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LED Lighting Explained

Dec 22, 2006 | by Wendy Weinert

In our ever-growing need for energy efficiency in everything from autos to light bulbs, more and more research is being put into the technology of LEDs. In the past few years, LEDs have gradually replaced incandescent and fluorescent bulbs in many applications, including traffic lights, flashlights and reading lamps. While compact fluorescent bulbs are still the best choice for cost-effective energy efficiency, LEDs are rapidly rising as the newest contender on the market.

The incandescent bulb has changed little since its invention in 1879 by Thomas Edison. A regular 40-watt incandescent bulb burns through a lot more energy than it needs to produce the light you see. It typically converts only about 5% of the expended energy into visible light, while the remaining 90-95% is lost in heat. On the other hand, LED light bulbs generate very little heat, transferring most of their energy directly into light.

The latest technology allows the LED light bulb to produce about the same amount of light as a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL). However, LED light is completely directional, unlike incandescent and fluorescent bulbs which splash light in all directions. LEDs focus their light in one direction, so that you have light exactly where you want it, which is great for task lights but is undesirable in ambient or general lighting fixtures. CFL and incandescent bulbs are better choices for general lighting.

LED light bulbs emit a pleasing white light into a space. Unlike the yellowish light we're so used to seeing from incandescent bulbs, the white light cast by LEDs has a slightly bluish tinge and is closer to the color temperature of daylight. The white light of LEDs is easier on your eyes and has also been proven to be effective in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Because of advancing technology and improvements to the manufacturing processes, LED bulbs will soon become more affordable to the average consumer. The Department of Energy has estimated that LED lighting could reduce U.S. energy consumption for lighting by 29% by 2025, saving the nation's households about $125 billion in the process.

LED Benefits - At A Glance:
  • Saves money on electricity
  • Light is comparable to the color of daylight
  • Uses only 2-10 watts of electricity (1/3rd to 1/30th of incandescent or CFL)
  • Long lasting - up to 60,000-hour bulb life
  • Runs cool (warm to the touch) - generates little heat compared to standard bulbs
  • Works with most dimmer switches
  • Instant on/off
  • Works in cold weather
  • Can sustain moderate power surges
  • Durable bulbs - no fragile filaments to break
  • Directional lighting generates less wasted light
  • Works with sensor-activated lights

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