Light emitting diodes, commonly known as LEDs, are becoming more and more widespread in all types of electronics. Their current uses range from small LED flashlights to street signal lights, laptop computers, and giant video billboards.
What a lot of people don’t know is that they are starting to find their use in a more common type of lighting application that can be found in nearly every home or office around the world. I am, of course, talking about led light bulbs.
The fact that you are reading this guide shows that although the idea of using LEDs to replace traditional lighting design is starting to become more well known as a greener alternative to energy-efficient lighting (as currently compact fuorescent bulbs are the most widely known), but there are still a lot of people that do not know enough to make an informed decision about how and when to purchase LED light bulbs.
This guide was written as a complete buying guide to give you almost everything you need to know to make an informed decision about buying LED light bulbs and to help you determine whether LED lighting is right for you. This will be a constantly changing document as LED lighting technology is changing so quickly so keep checking back for updates!
Now the pace at which technology is progressing for LEDs right now is astounding as you hear about new developments in LED lighting almost every single week. One of the big pushes for this is not only a significant savings on their electric bill (although that is one of the best reasons to switch), but rather the realization that we all need to rally together and do our part to save the environment. Being green is not just about being “in style” anymore, it has become a practical business model that can help the planet as well as our pocketbooks. People are becoming aware of global warming and becoming more environmentally conscious overall, and are looking for ways to cut their energy consumption. What easier way is there than simply changing a light bulb?
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (also known as CFLs) and LED light bulbs are currently the best alternatives if you want to decrease your energy expenditure in regards to lighting.
Unfortunately, LED light bulbs can be more difficult to find and the initial cost can be many times more than a normal incandescent or even CFL. This guide will help you with that decision by providing :
* a simple understanding of how LED bulbs work,
* what applications they will work best in, and
* overview of how LED light bulbs compare in the lighting industry as a whole.
I hope that after reading this, you will be able to see the benefits that LED light bulbs have over other traditional lighting solutions.
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs – What You Didn’t Know
Compact Fluorescent or CFL bulbs have been lauded in the past few years by the various media outlets as the new way to save energy as they are much more efficient (i.e. use less energy for the same amount of light) than standard incandescent light bulbs. What they don’t mention a lot of the time are some of the things that you have to watch out for. The largest problem that CFLs have, that no one type of standard lighting (including LEDs) has is that….
CFLs contain mercury…
CFL bulbs contain small amounts of mercury which is toxic to individuals, especially those that are still developing, such as children and pregnant women. This is an inherent part of the technology so you will never get a CFL bulb that doesn’t contain mercury. Most CFLs contain about 3-5mg of mercury. Here’s some excerpts from Wikipedias article on mercury:
“A study has shown that acute exposure (4-8 hours) to calculated elemental mercury levels of 1.1 to 44 mg/m3 resulted in chest pain, dyspnea, cough, hemoptysis, impairment of pulmonary function, and evidence of interstitial pneumonitis.”
“Acute exposure to mercury vapor has been shown to result in profound central nervous system effects, including psychotic reactions characterized by delirium, hallucinations, and suicidal tendency.”
Now what should you do if you accidentally break a CFL bulb? Here’s some cleanup procedure excerpts taken from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website :
“Have people and pets leave the room, and don’t let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.”
“Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.”
“Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.”
“If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, – Remove the vacuum bag and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.”
“The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.”
Cleaning of air ducts as well as HVAC repair is extremely important as the health and safety of our famiy memebers depend on the condition of our air conditioners. Dallas Air Duct Cleaning services would be a great option if you are looking to get your air conditioner cleaned. Contact them today.
“If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away.”
So not only is it a pain to clean up, but it is not something that you want to have ever happen, even once. Supporters of CFLs claim that the bulbs are not fragile as are less likely to break, thus reducing the chance of needing such intricate procedures to clean them up. The fact that they are in the house or office, means that there will always be that possibility. As recently as February of 2008, the state of Maine did a study on handling broken CFLs and the precautions you need to take when disposing of them.
Other problems that CFLs have include:
They are less efficient than LEDs – CFLs, despite their efficiency, are still only about half as efficient than LEDs. A 10W LED bulb gives about the same amount of light as a 20W CFL bulb.
They have an undesirable form factor – CFL bulbs aren’t exactly appealing to the eye and currently can’t replace bi-pin halogen bulbs (MR16 and GU10) typically used in many track lighting applications.
They have a shorter lifespan – The life of a CFL is significantly shorter if it is only turned on for a few minutes at a time: In the case of a 5-minute on/off cycle the lifespan of a CFL can be up to 85% shorter, reducing its lifespan to the level of an incandescent lamp. The US Energy Star program says to leave them on at least 15 minutes at a time to mitigate this problem. (LEDs can be cycled on and off with no problem and work better in cold temperatures.)
Warm Up Time – CFLs takes a perceptible time to achieve full brightness, and can take much longer in very cold temperatures.
Not Fully Dimmable – Dimmable CFL have emerged in the past year, but there have been reports of buzzing and color shifting while dimming as well as a limited range of dimmability.
Most LED bulbs are not dimmable at the moment, but the ones that are, are fully dimmable and do not buzz.
LED Light Bulb Buying Guide
What is an LED?
LED Light bulbs are semiconductors, just like a computer chip. When electricity is passed through them, they emit energy in the form of light. They are “doped” or injected with certain chemicals, that determine their light color. LEDs convert the majority of energy passed through them to light, as opposed to incandescent bulbs that produce light as a by-product of being heated thus they can be up to 90% more efficient than traditional household filament bulbs.
Types of LED Bulbs
There are two basic types of LED light bulbs :
Floods or Spotlights – LEDs are directional in nature by the way they’re built so any application that requires directional lighting such as track lighting, flood/spotlighting and recessed lighting are a great candidate for using LEDs. Some LED bulbs can have an additional lens that can spread or concentrate the light after it exits the LED element.
Globe Shape – For areas where you need light all around you want to look for a globe-shaped bulb. This “solves” the directional light problem by using a lens at the top of the bulb to disperse the light at wider angles. These however, are a still a work around for the directional nature of LEDs and as result, you get less light output per watt of energy. Most globe bulbs give you about 50 lumens/watt or less.
How to Determine If LEDs Are Right For You?
Consider the cost savings and other benefits –
1. Cost – LEDs cost more initially, and there is no doubt that they save you a lot of money in the long run because they last longer and use less energy. Money savings is from using 80% less energy and not having to buy about 25 traditional flood light bulbs. Depending on your state, savings and time for the bulb to pay for itself can vary. Over 50,000 hour for a typical 7W LED Flood Light replacement bulb (MSRP $79.99) that replaces a 50W Incandescent Flood at 8 hours usage per day:
*If you live in Idaho where electricity is the cheapest in the country at 6.3 cents/kWh
You save: $180.46 and the bulb pays for itself in 7.6 years.
*In California where the cost of electricity is 14.35 cents/kWh:
You save: $353.54 and the bulb pays for itself in 3.9 years
*In Hawaii where the cost of electricity is a whopping 28.27 cents/kWh:
You save: $652.82 and the bulb pays for itself in 2.1 years!
Keep in mind, at 8 hours a day, these bulbs will last about 17 years before they need replacement. If the savings is not as quick as you’d like, there are a few other factors to consider as well that can strengthen the case for switching to LEDs:
2. Convenience – If you have bulbs in hard to reach places, by replacing them with LED, you dont have to worry about replacing them for a long time. No more driving to the store, buying them, coming back, taking out the ladder, and disposing of old bulbs. In places where you have a lot of bulbs, the time saved can really add up.
3. Heat – If you have a lot of flood lights in a small area, it can really heat up a room significantly. LEDs give off very little heat in comparison. By talking to energy engineers (in California), a good rule of thumb for every kwH of electricity reduced by using LEDs instead of incandescent, you can keep your thermostat higher and reduce your A/C costs by about 20%. I.e. if you save 1000 kWh of electricity per year, you can factor in about an extra 200 kWhs in reduced air conditioning costs as well. Besides the additional money savings, by switching to LED’s, your room will be much cooler.
4. Conscience – Do you feel guilty about leaving the light on? Do you have kids that ALWAYS leave the light on? With LEDs they cost a couple of dollars to run a year so you can feel better about having your lights on. A 7W LED bulb run for 8 hours a day for 365 days in California would use about $2.86 a year in electricity compared to $20.44 for a 50W incandescent flood.
LED Bulbs What You Need to Know
Initially when LED bulbs came out with no standards, manufacturers would claim lifetimes of 100,000 hours with no real testing. Since then the standard has been to scale back to 50,000 hours so as not to over-state claims. (Beware of bulbs that are rated at 100,000 hours unless they state specifically WHY they are rated at so high manufacturing process, heat sink materials etc., I would be wary of trusting this rating).
The lifetime of an LED lamp is generally considered to be the point where the light output has declined to 70% of its initial output, measured in lumens. So, a 300 lumen LED bulb with a lifespan of 50,000 hours will have 210 lumens at the end of its lifetime. However, the lifetime of a bulb does not mean it is unusable, only that its light output has degraded to a certain point. The LED bulb may continue to be useful for several thousand hours past its stated lifetime. Unlike old-fashioned light bulbs, it is extremely rare for an LED light to simply burn out. Rather, it will gradually fade over time.
As a general rule, you should use warmer light indoors, and whiter light outdoors. A color temperature of 2500-4000 Kelvin works great indoors. You should use a bulb with a color temperature of 5000-7000 Kelvin outdoors, as the whiter light allows your eyes to see better at night. White light in the 5000-7000 Kelvin range is also excellent for display cases, boutiques, artwork, or other settings where you need excellent color rendition.
How to compare the quality of different bulbs –
There are quite a few websites online that you can buy LED bulbs. The problem is “how do you compare one bulb to another?” A quick way to do is to calculate the lumens/watt, or in laymans terms, the total amount of light you get for the amount of electricity you put in. This is done by simply dividing the bulbs wattage by the stated number of lumens.
Anything over 50 lumens/watt is good at the moment. 75 lumens/watt is very good while 100 lumens/watt is excellent.
One thing to keep in mind: A halogen flood bulb is more efficient than an incandescent flood and usually costs a little more. Typically for a halogen you get about 1.5x more light for the same wattage. i.e. a 20W halogen bulb gives about the same amount of light as a 30-35W incandescent flood. You can tell if its an incandescent or halogen by reading the packaging of the bulb.
A quick comparison as well to normal light bulbs is as follows:
* 3W High Power LED Bulb Comparable amount of light as a 30W incandescent flood.
*7W High Power LED Bulb Comparable amount of light to a 50W incandescent flood.
*12W High Power LED Bulb Comparable amount of light to an 85W incandescent flood.
Keep in mind this is just a general comparison – some bulbs may be rated as brighter or dimmer than this. LED bulbs typically have their LED chip or die bought from one place, then assembled elsewhere where labor is cheaper.
If youre going to spend $30-100 dollars on an LED bulb make sure your investment is protected. Sure you can buy off auction sites and get them on the cheap with no warranty, and a knockoff die or you can spend the money and get a good bulb with a solid warranty. Dont settle for anything less than a three year warranty since the bulbs should last about 7 years at 24 hours usage per day.
Start Using LEDs Now!
LEDs arent a good alternative for all bulbs in your home. Depending on your situation, they make sense in some places more than others. The more people who adopt LEDs, the quicker prices will come down. Theres no doubt that as prices come down, and efficiency/light output of the bulbs increase, in a couple of years every light bulb in the world will be an LED Light bulb and CFLs and incandescent will be a thing of the past. The initial investment may be a little hard to swallow, but in the long run, youll be doing your part for the environment and your wallet and making the world a cleaner, greener, cooler place to live one bulb at a time for generations to come.
5 Things You MUST Know Before Buying LED Light Bulbs
You may have heard that LED light bulbs are the future of lighting. You may also have heard that they’re ready to replace all types of lighting in your house from Incandescents to Compact Fluorescents. I’m going to save you the hype and tell you what many sellers don’t want you to know about LED Light Bulbs:
1. They give off focused light – LED Light bulbs give off directional light. They are not good replacements for bulbs used for lighting large areas – called general lighting. They’re more suited for replacing spot light applications like track lighting, accent lighting, recessed (cans) lighting and outdoor security spotlights.
2. They give off blue light – Most people think that LED bulbs give off a bluish tint, described as a sci-fi creepy sort of light. This is sometimes true so watch out what color you are buying. LED light bulbs now come in different shades of white from warm to cold – but these will range from seller to seller.
3. They do not take heat well – Heat will drastically reduce the life on an LED light bulb. Make sure your investment isn’t put to waste by putting your bulbs near a heat source.
4. They cannot be used with dimmers – All LED light bulbs currently being sold do not work with typical dimmers. You can find custom-built fixtures using LED’s that come with their own power supplies and dimmer controls.
5. Lumens output is misleading and often exaggerated – In everyday terms, lumens is measured by taking a lumen measuring device and taking the average of the lumen rating all around a light source. An LED light bulb might have the same lumen rating as a 50W incandescent bulb, but it would be focused at a spot and would do a terrible job of lighting a small room, while the 50W incandescent would do quite well. A lot of seller’s exaggerate these ratings since there is no standard out right now for measuring the brightness of an LED bulb. The best way to really know what you’re getting is to look at how they compare it to an incandescent or halogen bulb. If they have pictures then even better.
(Related information: Wired Smart has some good info regarding safety and security of your property and the devices that you should use in this regard. Visit their website to know more)