CFL bulbs designed to produce a similar amount of light use the same amount of electricity as an LED bulb. CFL light bulbs are also relatively cheaper.

However, CFLs do contain hazardous substances and must be disposed of using your local garbage company's hazardous waste process (the same that you would use for batteries).

LED manufacturers also report that their light bulbs will last for years -- much longer than either an incandescent or CFL light bulb. That means the higher cost of the LED light bulb should be off set by the fact that you will not have to replace it as often as the other bulbs.

In discussing the uses of LED light bulbs, I have heard from some engineers that the quality of light cast by an LED light is not as bright as an incandescent, which is similar to the poor lighting quality of the first fluorescent light bulbs that had been introduced in the 1960s and 1970s.

This is a technology worth looking into.

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