LED Light Bulbs for Home Use Evolving Rapidly

Incandescent light bulbs are becoming international criminals. Since 2005, eleven nations and the European Union have announced planned phase-outs of traditional bulbs. The Obama administration would like to see the same thing happen in the United States by 2014. Consumers will be compelled to choose more efficient, "greener" alternatives like compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs). While CFLs met with mixed reviews from consumers, LED light bulbs for home use are fast-evolving and quickly becoming the most-anticipated lighting technology.

- Unlike compact fluorescent bulbs, LEDs do not contain hazardous mercury. They do not present a chemical danger if broken and they are easily disposable.

- LEDs burn longer than compact fluorescent bulbs (which burn longer than incandescent bulbs.)

- LED bulbs are solid state lighting. With no filament to break, they withstand accidents that would render conventional lighting useless.

- Per hour, LEDs produce heat equivalent to 3.4 btu. A conventional incandescent bulb produces 85 btu. Multiple incandescent bulbs run up the internal temperature of your home and force your cooling system to work harder.

- LEDs compliment other green energy technologies. Because LEDs draw only 2-10 watts of electricity per hour, they are a natural choice for pairing with solar power systems.

But will LED light bulbs for home use be affordable?

In July 2009, Sharp debuted a line of nine LED bulbs in Japan. The company estimates the working life of each of the bulbs at 40,000 hours -- enough for 1,667 continuous days of use or about 4.5 years. The most expensive option in the Sharp line is an LED bulb paired to a remote control to fine tune the bulb's output from a warm white to cool daylight, a degree of versatility unheard of in traditional lighting.

Priced from $40 to $82, the Sharp bulbs cost roughly 2 to 5 cents a day to own throughout their operational life. Granted, a 60-watt, frosted incandescent bulb only costs about $1.13 cents, but it will return only 1,000 hours of life. If that bulb were capable of running a full year (8,760 hours), it would cost, depending on the variable price of electricity, $35-$40 just to operate and you'd need 40 bulbs to equal the life of one of the Sharp LED bulbs.

The brightest of the Sharp LEDs produces 560 lumens, just a fraction brighter than that 60-watt, frosted incandescent bulb. Drawing only 2-10 watts an hour, the LEDs would, at most, use 240 watts a day. There are 1,000 watts in one kilowatt hour. You'd need a little more than four days to reach 1 kwh. According to the Department of Energy, the average price of electricity per kilowatt hour in the United States was 12 cents in April 2009. So, over the 4.5 years that bulb burns, it will use roughly $48 worth of electricity.

This is truly an instance where the numbers do not lie. When all of the factors are weighed, LED light bulbs for home use are an affordable option and will, undoubtedly, be widely adopted as they become more readily available.

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