Lighting for the Home – LEDs Today
The popularity of Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting has grown tremendously in the past few years. Some of the main reasons for this surge in popularity are attributed to the energy efficiency and longevity of these lighting devices. Unlike conventional lights, LEDs do not have filaments and they generate very little heat. However, they are expensive to purchase when compared to incandescent or compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs and depending on the type of lighting fixture, an LED bulb may or may not be the most functional at this time.
Characteristics of Light
LEDs are composed of an array of tiny lights less than ¼ inch in diameter – 100’s of which may be combined together to create a single light source. Initially the lights were of cool color, but nowadays, they come in warm colors which are generally considered to provide a better quality of light for faces, food, and interiors. Because the tiny lights are directional, the LED does not provide comparable light to the familiar tear-drop shaped incandescent bulb used for table lamps and other home lamps. An incandescent bulb provides omni-directional light. It can illuminate a lamp’s globe or a general area of a room – whereas the LED does not do this as well. LEDs are best used where directional lighting such as recessed lighting, up-lighting, or accent lighting is needed.
Energy Efficiency and Demand
LEDs use a little over 1/10th of electricity used by incandescent bulbs. LEDs produce very little heat; you can touch the light immediately after switching it off and still not burn your fingers. Heat created by lighting can create a significant energy load demand when it comes to cooling an interior environment. Thus, the use of LEDs can further contribute to reducing energy demand.
Length of Life and Cost
LEDs can last a long time – up to 30-35 years. A 7.5 watt LED, which has similar brightness to a 60 watt incandescent, has a working life of about 50,000 hours, and costs anywhere from $70-$120. Over its lifetime, it will cost about $25 to run. However, if you include the cost to purchase and the cost to operate, the CFL is by far a better buy than the incandescent or LED.
Unlike the CFLs, the LED bulbs use no mercury. This makes the disposal and recycling of LEDs safer, easier, and more environmentally friendly. However, when comparing the mercury released between an incandescent and a CFL – the CFL ultimately releases less mercury. About 50% of the electricity produced in the US comes from coal fired powered plants. When coal is fired, mercury is one of the gases emitted. Although the CFL contains a small amount of mercury, it requires less energy to operate than an incandescent and therefore produces a smaller energy demand on the mercury emitting power plants.
Compared to the incandescent and the CFL, the LED is better in terms of energy efficiency and lower operating cost. The LED produces a good quality of light for certain tasks, requires almost 90% less energy than incandescent lights, is non-toxic, and has a long life. In terms of the typical table lamp, the pattern of light emitted by the LED may not be most suitable since it is more uni-directional rather than omni-directional. New LED designs may result in a bulbs that are not only good for recessed lighting and accent lighting, but also work well for general lighting and table lamps. Currently, in terms of overall cost and lighting quality, the CFL is the best bulb for table lamps and general lighting for the home. The development of LED lighting is still unfolding and in the next few years bulb prices should come down and new, more versatile bulb designs created. Assuming these happen, the LED is the likely lighting source for the future.
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