Many folks have discovered the energy and safety benefits of LED (light-emitting diode) Christmas lights this season, but what about their use for other home lighting purposes? With more LED lighting products entering the market, maybe it’s time to evaluate whether they make sense for your use around the house.
First, consider that compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) have made significant improvements the past few years and now come in a variety of shapes and sizes with a cost that’s acceptable to most buyers. (I’ve personally seen 6-packs under the $10 mark.) The time to earn back the extra cost over a conventional bulb through energy savings makes them very nearly a no-brainer. They are likely to be around for quite some time.
On the other hand, while LEDs are still very expensive and their application is mostly limited, the benefits are substantial. A typical LED bulb will last on the order of 30,000 hours (that’s over 3 years at 24 hours per day) and use about 1/3rd the wattage of a comparable CFL or 1/30th of an incandescent bulb. Given the low wattage, they also don’t produce the waste heat of a conventional bulb. They’ve already proven useful for recessed lighting, task lights, and accent or decorative lighting (such as Christmas lights and under cabinet lighting). You can also gain some dramatic effects through the ability to change the color of installed lights.
Widespread use of LEDs has some significant hurdles to overcome though. Much like CFLs in their early adoption period, the cost of an LED bulb can be hard to swallow. A single 2 watt bulb that you might use as a porch light could run about $30 compared to $1.50 for a 13-watt CFL. At 12 cents a kilowatt (close to the going Duke rate in Cincinnati), it would take a bit under 3 years burning at 24 hours a day to make up the cost difference. Bulbs that can replace a conventional 60-watt bulb are still very new and are likely to cost over $100. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know too many people that are willing to plunk down that much for a light bulb in their home.
If LEDs don’t yet make economical sense for home use, they are being adopted in commercial buildings where lighting is a significant business expense and replacing lights can practically be a full time job (think large shopping malls and grocery stores). As their use in commercial buildings becomes more common, it’s not unrealistic to see them driving the cost down quickly and making them a viable option in the average home.
To find out more about lighting with LEDs and available products, visit
Best Home LED lighting, or
Commercial LED lighting