November 26

A Light Bulb Idea: Why LED Light Bulbs are the Best

Much like I do with toilets, I spend way too much time thinking about light bulbs. Why? Beside the obvious answer that I have no life, it’s probably because most light bulbs still use the same design Mr. Edison came up with over a hundred years ago; and that design is, quite frankly, horribly, horribly wasteful from an energy usage point of view.

The incandescent light bulb should have died off decades ago, back when compact fluorescent bulbs came along that lit our dark dark nights using 75% less electricity than incandescents. But people are shortsighted, and from what I can gather are simply petrified of anything new, even if that new thing would save them tons of money and cut down on air pollution at the same time, without affecting their lives one tiny little bit.

While CFLs have been around for a long time, and have consistently both improved and dropped in price, they’re not perfect. Most can’t be used on dimmers (and those that can don’t work very well) and they contain a small amount of toxic mercury so they can’t just be thrown away when they die. Still, they’ve been the light bulb I’ve used since I bought my first one way back in 1990 (and paid $50 for it) until recently. I’ve got a new favorite light bulb….the LED. I told you I’m spending too much mental energy on all of this.

The LED light bulb was introduced for consumer use several years ago, but like with any new technology (and the CFL bulbs), early models were not great and were really expensive. However, they’ve improved dramatically in the last year or two, and costs continue to come down.

I’m using two LED models right now, a Philips bulb that has a funky yellow color when turned off but a beautiful warm glow when turned on. It uses 12.5 watts to put out the same amount of light as a 60 watt incandescent. The other bulb is a new model, a Cree LED that uses 13.5 watts for a 60-watt incandescent equivalency. It may use just a bit more juice than the Philips, but it’s big selling point is that it’s assembled in the U.S. and costs only about $10. I paid over 30 for the Philips. I love them both and expect to use them for their estimated 22 year lifespans. But they’re not the brightest; you see, the main problem with LED light technology up to now is that due to the heat the LED circuits create, companies have had trouble making a brighter bulb that wouldn’t overheat and die quickly.

But now that’s changing, too. Until recently, a 75-watt incandescent equivalent was about the brightest bulb available in the LED format. Two new bulbs are now widely available that are brighter. The 100-watt equivalent LED has been the ‘Holy Grail’ of LED makers (and consumers) and now it’s becoming a reality. Philips has a new 19-watt bulb that puts out the same warm bright light as a 100-watt incandescent, and now so does Sylvania. These 100-watt equivalent LED bulbs will continue to be introduced, and like all other energy-efficient bulbs, will no doubt continue to improve and to become more affordable.

But even at $30 to $40 a bulb, these new brighter LEDs are a bargain; since they last over 22 years with normal use, and since they save well over $220 over their lives in energy costs, it’s best to think of them more as investments than merely a new light bulb.
And that’s the problem with the new bulbs; people are used to a 10 cent incandescent that works for a few months then burns out. That thinking needs to change as we all need to reduce our energy usage to avoid cooking this planet we call home. As soon as my brighter CFLs burn out, you’d better believe I’ll be replacing them with these awesome new LEDs. You can read more about them at my Green Home Product Source article right here. Enjoy.

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Posted November 26, 2013 by in category "Environment", "Green Living

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