According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are one of today’s most energy efficient and rapidly developing technologies. The selection has increased and prices have come down, but is it time to switch all of your lighting to LEDs? Let’s examine your options.
    There are many benefits to LED lighting. LEDs burn very cool and emit very little heat unlike incandescent and halogen bulbs. There is no fragile filament like an incandescent to deal with and there is no mercury involved as with a CFL (compact fluorescent light, the “swirly” bulb). LEDs are compatible with most systems. They screw in just like incandescents and other models can replace halogen bulbs.     
    All light bulbs will have to meet new energy standards which take effect 2012-2014. A 100 watt traditional bulb will be replaced by a bulb that uses 74 watts or less to produce a similar amount of light. An energy efficient halogen incandescent lasts about three times longer than a traditional incandescent. The annual energy cost of an energy efficient halogen incandescent is around $3.50 per year.
    Suppose we chose the CFL equivalent. The CFL lasts about ten times longer than a traditional incandescent and costs about $1.20 per year in energy.
    An LED uses nearly the same number of watts (12.5-13W) as a CFL (13-14W) to replace a 60 watt traditional incandescent. An LED’s annual energy cost is around $1.00 per year.
    However, an LED lasts 25 times longer than a traditional incandescent and twice as long as a CFL. This is a big benefit if you’ve got high ceilings and don’t want to contend with a burned out bulb. And who hasn’t dealt with a burned out bulb on a set of Christmas lights? LEDs might be your answer.
    It appears that LEDs use the least amount of electricity and last the longest, but there’s a catch. Right now, an LED (60W equivalent) can cost anywhere from $10-30 per bulb while you can find a CFL as low as $1-2 per bulb. The cost of an LED varies greatly depending on several factors. You’ll want to pay very close attention to those factors. Learn more at the right.
    Even at this price, the U.S. Department of Energy says that an LED will still save money compared to a traditional incandescent in the long run because LEDs last so long.
    Now let’s assume you have 30 bulbs to replace. At $10-30 per LED, would you want to spend $300-900 to replace all of your bulbs? Upgrading all of your lights in one shopping trip may be a little too overwhelming. Consider replacing them one at a time or watch for prices to come down. Right now, CFLs still offer the lowest overall cost.
    CFLs have decreased in price considerably in the past few years. LEDs will drop as well. The U.S. Department of Energy says that LEDs are still in an early stage. Prices of LEDs are expected to come down as more products are introduced to the market.
    Now that you’ve learned about prices and efficiency, you’re ready to shop, right? Hold up! There are several factors to consider when choosing a light. These are things to consider regardless of the type of light you’ll be purchasing: bulb brightness (lumens), color (°K or kelvin), watts (energy consumption), application, and the bulb’s life expectancy.
    New lighting is now required by the Federal Trade Commission to include a “Lighting Facts” label which makes it easier to compare. Watch for this label on packaging.

Light Bulb Comparisons

Compare Lumens

Lumens are the amount of light or brightness of the light. This will become the new way to buy lighting; consumers will focus more on lumens rather than watts. A traditional 60 watt incandescent bulb is around 800 lumens. The higher the number (i.e. 900 lumens), the brighter the light. Many LEDs are in the 450-800 lumen range but be careful. Some LEDs are as low as 72 lumens which isn’t very bright. It would be acceptable to find a low number of lumens in a candelabra or a night light. However, if you’ve found a standard (A19) bulb with a price too good to be true, a low number of lumens might be the reason! Consider your application when you check the number of lumens.

Compare Color Temperatures

Color temperatures typically range from 2,700-5,000°K (kelvin). Lower color temperatures (2,700-3,000°K) are called warm colors (yellowish light), while higher color temperatures (5,000°K and above) are called cool colors (blueish white).

A 2,700-3,000°K light may be refered to as warm white or soft white. A 5000°K light may be refered to as natural daylight. You may expect to pay a little more for a higher color

Choosing a color temperature is a personal preference. Again, consider your application. A yellowish light would be more relaxing and a blueish light would be more intense for concentrating.

Many retailers have a display with examples of the different color temperatures to give consumers a better look at their options.

Compare Watts

Watts are the amount of energy a bulb will consume. Watts are what we used to look for when buying lighting, but this method is going away.

Although, it is still very important to check the number of watts to determine how much energy will be used, we also must consider other factors to determine if a light will actually produce the amount of light (lumens) and the color of light (°K or kelvin) we hope to achieve.    

Other than energy usage, the main thing to consider when looking at watts is to be sure you don’t buy a higher wattage than the rating on your light fixture. Doing so, could create a fire hazard. For example, a fixture rated for a 60W bulb needs a bulb rated at 60W or less.

Keep an eye on the shelf. Watch for new technology. When you see a good deal, look at the packaging.

Things to consider:

  • Is the number of lumens high enough to provide the amount of light you’re hoping for?

  • Is the color temperature what you’re expecting to see?

  • How much energy will the bulb consume?

  • How long will the bulb last?         

  • Is the bulb dimmable?

  • Is the bulb made for a ceiling fan to withstand movement?

Make sure you’ve considered all of these factors and not just the price.