Maybe you thought the compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb was going to be your star quarterback, leading your energy-saving team to a triumphant succession of plunging power bills. But what do you do when the CFL comes up a little short?
Send it packing to the Canadian Football League. There may be a new shining light on the horizon--the light-emitting diode (LED) bulb.
For years, consumers have groused about CFLs. From the ecology standpoint, they contain mercury, a potent neurotoxin that causes numerous problems, such as loss of feeling in the extremities, loss of coordination, speech problems, and slow brain development in youngsters.
And then, there is the problem of performance. Touted to last many times longer than incandescent bulbs, CFLs have been found to be finicky. They don't like to be turned on and off, they don't give full light immediately, sometimes they flicker. they don't like humidity (bathrooms), their light can be a little stark, most of them can't be used in dimmer switches, and many can't be used in recessed lighting. Some owners of old homes thought their rickety wiring and fixtures would be better served by the CFL's lower energy draw, only to find that the bulbs seemed to burn out faster in the old fixtures. If not used in just the right conditions, that vaunted long lifetime is a ruse.
So what about the LED bulbs?
Well, they are more expensive than CFLs and incandescent bulbs; they can cost from $20 to $50 or more.
But they are said to last tens of thousands of hours--perhaps ten times longer than a CFL. And they use perhaps one-thirtieth of the power of an incandescent bulb and one-third the power of a CFL. So, when you figure the lower energy usage over the extended lifetime of the bulb, the overall cost of an LED bulb is much lower than the other two. You should note, however, that because the bulbs are relatively new on the market, their longevity has not been fully tested. Keep in mind that many people have found that their CFLs didn't last as long as advertised.
Durability and Availability
An LED light is solid and much more durable than a CFL and an incandescent bulb. It does not have the performance limitations that CFL users find so annoying. Most LED bulbs in stores are comparable to lower-wattage incandescents--15 to 25 watts, though higher-rated bulbs are available.
Home improvement stores carry lower-rated LED bulbs, but you might have to go online to find the stronger bulbs. Obviously, if their popularity grows and manufacturers can bring the price down, they will become readily available. And as that happens, the LED may supplant the CFL as the next (light) wave of the future.
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